Melbourne: Scientists have fine-tuned a method called gamma-activation analysis, which is claimed to be far better at detecting gold than the current industry standard.
It uses a metre-long tube to shoot high-powered x-rays - like those used to treat cancer patients - into fist-sized samples of ore, the Daily Telegraph reported.
The rays activate traces of gold which are then read by a detector.
The technique is faster and more accurate than the industry standard for detecting gold, Dr James Tickner, a science leader at Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO), said.
That method, called fire assay, puts tablespoon-sized samples through lengthy chemical tests.
It`s slow and because it uses such small samples, can often miss gold traces, he said.
He said that often only 65 to 85 per cent of the gold is recovered, and the rest eventually goes back into the ground.
The x-ray method could reduce those losses by a third, he said.
The Russian scientists who originally pioneered the method struggled to get the sensitivity to acceptable levels.
The CSIRO is looking to partner with companies to get a facility up and running within two years.