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World's Oldest Flowing Water Found Deep in Timmins Mine

Science & Tech  (tags: ancient, scientists, science, research, water, discovery, news )

- 1835 days ago -
Water found in a deep, isolated reservoir in Timmins, Ont., has been trapped there for 1.5 billion to 2.64 billion years -- since around the time the first multicellular life arose on the planet -- Canadian and British scientists say.

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Michael O (176)
Wednesday May 15, 2013, 8:48 pm
The water pouring out of boreholes 2.4 kilometres below the surface in the northern Ontario copper and zinc mine is older than any other free-flowing water ever discovered. It is rich in dissolved gases such as hydrogen and methane that could theoretically provide support for microbial life, the researchers report in a paper published Wednesday online in the journal Nature.

"What we can be sure of is that we have identified a way in which planets can create and preserve an environment friendly to microbial life for billions of years," said a statement from Greg Holland, the Lancaster University geochemist who is the lead author of the study.

"This is regardless of how inhospitable the surface might be, opening up the possibility of similar environments in the subsurface of Mars."

His Canadian co-authors included Barbara Sherwood Lollar and Georges Lacrampe-Couloume at the University of Toronto; Greg Slater at McMaster University in Hamilton; and Long Li, who is currently an assistant professor at the University of Alberta, but worked on the project while at the University of Toronto.

Some Canadian members of the team are currently testing the water to see if it contains microbial life if they exist, those microbes may have been isolated from the sun and the Earth's surface for billions of years and may reveal how microbes evolve in isolation.

Microbes that have been isolated for tens of millions of years have been found in water with similar chemistry at even slightly deeper depths below the surface in a South African gold mine, using hydrogen gas as an energy source, the researchers noted.

The researchers estimated how old the water was based on an analysis of the xenon gas dissolved in it. Like many other elements, xenon comes in forms with different masses, known as isotopes. The water in the Timmins mine contained an unusually high level of lighter isotopes of xenon that are thought to have come from the Earth's atmosphere at the time it became trapped.

The Earth's atmosphere used to contain a lot more of the lighter xenon, but it is thought to have been destroyed by the high levels of ultraviolet radiation and the bombardment of asteroids on the surface of the Earth during the planet's first few hundred million years. Geological evidence from air trapped in ancient rocks has helped map the relationship between the amount of lighter xenon in the atmosphere and the age of the Earth at the time.

The study was funded by grants from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada, the Canada Research Chairs program, the Natural Environment Research Council in the U.K., and the Deep Carbon Observatory.

Although the water found in the Timmins mine is older than any other known reservoir of flowing water, it is not the oldest water ever found. Water trapped inside tiny bubbles within rocks has been dated to be billions of years old. However, tiny droplets completely encased in rock can't support life.

Terry V (30)
Wednesday May 15, 2013, 8:51 pm
Can't wait to hear the results. THANKS and shared

Roger G (154)
Wednesday May 15, 2013, 9:04 pm
noted, thanks!

cecily w (0)
Thursday May 16, 2013, 8:13 pm
Thank you for the article.

Shawna S (45)
Thursday May 16, 2013, 8:27 pm

Julie F (68)
Thursday May 16, 2013, 8:40 pm
So awesome! Unfathomable.

Harsha V (56)
Thursday May 16, 2013, 9:57 pm
Thank you for this interesting article.

Darren Woolsey (218)
Friday May 17, 2013, 12:22 am
Absolutely fascinating... thanks for sharing this.

Max Israel (0)
Friday May 17, 2013, 12:02 pm
Really cool and interesting

Lois J (63)
Friday May 17, 2013, 1:41 pm
Noted. Many thanks for the info, Michael.

Debra T (17)
Friday May 17, 2013, 4:49 pm
This was very interesting! Thanks and noted!

Birgit W (160)
Friday May 17, 2013, 5:13 pm

James E (16)
Friday May 17, 2013, 6:19 pm
Really amazing, thanks for sharing.

Shan D (49)
Friday May 17, 2013, 7:20 pm
I saw this on the news last night. Tres cool!

Robert H (68)
Friday May 17, 2013, 10:19 pm
The world is a wondrous place.

Past Member (0)
Saturday May 18, 2013, 12:31 am
Thanks for sharing. Very interesting.

Patricia H. (440)
Saturday May 18, 2013, 5:05 am

Past Member (0)
Saturday May 18, 2013, 5:30 am
Thank you.

Past Member (0)
Saturday May 18, 2013, 6:07 am
Fascinating, thanks.

Mike S (86)
Saturday May 18, 2013, 8:44 am
Great article! Thank you Michael.

. (0)
Saturday May 18, 2013, 12:14 pm
Wow! That's just up in Northern Ontario. Thanks for the interesting article, Michael O.

mar l ene dinkins (264)
Saturday May 18, 2013, 12:19 pm
notato Michael!!!!! absolutely fascinating!!!!! great article!!!! thnx !!!!

Janet D (10)
Saturday May 18, 2013, 4:20 pm
Wow... very interesting.

De D (96)
Saturday May 18, 2013, 11:47 pm
Very cool news....thank you Michael!

Pogle S (88)
Sunday May 19, 2013, 2:30 am

Tanya W (65)
Sunday May 19, 2013, 3:36 am
Wow, thanks Michael!!

Past Member (0)
Sunday May 19, 2013, 5:08 am
Treasure it

Deborah W (6)
Sunday May 19, 2013, 9:56 am
Who cares? If it's found useable by the planet's species we'll crap it up sooner than later and, if not, with the current mindset of fast-track quick-fix mentality currently on exhibit we'll all be obsolete before anything of importance can be gained "for future generations". so, again, who cares?

Michael M (60)
Sunday May 19, 2013, 10:19 am
Notice how Mars is brought into the discussion, Deborah. This is due to the present human culture believing that they will escape the devastation they do to their only home.
NO human-created artificial ecosystem has ever survived, by the way, and there have been several attempts, which have so far corroborated the probability of such diminished ecosystems' viability.

Timmins is home of much gold mining, and Canada of corps which are devastating far places - all over the Earth. Some of these international corps relist their companies in other areas nowadays, like Russia. From Chile and Ecuador to USA their mines and plans wreak havoc in the name of gold, a metal with little real use 9approx the same hardness as teeth, it is used for filling, and in the tech world, it is used for electronic purposes in small quantities. It has been the rationale for genocide from the Black Hills to Africa, and until humans understand how worthless it is, you will keep on killing and devastating.
The town is a sprawl in North Ontario.

Melania P (122)
Tuesday May 28, 2013, 9:57 am

Sergio P (65)
Monday June 3, 2013, 1:18 pm
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