Researchers have been instrumental in uncovering the key role of bacteria in the formation and movement of platinum and other related metals in surface environments.
Published this week in the journal Nature Geoscience, the research findings have important implications for the future exploration of platinum group metals.
Professor Gordon Southam said the discovery of nanoparticulate and microcrystalline platinum formed through bacterial processes has demonstrated that this precious metal is not inert and that an active biogeochemical weathering cycle exists for platinum.
“The capability of bacteria to transform precious metal grains into nanoparticulate materials has the potential to revolutionise the way we search for metal deposits,” he said.
“This research shows that novel exploration strategies for locating new metal deposits could be developed by targeting similar nanoparticulate materials in soils and sediments.”
Professor Southam said the formation of microscopic materials by bacteria may be critical for exploration in Australia where most of our bedrock is covered by highly weathered terrain.
Earth Science's Dr Carla Zammit is also part of the international research team, which is led by The University of Adelaide's Dr Frank Reith. Other collaborators include colleagues from The University of Western Australia, RMIT University, and the Federal Institute for Geosciences and Natural Resources in Germany.
Expansion of research
These latest findings are an expansion of Professor Southam and his team’s previous research on the formation of nanoparticulate gold from gold grains (Shuster et al., 2015) and on the accretion of secondary gold into new grains (Shuster & Southam, 2015).
Shuster, J., C.W. Johnston, N.A. Magarvey, R.A. Gordon, K. Barron, N.R. Banerjee and G. Southam. 2015. Structural and chemical characterization of placer gold grains: Implications for bacterial contributions to grain formation. Geomicrobiol. J. 32:158-169.
Shuster, J. and G. Southam. 2015. The in-vitro “growth” of gold grains. Geology 43:79-82.