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A Nose for Gold

The big picture Mining companies no longer have to work like dogs to discover ore deposits. Now they can let dogs do the work.

A dog’s nose is a gold mine of information. One would imagine that ore exploration is best done by a geologist equipped with modern instruments. But a good old sniffer dog is a hundred times more efficient in detecting valuable minerals, according to Swedish ore and petroleum geologist Peter Bergman. His company, Oredog AB, is the only one in the world specializing in gold- finding dogs. In 2013 the company will have 15 certificated dogs and geologists, and the business will expand worldwide with affiliates in Australia, West Africa and the Middle East.

“If you want to examine an area of 1,000 hectares, our sniffer dogs can cover 100 percent of that area in a week,” he says, “No geophysics or geochemistry can manage that at a reasonable price or speed. A human geologist can only cover about 5 percent of the surface, not covered by till or soil, that has exposed bedrock. The dog carries out the job 10 times faster than humans. At a fraction of the cost.”

“Our dogs are being trained as both landmine dogs and ore dogs so we may work safely in areas where no one else can,” says Bergman.

But all that glitters isn’t gold. “There is for example arsenopyrite, containing gold, and there are usually also pyrite and pyrrhotite in the same area,” he says. “We train the dogs to separate out what is of no interest and what to search on for.”

Not just any mongrel in the neighbourhood can be an ore dog.  The dogs have to be willing to train hard and able to work in a tough climate and survive in dangerous areas.
“A German shepherd doesn’t work well in Australia, and a working kelpie doesn’t work in the North,” he says. “You must use dogs that are adapted to the climate and the various dangers that exist locally, such as wolves in Sweden or snakes and crocodiles in Australia.”

Torsten Sverenius