Conscripting plants and the microbial community for mineral exploration

Geologists have a great deal of geochemical tools for exploration of new mineral deposits. But, as most of the unexploited treasure is hiding at great depth, geologists have to invent and employ increasingly unusual tools to uncover new mineral resources.


After seismic and electromagnetics, the potential of geomicrobiology is being investigated. Last Tuesday, Rachel Simister from the University of British Columbia presented her research on the application of Genomics to Mineral exploration. Studying microbial genomics DNA from soil samples collected along the Deerhorn Cu-Au porphyry deposit, she showed evidence that microorganisms can potentially be used as vectoring to mineral deposits.


In the same session, Danijela Mavric from Trinity College Dublin presented her work on geobotanic in Tara Mine, Ireland. Having analysed leaves of the most common plant spices around the mining area, she was able to identify a Zn-Pb anomaly. Danijela showed evidence that the trace-element and isotopic signature of native species that surround mineral deposits can be used as a mineral prospecting tool for Zn-Pb deposits.


A similar case study presented during the keynote talk of Patrice de Caritat (Geoscience Australia) referred to studies investigated the plant uptake and the presence of Au in them. During his talk Patrice de Caritat gave a detailed overview of Geochemical Exploration for the cover mineral deposits, stressing that new interdisciplinary data needs to be introduced to enrich the geochemical data set, increasing the potential for mineral exploration.