Gold Leaves on Australian Trees Seen Curbing Costs for Miners

Miners looking for gold in Australia may be able to cut exploration costs after the discovery of bullion particles on leaves and branches of trees in Western Australia that may indicate deposits, scientists say.

Eucalyptus trees in the state’s Kalgoorlie region, about 595 kilometers (370 miles) east of Perth, have been found to draw up water containing gold particles that are one-fifth the diameter of a human hair, the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation said in a statement. The gold is likely to be toxic to the plant and is moved to the leaves and branches where it can be released or shed to the ground.

Gold miners are seeking to cut costs after bullion plunged into a bear market this year and heads for its first annual loss since 2000. Barrick Gold Corp., the world’s biggest gold producer, said in August it may sell, close or curb output at 12 mines from Peru to Papua New Guinea. Newcrest Mining Ltd., Australia’s largest producer, wrote down the value of its mines and other assets by A$6.2 billion ($6 billion) the same month.

“By sampling and analyzing vegetation for traces of minerals, we may get an idea of what’s happening below the surface without the need to drill,” CSIRO geochemist Mel Lintern said. “Eucalyptus trees are so common that this technique could be widely applied across Australia. It could also be used to find other metals such as zinc and copper.”

The leaves may be used in combination with other tools as a more cost effective exploration technique, the agency said.

Australia is the world’s largest gold producer after China. Bullion for immediate delivery traded little changed at $1,339.81 an ounce, down 20 percent this year.

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