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Calico Mine Ride

It's also able to pick up some gold and carry it along for the ride. We're still researching whether an atom of gold can actually replace an atom of iron - we're talking nanoscale particles, here, so it's really hard to determine that for sure. But we know that infinitesimal particles of gold become part of the pyrite. Some of it is incorporated into the crystalline structure of the arsenopyrite.

Some particles just get included with the crystal growing around it, sort of like a nonconformist in a crowd of go-with-the-flow folks. Ultimately, we end up with tiny amounts of gold - maybe parts per million, if you've got a rich deposit. It doesn't seem like much.

But the gold contained in these deposits actually makes up some of the richest gold mines in the world. The largest invisible-gold-in-pyrite deposit in North America, located in the Carlin Trend in Nevada, also happens to be the most productive gold mine in the country! It's got more than million ounces of gold in it. And we've got the techniques to get that gold out economically enough to make it worth our while. These Carlin-type deposits occur all over the world. And they're really useful!

Part of it became sulfate fertilizer; the remains were sent back to Jinguashi and processed to extract their gold. Now that's getting the most of a natural resource. So there you are. Next time someone hands you some fool's gold hoping to take you for a fool or just wanting to share their shiny , check it out for invisible gold.

You'll know there's a chance you're actually holding some hidden gold in your hand if the sample is silvery-white or steely, and smells like garlic when you smack it with a hammer. If it's a proud, brassy yellow, you may still have a particle or two. How neat is that?

The views expressed are those of the author s and are not necessarily those of Scientific American. A confirmed adorer of the good science of rock-breaking, Dana Hunter explores geology with an emphasis on volcanic processes, geology news, and the intersection of science and society. You have free article s left. Already a subscriber? Sign in. See Subscription Options.

A lovely cubic bit of pyrite in blueschist, which I found in a rock wall in Bothell, WA. Alas, no visible gold - but a splendid golden color! The cube is about a half-inch across.

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A gorgeous hand sample of exquisite quartz crystals and shiny arsenopyrite. An absolutely gorgeous pair of pyritohedrons. This is one of the crystal habits of pyrite - it forms these awesome little twelve-sided balls. These are in hydrothermally-altered rock up in Quartzville, Oregon.

Gold Mining! Come Along for the Ride : Tom "Lefty" Leftwich :

And yes, there's gold nearby! One of my own beloved pyrites, found in a mineral shop in Cottonwood, Arizona. So sparkly!


Pyrite has always been one of my favorite things in the world. Dana Hunter A confirmed adorer of the good science of rock-breaking, Dana Hunter explores geology with an emphasis on volcanic processes, geology news, and the intersection of science and society. Load comments. J ust outside Dawson City in northwest Canada, an unmarked gravel road branches from the main highway and snakes along Bonanza Creek—so named by the fortunes that were discovered in this remote outparcel.

After a half-day drive the road loops back into the highway, circumscribing a lasso-shaped patch of land that has been divided, staked, and claimed by prospectors since the Klondike Gold Rush of Along with gold nuggets sleuthed from hillsides or sifted from streambeds, the land has yielded a bounty of ice-age fossils unintentionally excavated from the thawing permafrost.

Unglaciated pockets of Yukon land have concentrated all manner of ice-age biodiversity. While miners dig for gold concentrated in white gravel layers, they move first through meters of ice-age sediment. This confluence of planetary geology, human history, and sheer opportunism has brought miners and researchers together in one place for over years.

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Early photographs from the region show miners posing with sacks of precious metal, and next to enormous mammoth skulls. As I ride down Bonanza on a dusty midsummer afternoon, paleontologist Grant Zazula points over the creek to some bones piled casually onto one of many iron grated platforms.

That, he tells me, is a sign that the Yukon Fossil Rush continues to this day. I traveled north to meet him in the summer of , shortly after finishing graduate school, as a kind of unorthodox sabbatical that had me trade my laboratory freezers and centrifuges for a handheld movie camera.

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The early documentary filmmakers—Robert Flaherty and John Grierson, specifically—inspired me to embed within a community as an ethnographic observer, to find a place where science and society mixed in unexpected ways. The Yukon provided the perfect place for that immersion, a study site of sorts, where miners and scientists converge for a few short months every summer.

In early June, as the winter thaw brings miners back to their claims, a small team of paleontologists make the five-hour drive from Whitehorse to a makeshift field station outside Dawson City.

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