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Using insects to search for gold


Researchers believe that insects could be an environmentally-friendly method of mineral exploration
Researchers believe that insects could be an environmentally-friendly method of mineral exploration

Cheryl Santa Maria, staff writer

December 17, 2012 — Researchers have come up with an environmentally-friendly way to mine for gold in western Australia.

Researchers at the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation in Australia (CSIRO) have found that ant and termite mounds can be used to indicate the presence of gold and other minerals beneath the earth.

According to CSIRO, insects could be a cost-effective and environmentally-friendly method of mineral exploration.

Traditional processes often involve drilling, which can be inaccurate and expensive in Australia.

Parts of the country's landscape is covered with eroded material, making it difficult to gauge what type of minerals exist underground.

Ants and termites "bring up small particles that contain gold from the deposit's fingerprint, or halo, and effectively stockpile it in their mounds," said Dr. Aaron Stewart, an entomologist at CSIRO, in a statement.

"Our recent research has shown that small ant and termite mounds that may not look like much on the surface, are just as valuable in finding gold as the large African mounds that stand several metres tall."

The findings have been published online at PLOS One.

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