Discovery of gold in eucalyptus trees might not be good newsBy Graham Land Oct 24, 2013 9:13PM UTC
Despite what you may have been lead to believe, gold does grow on trees – eucalyptus trees to be precise. The tree sucks the gold from the soil through its roots and then disperses it to its extremities due to the precious mineral toxicity. Most of the gold ends up in the leaves. While this doesn’t mean you can make any money from the tiny concentration of gold in eucalyptus aka gum tree leaves (the concentration is 80 parts per billion), the discovery could revolutionize prospecting.
Since eucalyptus trees can now provide clues as to where gold deposits lay, can we expect an Australian gold rush? What about all the places throughout the world where eucalypts have been planted and subsequently spread, as the gum tree is a particularly prodigious invasive species? Could there be another California gold rush or a spate of gold fever in Portugal or Brazil, for example?
From BBC News:
We’ve found a lot of the easy deposits in Australia and elsewhere in the world as well.
Now we are trying to tackle finding these more difficult ones that are buried beneath tens of metres of river sediments and sand dunes. And the trees are providing us with a method to be able to do this.
–Dr Mel Lintern, geochemist, Australia’s Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO)
I regularly rant and rave about the evils of the gold industry and this will be no exception. The problem is that once gold is discovered, whoever or whatever lives in that location is often poisoned, exploited, destroyed or forcibly moved out, whether they are human, plant or animal.
Mining in general, while providing some short-term economic windfalls (at least for some interested parties), is overall environmentally destructive. Processes for extracting gold involve the use of cyanide – the industry standard – and mercury, which is used in small excavations throughout the world, notably in developing places like the Philippines and the Peruvian Amazon. Gold mining in Africa has also been linked to excessively poor wages (South Africa) and deadly child lead poisoning (Nigeria). It is currently driving government oppression in Romania and northern Greece.
So while all media sources I have encountered concerning the discovery of gold traces in eucalyptus leaves are glowing and fail to address any possible negative results of this scientific breakthrough, I am not so optimistic. This is capitalism we are talking about. It will not be deterred by such pesky things as the survival of an ecosystem, human health or the rights of local communities.
From the Independent:
Australia is the world’s second biggest gold producer after China, mining nearly 80 tons of the metal last year. With global reserves decreasing, exploration companies are now hunting for deposits that lie deep underground and are difficult to detect.
Hopes for a lively trade in recycled and ethical gold are sure to be tested by this development. Gold was never the precious metal to most likely be recycled anyway, since its price is dictated principally by consumer demand rather than by scarcity.
Let’s just hope they don’t go after the koalas next.