It's fool's gold, says geologist of substance found post Sabah quake

It's fool's gold, says geologist of substance found post Sabah quake
Villager Benson Borukon with a stone coated with "gold".
PHOTO: The Star/ANN

KOTA KINABALU - All that glitters is not gold.

That is the advice of geologist Prof. Felix Tongkul has for those who believe the recent earthquake near Mount Kinabalu may have spat out gold.

Social media has been abuzz with the rumour and he advised people not to be over excited as the glittery yellow substance found embedded in the rocks at the Kadamaian river is actually copper.

"It's what we call 'fool's gold'," he said explaining that the substance was a mixture of copper and other common minerals.

Also known as copper or iron pyrite, fool's gold is a gold-coloured mineral that is often mistaken for real gold.

Prof. Felix said that due to the massive landslides on the face of mount Kinabalu, tons of granite and serpentine rocks have been deposited at the foot of the mountain.

"When water flows through them, all sorts of minerals could be released into the river," he said, adding that it was possible that some of the minerals released could be precious minerals such as gold, silver or copper.

He said that during the 80s and early 90s, gold was found together with copper at the Mamut Copper Mine.

"But, to find substantial amount of gold, there must be a concentrated source from the mountain, such as in the form of mineralised quart veins filling fractures within the granites," Prof. Felix said.

"The presence of mineralised quartz veins is unknown, and therefore the presence of substantial amount of gold is thus unknown or unproven," he added.

"If you are very lucky then you may find a tiny piece of gold," he said adding that gold dust was more likely to be discovered, if any.

He said both gold and pyrite show similar colour and difficult to differentiate unless by experts.

"However, they could be differentiated by its shape, where gold usually occurs as nuggets or very small flakes, sheets or shapeless grains and Pyrite crystals commonly form cubes," he said.

Prof. Felix said that gold is quite soft compared to pyrite, can be scratched with a knife and has no odour while pyrite gives a sulphurous smell (like a rotten egg) when rubbed with a hard object.

He however advised villagers prospecting for gold to be extra vigilant as the threats of debris flow from mud floods from upstream of these promising rivers were real.

"Communities should ensure that children are not left on their own without supervision," he warned.

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