Researchers Discover World’s Oldest Water in a Mine Nearly 2 Miles Underground

Water in a Mine

Photo: mishainik/Depositphotos (Not a photo of the actual event.)

Have you ever thought about how old water is? If not, you are probably in the majority. Water regularly cycles through our atmosphere by evaporating and condensing. The global amount typically remains roughly the same as molecules form and reform. However, some reservoirs of H20 have been isolated from this cyclical process. Researchers from the University of Toronto discovered pools of ancient water in a deep Canadian mine. The water is well over one billion years old!

Canadian mine researchers happened upon the ancient liquid in 2016; nearly two miles beneath the surface, they found water dating to around two billion years ago. This water was the oldest uncovered by at least 500 million years. The previous record was set by the same researchers in 2013 in Kidd Mine in Ontario.

Scientists can date the water by analyzing gases such as helium, neon, argon, and xenon dissolved within. The groundwater flows slowly and contains gasses gleaned from the cracks in surrounding rocks. “When people think about this water they assume it must be some tiny amount of water trapped within the rock,” Professor Barbara Sherwood Lollar stated. “But in fact, it’s very much bubbling right up out at you. These things are flowing at rates of liters per minute—the volume of the water is much larger than anyone anticipated.”

The ancient water has also produced signs of past “micro” life. While no living bacteria are yet discovered, the ability of the water to sustain life suggests that other subterranean water on Mars and perhaps other planets may harbor signs of life.

Researchers discovered water that is two billion years old nearly two miles below ground in a Canadian mine.

Researchers Discovered the World’s Oldest Water at Bottom of Canadian Mine

Sampling dissolved hydrogen and sulphate from water that is over one billion years old. (Photo: G. Wunsch/University of Toronto)

Researchers Discovered the World’s Oldest Water at Bottom of Canadian Mine

Down the Canadian mine where the ancient water was discovered. (Photo: University of Toronto)

The water was dated by testing the gasses dissolved within it.

Researchers Discovered the World’s Oldest Water at Bottom of Canadian Mine

University of Toronto team members collected samples of water 1.49 miles underground in Timmins. (Photo: Barbara Sherwood Lollar/University of Toronto)

h/t: [IFL Science, BBC, CBC]

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Madeleine Muzdakis

Madeleine Muzdakis is a Contributing Writer at My Modern Met and a historian of early modern Britain & the Atlantic world. She holds a BA in History and Mathematics from Brown University and an MA in European & Russian Studies from Yale University. Madeleine has worked in archives and museums for years with a particular focus on photography and arts education. When she isn’t writing, she enjoys hiking, film photography, and studying law while cuddling with her cat Georgia.
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