“Soil microbes are very sensitive and responsive to chemical and physical changes in their environment,” the study’s co-lead Sean Crowe said in a media statement. “Comparing the quantity and species of bacteria found in soil samples collected over ore deposits with soils from other areas can help to zero in on buried mineral deposits.”
To prove this assertion in the field, Crowe and his team from the University of British Columbia departments of Earth, Ocean, and Atmospheric Sciences and Microbiology and Immunology, and the Mineral Deposit Research Unit collected samples surrounding two copper porphyry deposits in BC’s South Central Region: Consolidated Woodjam Copper’s Deerhorn copper-gold (Cu-Au) deposit near Williams Lake; and Teck Resources’ Highmont South copper-molybdenite (Cu-Mo) deposit at Highland Valley Copper near the city of Kamloops.
By combining the results of high-throughput DNA sequencing with geomicrobiological knowledge, the researchers identified groups of indicator bacterial species that help distinguish soils above mineralization from background soils.
“We found that sequence-based anomaly detection is both sensitive and robust, and could go a long way towards helping discover new mineral resources,” microbiologist and lead report author Rachel Simister said in the press brief.