Today’s Image of the Day from NASA Earth Observatory features the Muruntau gold mine in central Uzbekistan. The mine is one of the largest sources of gold in the world.
“Hundreds of trucks and a conveyer system are used to transport ore to nearby processing facilities. Workers then use a process called heap leaching to extract gold and other precious metals,” says NASA.
The Muruntau gold mine, which is now 1.8 miles wide and 2,000 feet deep, produced up to three million ounces of gold in 2021.
“The mine taps into the Muruntau gold deposit, thought to be one of the largest single gold deposits on Earth. The deposit was discovered in 1958, and mining began in 1967,” explains NASA.
“According to geologists, gold is near the surface in this area due to a chain of events that spanned many millions of years. Among them: the closure of an ancient ocean, a period of mountain building, intrusions of granite and water into key rock formations, and the onset of movement along nearby faults.”
It remains a mystery to astronomers how gold initially ended up on Earth. “While nuclear fusion within the Sun can synthesize many elements, the process does not produce enough energy to create heavy elements like gold. Some astronomers think that collisions between neutron stars and supernova explosions may have provided that energy,” says NASA.
“Any gold on the planet early in Earth’s history would have sunk toward the core, but intense bombardment by meteorites about 4 billion years ago probably stirred things up and pushed small amounts of the metal into the mantle and toward the surface. By one estimate, gold makes up only 0.000004 percent of Earth’s crust. About 80 percent of known gold reserves have already been mined.”
The image was captured on July 22, 2022 by the Operational Land Imager (OLI) on Landsat 8.
Image Credit: NASA Earth Observatory