Termite Mounds Can Help Reveal Location of Gold Deposits

Posted on December 11, 2012

Termite Mound in West Australia

New research conducted by CSIRO indicates that ant and termite mounds can provide evidence of gold located deep beneath them. Termite mounds at a test site in the West Australian goldfields contained high concentrations of gold, which the scientists say indicates a larger gold deposit underneath the mound. A termite mound located in the West Australian goldfields is pictured above.

CSIRO entomologist Dr. Aaron Stewart said in a statement, "Termites and ants burrow into this layer of material where a fingerprint of the underlying gold deposit is found, and bring traces of this fingerprint to the surface. The insects bring up small particles that contain gold from the deposit's fingerprint, or halo, and effectively stockpile it in their mounds. 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 are that stand several metres tall."

The researchers also found termites carry metals and their bodies and excrete them in a process that is similar to the way humans excrete kidney stones.

Dr. Stewart says, "Although the insects may not concentrate metals in their bodies, they actively rid their bodies of excess metals. This process shows up as little stones, much like kidney stones in people. This finding is important because these excretions are a driving force in redistribution of metals near the surface."

These are Giant Northern or Mastotermes darwiniensis worker termites.

Giant Northern Worker Termites

The research was published here in PLoS One.

Photos: CSIRO

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