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Miners find world's oldest known water in ancient pool

Callum Jones

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Miners find world's oldest known water in ancient pool

Featured Image Credit: UTORONTO / Mindaugas Dulinskas / Alamy Stock Photo

Ever wondered how old the world's oldest water is? Well, this article is about to tell you exactly that.

It is estimated that deep Pacific water, for example, is about 1,000 years old - the same time it takes for deep ocean waters to travel around.

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But in 2016, mine researchers in Canada found a rather ancient discovery, which ended up being the world's oldest pool of water.

The Canadian mine is actually the deepest basal metal mine in the world, as the search for copper, silver and zinc takes miners deeper into the Earth's crust.

After miners found the water deep underground, scientists analyzed the liquid, studying how gases such as helium and xenon can get trapped in water stuck in rock cracks to determine how old it was.

The world's oldest was found in 2016. Credit: University of Toronto
The world's oldest was found in 2016. Credit: University of Toronto
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Ancient water was first discovered in the mine in 2013, and was reportedly around 1.5 billion years old, at a depth of around 2.5 kilometers.

But fast forward to the same site three years later, University of Toronto scientists found a source of water that was even older and deeper.

In fact, this water is said to be at least 500 million years more ancient than the water that was found in 2013, at a depth of around three kilometers.

All the research done by the miners and scientists was presented at the American Geophysical Union Fall Meeting in San Francisco.

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Professor Barbara Sherwood Lollar was the person who led the team that made the interesting ancient discovery.

Back in 2016, she told the BBC: "When people think about this water they assume it must be some tiny amount of water trapped within the rock.

"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."

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The water is at least 2 billion years old. Credit: University of Toronto
The water is at least 2 billion years old. Credit: University of Toronto

The discovery was not the only bit of history that the researchers discovered while mining the cave.

In fact, it also provided a unique insight into the history of our planet, and the type of organisms that could be found at that time.

Researchers found chemical traces left behind by single-celled organisms that once lived in the fluid.

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Prof Sherwood Lollar told the BBC: "By looking at the sulphate in the water, we were able to see a fingerprint that’s indicative of the presence of life.

"And we were able to indicate that the signal we are seeing in the fluids has to have been produced by microbiology - and most importantly has to have been produced over a very long time scale.

"This has to be an indication that organisms have been present in these fluids on a geological timescale."

Topics: News, Science

Callum Jones
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