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Ant, termite mounds now gold-diggers' new help?

Posted on Dec 17, 08:07AM | IANS

Researchers will be now able to locate gold and other mineral deposits in an eco-friendly and cost effective way, just by analysing small ant and termite mounds.

Researchers found that the West Australian gold fields termite mounds contained high concentrations of gold. It indicated that there were larger deposits underneath.

"We're using insects to help find new gold and other mineral deposits. These resources are becoming increasingly hard to find because much of the Australian landscape is covered by a layer of eroded material that masks what's going on deeper underground," said Aaron Stewart, entomologist at Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO).

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 journals Public Library of Science ONE and Geochemistry: Exploration, Environment, Analysis, reported.

"The insects bring up small particles that contain gold from the deposit's fingerprint, or halo, and effectively stockpile it in their mounds," Stewart said, according to a CSIRO 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 are that stand several metres tall," Stewart added.

Insects could provide a new, cost effective and environmentally friendly way of exploring for new mineral deposits, avoiding the traditional method of expensive and often inaccurate drilling.

Stewart's work has also found that insects carry metals in their bodies.