Head and shoulders portrait photo of Dr Mel Lintern

Dr Mel Lintern.

Dr Mel Lintern: developing new ways to enhance mineral exploration using biological media

Dr Mel Lintern is a geochemist specialising in the application of biological media and calcrete to enhance mineral exploration.

  • 18 October 2013 | Updated 28 July 2014

In this article

  1. Overview
  2. Publishing History


Page 1 of 2

Current activities

Dr Mel Lintern is a research geochemist for CSIRO’s Minerals Down Under Flagship and Earth Science and Resource Engineering division. His expertise lies in the application of geochemistry, including biological media and calcrete (a common soil component in arid Australia) for minerals exploration.

In a study published in Nature Communications [external link] titled 'Natural gold particles in Eucalyptus leaves and their relevance to exploration for buried gold deposits', Dr Lintern discovered that gold can exist in particulate form within naturally grown plants.

Understanding the heterogeneous distribution of gold in plants has critical implications for collection, sample preparation and analytical protocols for mineral exploration.

Dr Lintern's research is enabling mining companies to explore with more confidence when tackling greenfield areas where sedimentary cover dominates, particularly in arid and semi-arid regions of Australia.


Dr Lintern joined CSIRO in 1980 and has since achieved numerous scientific breakthroughs that have had a direct impact on mineral exploration.

He has translated the science of biogeochemistry, gold's mobility in the surficial environment and how abiotic-biotic geochemical anomalies form into robust mineral exploration tools used by industry to find new mineral deposits.

In the last ten years, Dr Lintern has led a number of large, multi-client externally-funded projects involving more than 40 domestic and international exploration companies, geological surveys and academic institutions.

Academic qualifications

Dr Lintern holds the following qualifications:

  • Doctor of Philosophy in Applied Geology
  • Graduate Diploma in Environmental Science
  • Bachelor of Science (Zoology).


Dr Lintern's research has demonstrated that vegetation creates detectable surficial geochemical anomalies in calcrete, even where there are significant thicknesses of transported cover such as sand dunes.

He discovered that gold occurs in both ionic and metallic forms within calcrete, which has helped explain the chemical mobility of gold in soil and allows partial extraction analysis to be confidently applied by mineral explorers to detect mobile surficial gold anomalies.

He also demonstrated for the first time that gold may be expelled from the foliage of natural plants. The impact of this novel mechanism has been to provide an entirely new pathway by which gold is mobilised in the environment and how geochemical anomalies, sought by exploration companies, may be dispersed. 

Find out more about our work in minerals exploration.