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Gold Mining Bacteria

Zonk posted more than 8 years ago | from the i'd-like-a-dozen-no-a-hundred dept.

50

Anonymous 49'er writes "Nature is reporting that bacteria found in Australian gold mines are capable of extruding tiny invisible 'secondary grains' from soil and alluvial systems. From the article: "Potential applications -- from sensing the bacteria as a way to look for gold mines, to using them to help make industrially useful particles of gold -- may be some way off. But Southam is keen to exploit the bacteria's natural trick. 'I want to make a gold nugget one day,' he says. 'Gold nuggets grow in nature, so why shouldn't I be able to make one?'"

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I misread at first (1, Funny)

IlliniECE (970260) | more than 8 years ago | (#15727265)

Scanning Slashdot's front page, two words caught my eyes: bacteria and nuggets.

Digging for gold, building nuggets (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15727337)

But it looked like a pick to me!

It wasn't a pick! It was a scratch!

Re:I misread at first (2, Funny)

CrazyJim1 (809850) | more than 8 years ago | (#15728339)

Bacteria nuggets? Don't they sell those at Mcdonalds?

Re:I misread at first (1)

jcr (53032) | more than 8 years ago | (#15729667)

Sssh! Everybody will want one!

-jcr

Gold Mining Bacteria (-1, Flamebait)

Rahl Fagdick (989152) | more than 8 years ago | (#15727266)

Why do slashdot kikes have big noses? Because theyre not niggers!~ -GNAA`

Overwhelming Response (1)

Umbral Blot (737704) | more than 8 years ago | (#15727303)

Judging by the number of responses so far I guess that asking about gold excreting bacteria is like asking about chocolate covered hubcaps. (that's a Larry Niven reference for those of you who are confused)

Or that Slashdot is in decline... (graphs) (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15727313)

From Wikipedia: "As of July 2006, there is an abundance of evidence to suggest that Slashdot's audience is shrinking not only in relation to other sites, but in absolute terms as well. One graph (originally posted as a comment to a Slashdot story) shows that comment volume has plunged since mid-2005,[1] [imageshack.us] confirming the instincts of many who have commented on Slashdot's slower pace. Google Trends shows an alarming decline in queries including the word "slashdot," suggestive of a concomitant drop in traffic.[2] [google.com] "

(SF) Chocolate-covered MANHOLE COVERS!!! (1)

CurtMonash (986884) | more than 8 years ago | (#15727445)

No, no. The question is -- what do you say to a chocolate-covered manhole cover?

The short story of that title was very important in my life, because it quoted a very funny paragraph -- the Agnostic's Prayer -- from Roger Zelazny, who became one of my absolutely favorite writers (I am still angry at him for smoking and dying of lung cancer so prematurely).

Actually, I've been thinking of the story for its own sake a bit recently too, just because I argue with so many idiot creationists these days ...

In other SF trivia, the questioner character in that story is obviously based on a real-life friend of his. The same guy was also used as a model for a character in the "Pink elephants invade Kansas" book whose title I'm obviously forgetting for a moment. Not as important as the diabetic guy from JPL, but a recurring Niven character model even so.

Re:(SF) Chocolate-covered MANHOLE COVERS!!! (1)

Umbral Blot (737704) | more than 8 years ago | (#15727466)

wow I totally meant to write manhole cover, but I wrote hubcap instead. I wonder what that means?

Re:(SF) Chocolate-covered MANHOLE COVERS!!! (1)

CurtMonash (986884) | more than 8 years ago | (#15727504)

Maybe it means you didn't focus on the practical use of the chocolate item referred to in the last scene of the story. :)

Re:(SF) Chocolate-covered MANHOLE COVERS!!! (1)

jcr (53032) | more than 8 years ago | (#15729677)

It means you're thinking too small?

-jcr

Re:(SF) Chocolate-covered MANHOLE COVERS!!! (1)

RockDoctor (15477) | more than 8 years ago | (#15737979)

Actually, I've been thinking of the story for its own sake a bit recently too, just because I argue with so many idiot creationists these days ...

Sledegehammer + testicles (*) = how long an argument ???
(* insert breeding organs of choice if target creationist is not conventionally male)
Inertia is your friend [G], or your hammer's friend.

In other SF trivia, the questioner character in that story is obviously based on a real-life friend of his.

Robert Forward ?? of the Cheela and JPL and a few other things.

The same guy was also used as a model for a character in the "Pink elephants invade Kansas" book whose title I'm obviously forgetting for a moment.

Footfall.
Civilised aliens who just happen to look like pink baby elephandt in high-heeled boots as they parachute into Kansas. I believe Larry when he claims to not take drugs. That idea must have been Pournelle's.

searching for mines? (2, Funny)

mike_sucks (55259) | more than 8 years ago | (#15727310)

From TFA: "from sensing the bacteria as a way to look for gold mines"

Surely we know where the gold mines are already - I mean, they tend to be biiiig things, or at least big holes in the ground. I wouldn't have though that looking for bacteria would make then any easier to spot.

Shouldn't the bacteria be used for finding gold _deposits_ instead? /ba-da ba-doom!/

Thank you, thank you. I'm here all week, tell you friends! I reccomend the veal, it's devine.

The smallest gold-diggers in the world (1)

vaccuum (989169) | more than 8 years ago | (#15727661)

Surely the smallest gold-digger in the world must be Lil' Kim?

Re:searching for mines? (1)

Thing 1 (178996) | more than 8 years ago | (#15730037)

I reccomend the veal, it's devine.

And deveined as well!

Thanks folks, I'm only here tonight and tomorrow!

Gold nuggets growing wildly... (4, Interesting)

pieterh (196118) | more than 8 years ago | (#15727317)

There's no obvious mechanism by which gold should spontaneously form into nuggets in the wild; I don't really believe that gold particles in the soil magically find their way together by some mystical process of attraction.

Is it not more likely that these bacteria have been excreting gold as a matter of habit for hundreds of millions of years, and that gold nuggets are in fact the toilet pits of huge bacterial colonies from ages past? Perhaps the bacteria feed off sulphur or some other element that's mixed with the gold...

Re:Gold nuggets growing wildly... (1)

Rakshasa Taisab (244699) | more than 8 years ago | (#15727436)

Are you trying to tell us that gold is in fact looted from monsters, rather than deposited due to geological events?

Re:Gold nuggets growing wildly... (2, Insightful)

pieterh (196118) | more than 8 years ago | (#15727480)

Yes, exactly! :-)

I'm speculating that bacteria, in colonies, may be responsible for gold nuggets, at least in some cases. There are other cases of bacteria creating mineral concentrations (like stromatolites). Bacterial activity in hot rocks and hot springs is well known; gold is often found with other elements that some bacteria like, such as sulphur. Concentrations of gold don't seem to fit a natural process, I'd expect to see minerals dispersed within strata, not concentrated into pure blobs.

OK, bizarre theory, I know. Anyhow, I just did some googling and found this [geoscienceworld.org] .

"Biogenicity of gold- and silver-bearing siliceous sinters forming in hot (75C) anaerobic spring-waters..."

Re:Gold nuggets growing wildly... (4, Informative)

ozmanjusri (601766) | more than 8 years ago | (#15727526)

Concentrations of gold don't seem to fit a natural process

Most of the gold in the world is in archaean deposits or was transported from archaean sources by alluvial processes. In these deposits, the gold was dissolved from basalt rocks by superheated water, then precipitated out into cracks and fissures as the water got too cold to maintain the solution. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ore_genesis#Gold [wikipedia.org]

The use of bacteria in mining is nothing new though. We've been using "bug leach" techniques in Australian mines for more than a decade. http://www.indmetlab.com.au/equipment/bio_metallur gy.php [indmetlab.com.au] The main novelty of this species of bacteria is that it produces metallic gold instead of gold compounds. Given the relative ease of precipitating gold from solution, I'm not sure if it'll be enough of an advance to be worth using.

Re:Gold nuggets growing wildly... (1)

njh (24312) | more than 8 years ago | (#15729751)

I was told that is exactly what happens maybe ten years ago. I'm surprised this is even being published. The evidence for biological origins of gold nuggets is pretty well understood I thought.

Standby patent office, I have and idea! (4, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15727320)

1. Infect humans with gold mining bacteria.
2. Sneak rocks into their food.
3. ????
4. Profit!

Re:Standby patent office, I have and idea! (4, Funny)

xyvimur (268026) | more than 8 years ago | (#15727382)

It's faster to make gold out of Smurfs...

Re:Standby patent office, I have and idea! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15729425)

It's faster to make gold out of Smurfs...

The fun part is running them through a blender to extract the gold.

Re:Standby patent office, I have and idea! (1)

Drakai (828042) | more than 8 years ago | (#15733905)

It's not really faster. It's taken that one guy over a decade and still no results.

Re:Standby patent office, I have and idea! (1)

mantissa128 (900471) | more than 8 years ago | (#15728078)

Ah yes, Step 3 - wallow through human feces looking for gold nuggets.

Next on Fear Factor...

Looking for gold MINES (0, Redundant)

wjsroot (732775) | more than 8 years ago | (#15727344)

Why would we want to look for gold mines??? If its a mine we already know where it is.
Unless there are secret gold mines run by the bacteria...

Re:Looking for gold MINES (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15727368)

I hope you are prepared to be mod'd redundant. If you are not, it would be yet another moderator mistake. Also, any moderation on THIS post is a wasted moderation.

Used in processing (4, Interesting)

Cougar_ (92354) | more than 8 years ago | (#15727361)

There is a large gold mine near where I live that uses bacteria to extract gold from the ore that is dug out of the mine. I'm not sure of the specifics, I'd have to ask my brother (he works at the mine), but basically, you feed the bacteria, and in return, they purify the ore. Gotta be better than chemical means such as arsenic and mercury.

Re:Used in processing (2, Interesting)

Cougar_ (92354) | more than 8 years ago | (#15727365)

For anyone interested, the mine I mentioned above is the Fosterville gold mine, run by Perseverence, Google has plenty of links.

Re:Used in processing (1)

adoll (184191) | more than 8 years ago | (#15735289)

Typically the type of gold mine that uses bug-leaching is a sulphide hosted deposit. The gold is encapsulated in sulphide mineral and is not available to be extracted. Fortunately, there are bacteria called Thiobacillus ferrooxidans who can dissolve and disintegrate sulphide matrices, thereby liberate the micron-sized gold grains. The bugs don't actually leach the gold. After bug-leaching destroys the sulphides, you cyanide leach the heap to get the gold. -AD

Bacteria Point The Way To Gold Deposits (4, Interesting)

datentod (865686) | more than 8 years ago | (#15727367)

An old article from 2002... Bacteria Point The Way To Gold Deposits http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2002/05/02052 3075914.htm/ [sciencedaily.com] Can bacteria help find gold? A pilot survey of 11 soil profiles across gold mining regions in the Peoples Republic of China indicates that elevated spore counts of Bacillus cereus, a common soil bacterium, were detected in areas adjacent to underlying gold deposits.....

Re:Bacteria Point The Way To Gold Deposits (1)

Joebert (946227) | more than 8 years ago | (#15727622)

It makes so much more sense when it's worded like that. ;)

Didn't we end up with Atomic Bombs last time someone got the bright idea to try making gold nuggets ?

I make em fresh every morning! (1)

Pao|o (92817) | more than 8 years ago | (#15727380)

'Gold nuggets grow in nature, so why shouldn't I be able to make one?'"

I already make my own gold nuggets at home and sometimes, if i have too, outside. ;)

I don't like this (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15727384)

It's gross

Gold Farmers (3, Funny)

Dwedit (232252) | more than 8 years ago | (#15727386)

There's no way the Chinese gold farmers will be able to compete with these bacteria!

Re:Gold Farmers (1, Funny)

Kangie (975603) | more than 8 years ago | (#15727402)

I dunno.. there's still more chinese than there are bacteria..

Bacteria are crucial to cleanup in general (2, Insightful)

CurtMonash (986884) | more than 8 years ago | (#15727455)

From the insides of our intestines to animal carcasses to sewage plants to toxic waste sites, bacteria are crucial to cleaning things up. Surely this is yet another area where biotechnology will be hugely important in the 21st Century and beyond. In fact, if you're one of the IMO excessively laissez-faire "Oh, go ahead and pollute; technology will fix the problem later" types, you almost have to be betting on microorganisms as the solution. Almost everything else can be easily ruled out.

Why use bacteria? (0, Offtopic)

aersixb9 (267695) | more than 8 years ago | (#15727511)

I can find gold in my own backyard. As I'm sure you're all familiar with, there's around 3 feet of topsoil (aka dirt) at most sea-level places. Dig past the first 1m, and you'll find another meter of tan colored clay. This is similar to pottery clay, and can be baked in the sun for a few days, or in an oven for a few hours, to form hard clay. You'll need to add some glaze, of course. Under the tan clay is a gray clay, and under the gray clay is a red clay. (That's how far I've gotten so far...) As for the gold, altuogh layers 1 and 2 are pure, layers 3 and 4 are rocky, and I've found a variety of elements, including little gold nuggets that are worth a ton of money! (Assuming I can find a buyer and obtain a sales permit, of course) I'm hoping there's a gold layer that's 3 feet thick of a nice, soft gold, but I'm not sure how deep I'll have to dig for that. I've already got a water pump on the hole to pump out the water that flows in, although at this time of the year the water doesn't start until ~6 ft deep, in the winter it's almost at ground level.
      On a side note, sometimes the dirt mixes with the clay. Is there any way to seperate dirt from clay? Also, the red clay appears to harden into a brick-like substance when dried for a pretty long time in the sun or oven...and I've also found a clay that was black and white, and hardened into a little piece of granite in ~ 6 months next to the computer.
        Is this bacteria able to seperate the clay from the dirt? Also, I'm finding tons of shiny, golden metals mixed into the gray and red clays, and other elements also, is there a way to seperate these from the surrounding elements?

Re:Why use bacteria? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15727958)

what could possibly have ever motivated you to write something like that?

Re:Why use bacteria? (1)

bigtrike (904535) | more than 8 years ago | (#15728353)

Because we don't know where your backyard is.

Re:Why use bacteria? (1)

aersixb9 (267695) | more than 8 years ago | (#15730115)

There's gold in your backyard too.

Proof and therefore disproof of God (3, Funny)

jamesh (87723) | more than 8 years ago | (#15727624)

I was going to write a comment here about how such an incredibly useful bacteria can't possibly have evolved by itself, and must therefore be a dead giveaway that God exists, thus denying the need for faith (without which He is nothing), and so causing Him to vanish in a puff of logic.

But i'm too tired, so just pretend I wrote it and mod me funny appropriately.

Seawater? (1)

Wizard Drongo (712526) | more than 8 years ago | (#15728095)

Could this finally be the answer to Haber's problem of how to profitably extract gold from seawater. If so, I doubt anyone will let it happen for anywhere near the true cost of extraction (probably around a few dollars a troy ounce, once up & running). Which means a lot of biotech companies are going to be very very rich.
Maybe I should patent the method of using a bioengineered bacterium to extract gold particles from seawater. Then I'd be richer than the biotech companies. Me thinks someone else got in that pie a fair while back though.....

Re:Seawater? (1)

istartedi (132515) | more than 8 years ago | (#15728891)

There's a good chance these bacteria are already at work in the ocean. The problem with extracting gold from seawater is pumping all that water in and out of whatever it is you're using to extract it. For the bacteria method to work, every drop of gold-bearing water has to meet up with the bacteria colony long enough for the bacteria to extract the gold. Either you need a really big colony, or a really long time.

Since the price of gold has spiked lately, I've wondered about the cost of some of these alternative mining methods. Everybody says they're expensive, but they don't say how expensive so we can't really say when they would become competitive with conventional mining.

Interesting side note: The US has been slowly decreasing its monetary gold reserves for decades, but still has the largest reserve of any nation. If the price of gold hit $30,000/oz, the US national debt could be paid off with our reserves. Something tells me that the world financial community won't let it get to that point, since income-producing bonds are a better long term investment than a metal that has limited industrial use. Approximately 80% of the annual gold production is for jewelry.

Book on this topic (1)

Sloth503 (46658) | more than 8 years ago | (#15728165)

If you're interested in this, I'd suggest reading Thomas Gold's, "The Deep Hot Biosphere [amazon.com] ." Good read.

from the 70s/80's (3, Informative)

WindBourne (631190) | more than 8 years ago | (#15728293)

back in late 70's/early 80's, I got my first degree in Microbio. so I paid attention to this. Back then, this was being explored (as well as doing it for leeching of other metals esp. copper, uranium, etc). The idea was to lower the energy needs, lower the environmental impact, and finally to be able to selectively go through garbage dumps and old leech fields. It actually makes great sense.

What bothers me about this is that we gave it up as oil prices were pushed down. We should have pushed it forward then.

I for one... (2, Funny)

E++99 (880734) | more than 8 years ago | (#15728462)

I for one welcome our new gold-crapping microbe overlords.

I don't understand... (1)

Null537 (772236) | more than 8 years ago | (#15728967)

...how this can be. Gold Mining is strictly prohibited by Blizzard's EULA.

How about nuclear waste cleanup? (1)

CurtMonash (986884) | more than 8 years ago | (#15729707)

It would be wonderful if we could find bacteria that removed radioactive isotopes from nuclear waste.

But oh, the mutations. I imagine that would be a deal-killer.

bacteria responsible for majority of deposits? (1)

peter303 (12292) | more than 8 years ago | (#15731729)

Mineral deposits are basically geochemical anomalies where some substances is concentrated millions or billions of times normal background level. Bacteria have been implicated in uranium, lead, zince, copper, petroleum and perhaps others.
A surprise has been the every deep drilling into the earth, up to eight miles deep, has found teeming bacteria. These may have been when these rocks were at the surface, and/or bateria have gone deeper into the earth over billions of years.
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