Termites, those destructive creatures feared by North American homeowners, play an important role in mineral exploration. By disturbing the local ground and piling the excavated material into mounds, these ambitious insects can create stacks of fine-grained material as tall as nine metres. The mounds provide a ready source of material suitable for geochemical analysis.
Merrex Gold of Halifax has taken advantage of the termites’ ready-made sample material to study a 10-km strike length at the Siribaya mega-structure in West Mali, Africa. The company says that geochemical testing of the mound material has identified new anomalous gold zones that were unidentified during earlier surface sampling. The mound samples also confirmed previous surface geochemical survey results and earlier drilling results.
The Siribaya project is highly prospective, according to Merrex. The company struck a deal with IamGold in October 2008 whereby IamGold can earn a 50% interest in the property by providing $10.5 million over four years of exploration expenses. Merrex will be the operator for two years or until IamGold’s investment reaches $5.5 million. A joint management committee has been created.
“Merrex is new to using termite mounds,” president and CEO Greg Isenor told CMJ, “but other companies have been testing them for a long time.”
Some of the mound assays have been “spectacular”, but he was reluctant to mention grades until the targets have been drilled and a new resource estimate compiled.
How handy to have a drilling crew of termites. Unlike a mechanical rig, they don’t malfunction or need maintenance downtime. Unlike human crews, they don’t stop working at mealtimes or for rest. And, if our readers will pardon the pun, they work “dirt” cheap.
I’m sure some researcher somewhere is working on nanobots that might do the same thing as a termite colony. But why reinvent the wheel?
Explorationists are far smarter to take advantage of the hardworking termite.