Gold grows on trees

Gold grows on trees


[Music plays] (Dr Lintern) We’ve actually
discovered something really interesting about
Australian eucalypt trees. We’ve discovered that gold grains are growing within the
leaves of the eucalypt trees. Now this actually
tells us something about the environment in
which the trees are growing. In the case of the gold
growing in the leaves it tells us that
there’s a gold deposit beneath where we’re standing and
in some of the research we’ve done the gold deposit was down
30 metres below the surface which is an incredible
ten storeys high. The tree acts like
a hydraulic pump. Water’s being brought up with
nutrients and a little bit of gold right up to the foliage
and in so doing the gold is being deposited in the
leaves and being shed by the tree. The reason why the tree
is shedding this gold is because the tree sees the gold, even though
there’s small amounts of it, as being quite toxic and so it’s trying to get rid
of that gold from its system. Of course the amount of gold that’s in
the leaf is very, very tiny and you can’t see it
with the naked eye. And that is when we need the powers
of the Australian Synchrotron to help us see this gold. Now the Australian Synchrotron is
a fantastic piece of equipment. It’s able to analyse elements such as gold in three
dimensions within the leaf and this has enabled us to see that the gold is actually
contained within the leaf and not on the surface as
dust which is very important. By sampling leaves and vegetation and
the soil and even termite mounds what we’re actually doing is driving
the exploration dollar a bit further. Drilling can be expensive, it’s
very useful but it can be expensive so by analysing the
vegetation at the surface we can cut down costs so that
the money for exploration can be used for other things. The other point of
course as well is that sampling vegetation is a very environmentally benign
way of exploring. We’ve only really scratched the
surface with this research. We’ve found that some trees
will take up gold, others don’t and so we need to do
some more research to find out why
this is happening, to make it into a robust
exploration technique. [Music plays]

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