The discovery of gold-coated fungi near Boddington in Western Australia may offer clues for finding new gold deposits.
Finding the new gold deposits
Gold is an important export commodity for Australia. While gold production hit record peaks in 2020, forecasted estimates show that production will decline in the near future unless new gold deposits are found.
New, low-impact exploration tools are needed to make the next generation of discoveries to ensure ongoing production into the future.
Linking gold-coated fungi with a deposit below the surface
We discovered gold-coated fungi near Boddington in Western Australia; a known area of gold mineralisation.
Called Fusarium oxysporum, this pink-flowering, thread-like fungi known is commonly found in soils around the globe.
Our scientists found that the fungi can attach gold to their strands through an oxidisation process, dissolving and precipitating particles from their surroundings.
This may mean that fungi – and their functional genes – could be added to a growing list of biological clues at the surface that can be used to find gold underground.
Another intriguing aspect to the discovery was that gold, a biologically inert element, appears to offer a biological advantage to the fungi. Our researchers observed that gold-coated fungi grew larger and spread faster than those that don’t interact with the gold.
Adding fungi to the explorers tool-kit
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.
The discovery of gold-coated fungi suggests that sampling soil fungi for precious minerals may provide another data source for identifying new areas of mineralisation for further exploration.
The discovery was published in the journal Nature Communications.