At the end of June, I mentioned the role of termites, or specifically the examination of termite mounds, in mineral exploration. That lead me to ask if CMJ readers have had any experience with unconventional exploration techniques. Some have. Others have not.
Colin Dunn, a consulting geochemist living in North Saanick, BC, was kind enough to write and introduce me to a new word: geozoology. He contributed Chapter 4 to a book called Biogeochemistry in Mineral Exploration, published by Elsevier. He noted that Herodotus wrote in 450 B.C. of ants (later thought to be termites or marmots) in India that left mounds rich in gold.
"Indirectly, even goats have assisted the prospector," Dunn wrote in the book. "Around 850 A.D. the copper-zinc mine a Falun, Sweden, is reputed to have been found after a goat returned from the hills with a red stain on its horns."
The Falun iron mine was worked for over 1,000 years, eventually closing in 1992.
Richard Potter, a retired geologist living in Bedford, NS, wrote of having experience with prospectors in Newfoundland who found ant hills of particular interest. "They believed ants only build their ant hills in warm areas possibly caused by the oxidation of sulphide minerals."
He added, "If my memory serve me correctly, a similar unconventional method was tested … by Keith Bell of the Geological Survey of Canada in the 1950s or 1960s. He did geochemical analyses of caribou droppings in the Northwest Territories. As you probably know, the caribou herds travel over large areas grazing as they go. Anomalous values, if detected, would be within a short distance from the source and would indicate where more detailed work could carried out."
Unfortunately, Potter was unable to report on whether either method was successful.
Every resourceful prospector probably uses geozoological clues on occasion. Perhaps such low-cost and low-tech methods should be used more often, especially as a tool when choosing the most likely targets for expensive high-tech testing and drilling.