Surprising fungi-gold interaction reveals potential for new deposits

Image: CSIRO

Australian scientists have discovered gold-coated fungi near Boddington, Western Australia that may offer clues for finding gold deposits.

The thread-like fungi attach gold to their strands by dissolving and precipitating particles from their surroundings, posting signs of gold presence.

This finding highlights the possibility of using fungi as a bioremediation tool to recover gold from waste. Researchers are, however, yet to understand the reason for the interaction.

“Fungi can oxidise tiny particles of gold and precipitate it on their strands – this cycling process may contribute to how gold and other elements are distributed around the Earth’s surface,” CSIRO lead author Tsing Bohu said.

“Fungi are well-known for playing an essential role in the degradation and recycling of organic material, such as leaves and bark, as well as for the cycling of other metals, including aluminium, iron, manganese and calcium.

“But gold is so chemically inactive that this interaction is both unusual and surprising – it had to be seen to be believed.”

While Fusarium oxsporum is commonly found in soils around the world and produce a pink “flower”, it is not something prospectors should go foraging for. The particles of gold can only be seen under a microscope.

CSIRO is undertaking further study to discover if this unusual interaction could indicate a larger gold deposit below the surface.

Australia is the world’s second largest gold producer, and while production hit record peaks in 2018, forecasted estimates show that production will decline in the near future unless new deposits are found, according to CSIRO.

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