B34: Searching for Gold in Fool’s Gold: An Investigation of Nevada Pyrites

Many people have heard of fools gold. Fools gold is more commonly known to geologists as Pyrite (which has the chemical formula: FeS2) and can easily be confused with real gold (chemical formula: Au). However, there is now some evidence that in certain geological circumstances, pyrite formation may be associated with the presence of gold. The gold we are looking for here is not what is commonly thought of as gold, as it is not visible to the naked eye. It is only visible at the microscopic level, but that amount has the potential to be economically significantly. This research will focus on evaluating the abundance of gold in pyrite crystals, at a gold mine in Nevada, in order to improve our understanding of the occurrence of real gold in fools gold. In order to investigate the presence of gold in pyrites from the area, we will look at numerous samples of Pyrite using various microscopes and use an SEM and LA-ICP-MS to map the chemical composition of these pyrites. This will enable us to evaluate the distribution of gold and other elements (for example, Arsenic) in the pyrite. The data collected will be used to draw conclusions about whether gold is associated with these particular pyrites. If gold is present, we will assess if that gold is economically viable.

Author: Luke McCreary

Advisor: Claire McLeod, Department of Geology & Environmental Earth Science

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