Termites Help Aussie "Fossickers" Find Gold
(Australian termite mound or "nest.")
When I first started my small-scale gold mining career over three decades ago, I remember being told by old timers (and reading in prospecting books of the day) that you should always check large ant hills or animal burrows for traces of color. Although there's certainly some logic to this premise, I never thought much of this approach and pretty much dismissed it from my mind. Maybe I shouldn't have been so hasty...
Here's the reason: termites are unearthing small particles of gold in the "Land Down Under," according to Aussie geologists and entomologists. Samples taken from material excavated by these little critters in their mounds or nests are pointing to the possibility of new gold deposits, particularly in locations in the Western Australia goldfields.
Miniature Gold Prospectors
One especially promising site is the Moolart Well gold deposit. Although a highly mineralized area, Moolart Well has always been a tough gold nut to crack for the Diggers...even after a century and a half of "fossicking" and mining efforts. It should come as no surprise to any experienced gold prospector or miner that overburden has been the key thorn in everyone's side.
Dickies Work Clothes
Successive layers of overburden at Moolart Well have have made things difficult because the gold in the area eroded out millenia ago and then was covered up by semi-sterile layers of overburden...sometimes at depth. Now it seems termites are acting as miniature gold prospectors as they burrow down into the earth anywhere from three to thirteen feet.
Don't Expect to Find Nuggets
Material samples taken in the Moolart Well region from twenty-two termite mounds and the adjoining terrain are showing high concentrations of gold, with the mounds themselves holding color at a level as much as fifteen-to-sixteen times that of the soils and gravels sampled ten-to-twenty feet away from the mounds themselves. The reason for this showing of color is apparent...as the little buggers burrow and tunnel their way down, the small bits of material they excavate is piled high at the surface, including tiny grains of gold.
(Gold like this has been recovered from the Moolart Well region in the past.)
"The true amount of gold found in the nests is actually very low," says Aussie scientist Aaron Stewart. "It gives us the indication of a hidden deposit, but you can't see the gold and wouldn't be able to extract anything meaningful from the nests." In other words brothers and sisters, don't expect to find large flakes, nuggets, or multi-troy ounce pockets from termite mounds in Australia (or anywhere else for that matter).
An Intriguing Idea
Still, having termites (or ants or other burrowing critters?) doing some of your sampling work for you is an intriguing idea...even for an old hard case like myself. Maybe I should have given the old timers who schooled me up way back when a bit more credit. You never know, do you?
Best of luck to you and a hearty "G'day" to all my Aussie mining friends.
If you liked this post, you may want to read: "Australia's Koonenberry Gold Belt"
(c) Jim Rocha (J.R.) 2012
Questions? E-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org