Why can't I find gold in my back yard?

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Manage episode 329950455 series 1303175
By BBC and BBC World Service. Discovered by Player FM and our community — copyright is owned by the publisher, not Player FM, and audio is streamed directly from their servers. Hit the Subscribe button to track updates in Player FM, or paste the feed URL into other podcast apps.
If you go outside with a spade and start digging, the chances are you won't find any gold. You might get lucky or just happen to live in a place where people have been finding gold for centuries. But for the most part, there'll be none. But why is that? Why do metals and minerals show up in some places and not others? It's a question that's been bothering CrowdScience listener Martijn in the Netherlands, who has noticed the physical effects of mining in various different places while on his travels. It’s also a really important question for the future – specific elements are crucial to modern technology and renewable energy, and we need to find them somewhere. Marnie Chesterton heads off on a hunt for answers, starting in a Scottish river where gold can sometimes be found. But why is it there, and how did it get there? Marnie goes on a journey through the inner workings of Earth's geology and the upheaval that happens beneath our feet to produce a deposit that’s worth mining. On the way she discovers shimmering pools of lithium amongst the arid beauty of the Atacama Desert, meets researchers who are blasting rocks with lasers and melting them with a flame that’s hotter than the surface of the sun, and heads to the bottom of the ocean to encounter strange potato-sized lumps containing every single element on Earth. And maybe, just maybe, she’ll also find gold. Contributors: Leon Kirk, gold panning expert Holly Elliott, University of Derby Jamie Wilkinson, Natural History Museum, London Corrado Tore, SQM, Chile Yannick Buret, Natural History Museum, London Andrea Koschinsky, Jacobs University, Bremen Presented by Marnie Chesterton Report by Jane Chambers Produced by Ben Motley for the BBC World Service [Image: Hands holding Gold Nuggets. Credit: Getty Images]

298 episodes