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TECHNOLOGY

The Oldest Water Body in the World is Hidden in a Mine

Deep within the Earth, researchers find the oldest water on the planet dating back millions of years.

How the planet came to be configured as we know it today remains a mystery to scientists. While we have clues that tell us about the formation of important pieces such as oxygen, and there are even theories that say the Earth was originally a complete water globe, there are still many mysteries to be solved. The search for the oldest water on the planet is a key pillar in understanding the evolution of the planet, and researchers say they have found water millions of years old.

Water dating back 1.5 million years was previously found at the Kidd Mine in Ontario, Canada. Until then, this was the oldest water ever found underground; however, another investigation revealed an even more archaic source of the vital liquid underground that is located in the same place but at a greater depth.

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The initial water was found at a depth of 2.4 kilometers in the Canadian base metal mine located 24 kilometers north of Timmins, Ontario. Studies suggested that the water found at that depth was 1.5 million years old, so the eyes of biochemists turned to that region to find answers about the composition of our planet.

Currently, the Kidd mine is the deepest base metal excavation on the planet, reaching 3.1 kilometers into the center of the Earth. For this reason, the researchers decided to go further and take advantage of the long journey down to discover if there was more water in those levels.

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Archaic Subway Pools

Surprisingly, not only did they find even more millennia-old water, but they discovered that the life-giving liquid flows at high velocities down there. “When people think of this [subway] water, they assume it must be a small amount of water trapped inside the rock,” said Barbara Sherwood Lollar of the University of Toronto. “But, in fact, it’s bubbling toward you. These things are flowing at speeds of liters per minute: the volume of water is much larger than anyone anticipated.”

According to the researcher, the oldest water flows at a rate of two liters per minute, which is a much higher velocity than is recorded in groundwater and taking into account that the water was found at a depth of 3 kilometers.

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The scientists said that this liquid, millions of years old, contains dissolved gases that give them clues to its origin. For this reason, by analyzing the helium, neon, argon, and xenon dissolved in it, they were able to date it to 2 million years old. This makes it the most archaic water ever found on the planet.

The analyses also suggested that the geochemical conditions in these ancient groundwater pools, which are isolated from surface water, may be sufficient to support microbial life. This means that beneath our feet, thousands of kilometers deep, there could be a previously unknown ecosystem with the ability to subsist for billions of years.

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“If this can work in ancient rocks on Earth, then similar processes could make the Martian subsurface habitable,” Sherwood previously said.

She is still doing more research to determine the distribution of the Earth’s ancient waters and thus, to know the ages of the deep hydrosphere and to know if some of these regions are inhabited.

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Story originally published in Spanish in Ecoosfera

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