Two Billion-Year-Old Water Found in Canadian Mine
A team of University of Toronto geoscientists has made a discovery that could lead to a new understanding of ancient life on Earth and other planets: two billion-year-old water and believed to be the oldest H2O ever found, in a mine in Timmins, Ont.
Three years ago, these same researchers discovered 1.5 billion-year-old water in the same active copper, zinc, and silver mine, but at a shallower depth. They decided to look deeper, finding pools of water and after three years new records have been found at approx three kilometres deep.The results were presented at the American Geophysical Union fall meeting in San Francisco.
“When people think about this water they assume it must be some tiny amount of water trapped within the rock,” said U of T geochemist Barbara Sherwood Lollar in a conversation with the BBC. “But in fact it’s very much bubbling right up out at you. These things are flowing at rates of litres per minute—the volume of the water is much larger than anyone anticipated.”
The finding, announced in the May 16 issue of the journal Nature, the scientists who studied the water raises the possibility that ancient life might be found deep underground not only within Earth, but in similar oases that may exist on Mars too.
Calculating water’s age
Oliver Warr, (a postdoctoral researcher and leader of the team) said ,”traces of helium,argon, neon, krypton and xenon were found in the water. Those gases accumulate over time in the fluid trapped in rock fractures. Calculating how much of each gas has accumulated in the water helped the researchers figure out its age.”
“If water has been down there for up to two billion years, it can tell us something about the atmosphere at the time, or the state of the Earth” Warr said.
The Team on work also concluded that “the water was capable of sustaining life due to the presence of sulphate which had come from interactions between the water and the rocks around it, rather than from another source.”
“It won’t kill you if you drank it, but it would taste absolutely disgusting,”
noted Warr in a CBC article.