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Termite mounds and geology

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Collecting termite mound clay to build traditional houses in Namibia. Image credit: Leon Louw for WhyAfrica

Termite mounds and geology

Termite mounds are not only used as a building material in Africa, it can also play a significant role in geology.

By Leon Louw, owner of WhyAfrica and editor of the WhyAfrica magazine    

Did you know that termite mounds could play a role in the search of economically important metals in Africa? In many regional African geochemical surveys, termite mounds have been used as a sampling medium to support conventional soil surveys.

This is the case especially when thick materials mask bedrock mineralisation. Mineralisation overlying bedrock is carried along by termites and mixed with fine materials used in building the termite mound.

Termite mounds in Africa can reach heights of between three and nine metres. But in some countries, mounds can be up to nine metres high and 30m wide.

In Africa, termite mound clay is used in the building of traditional houses, and for producing good quality bricks.

Termite mound clay is pozzolanic in action and accelerates setting times. It has high affinity for water. Extensive research and statistical analysis have shown that reliable concrete of good quality can be produced from clay unearthed from termite mounds.

During our WhyAfrica Road Trip through Namibia, Zambia, Angola, Malawi, and Botswana last year, we came across massive termite mounds in the remote parts of Western Zambia and Angola. The Botswana and Namibia landscape is also known for its towering termite mounds.

In the Kavango Region of Namibia, we joined a family in collecting building material for their new house. It was a long and hard day’s work, and they would carry on doing this for a few weeks.

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Termite mounds and geology

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Termite mounds and geology

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AgricultureEnvironmental Management & Climate ChangeEnergyESGInfrastructureMiningPolitical EconomyTourism and ConservationWater Management