May 24, 2019

Gold-coated fungi may offer new exploration leads

Gold-coated fungi may offer new exploration leads Coloured scanning electron microscope image of the gold-coated fusarium oxysporium fungi.

You’ve heard of magic mushrooms, but could fungi point the way to future fortunes?

Australian scientists have discovered gold-coated fungi near Boddington in Western Australia and are trying to establish its potential as a signpost to large gold deposits.

The thread-like fungi attach gold to their strands by dissolving and precipitating particles from their surroundings.

The discovery was made by Australia’s national science agency, CSIRO, and published in the journal  Nature Communications  .

Researchers are undertaking further analysis and modelling to understand why the fungi is interacting with gold, and whether it may be an indication of a larger deposit below the surface.

The exploration industry is already using sampling techniques involving gum leaves and termite mounds, which can store tiny traces of gold and can be linked to bigger deposits below the surface.

“We want to understand if the fungi we studied, known as fusarium oxsporum – and their functional genes – can be used in combination with these exploration tools to help industry to target prospective areas in a way that’s less impactful and more cost-effective than drilling,” CSIRO chief research scientist Dr Ravi Anand said.

The researchers also highlight the potential to use fungi as a bioremediation tool to recover gold from waste.

Fusarium oxsporum is commonly found in soils around the world and produces a pink mycelium or “flower”.

But it’s not something prospectors should go foraging for, as the particles of gold can only be seen under a microscope, the CSIRO said.

The discovery was made possible thanks to collaboration between CSIRO, the University of Western Australia, Murdoch University and Curtin University.

The research involved a multi-disciplinary approach harnessing geology, molecular biology, informatics analysis and astrobiology.

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