Ancient water found in Canadian mine
Gas bubbles out of the floor of a deep mine in Canada, containing ingredients that could sustain life.
May 15th, 2013
01:00 PM ET

Ancient water found in Canadian mine

By Elizabeth Landau, CNN

You wouldn't want to shower in it, but researchers have discovered pockets of water in a deep reservoir in Canada that may be up to 2.64 billion years old.

Researchers extracted the fluid from ancient rocks in a mine 1.5 miles underground in the area of Timmins, Ontario. In other mines, water has been found to support life, but scientists are still working to determine if there is life in this particular location. They say this is the oldest water found in such an environment.

We spoke with Chris Ballentine, professor of geochemistry at the University of Manchester in the United Kingdom, and senior author on this study, which published in the journal Nature. Here is an edited version of our email Q&A:

CNN: How did you find this ancient water?

Ballentine: My colleague in Toronto, Barbara Sherwood Lollar, project co-director, has been working on understanding the chemistry of these waters for many years. She suspected the water was very old because of the high levels of helium (which takes a long time to build up) contained in the water. I am developing new techniques to date underground water (an essential component when making safety cases for CO2 burial) and we decided to work together to put a proper age on these waters.

CNN: Do we think that there was life on Earth at that time?

Ballentine: Life was established on Earth by 3.5 billion years ago (Earth itself is 4.56 billion years old). The rocks containing the water we have analysed are about 2.7 billion years old. The Earth's surface would be teeming with very simple life - the ancestors of bacteria. Complex single-celled and multicelled organisms did not evolve until about 1.9 billion to 2.1 billion years ago. The water we have found is between 1.5 billion and 2.6 billion years in age.

CNN: Does this have any implications for life on other planets?

Ballentine: The system we have found is truly ancient and can support simple life. Our work tells us that Earth had a refuge for life during its earliest stages of formation - if life started there was a way for it to be preserved during continuing bombardment by meteorites that would make the surface of Earth barren - and could push back the time when life could have formed on Earth.

Equally on somewhere like Mars, any life that formed could have found its way into similar pockets of water in the Martian crust, and our work shows that these pockets of water can survive and provide a place for the life to have survived long after the surface of Mars lost its water and became sterile.

CNN: Can you describe the environment in which this was found?

Ballentine: These are waters that come out of the rock from exploration boreholes deep in the copper-zinc mine. The samples we have collected pour out of only some boreholes, but they can flow for months. The environment is dark, dusty, very noisy and hot.

CNN: Is it drinkable? 🙂

Ballentine: Alas not. The water is crystal clear when it first comes out of the rock and looks very tempting, bubbling with gas. But actually it is too salty to drink (it is a brine), and the gas instead of carbon dioxide is a mixture of methane, hydrogen, nitrogen and helium!

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Filed under: On Earth
soundoff (461 Responses)
  1. Hadley

    Someone go get a LifeStraw! I bet this is the Fountain of Youth....

    June 5, 2013 at 1:22 pm |
  2. TopView20

    I just read a poll of Americans surveyed regarding basic scientific facts. 46% of Americans believe in creationism (7 days of creation) and reject evolution concepts any form. Additionally, 18% believe that the sun orbits the earth as the center of the universe.

    May 26, 2013 at 9:54 am |
    • Beezie

      Please cite your source for this survey. Surveys can be extremely unreliable depending on the sample surveyed, so the statistics could be meaningless if say, that was a survey of Fundamental Christians.

      May 26, 2013 at 10:14 am |
    • Hadley

      I've actually heard that approximately 72% of all statistics are made up on the spot.

      June 5, 2013 at 1:24 pm |
  3. Alex

    So if evolution is true why didn't they find animals being made and developing in this ancient water? Oh yeah right it needs a few more billion years to cook...

    May 25, 2013 at 11:41 pm |
  4. ksladjf;jaksj

    There are many unsolved puzzles around the world like that Mona Lisa picture.
    In some way it looks like it is pictured from tree different points in space, like it is some kind of the triangle. Is it intentional or is it some message or is it some thing that should be resolved I don't know.
    But it looks like it has some potential, it might be the symbolic for the triangle points, or some point inside the triangle, or it might be some other meaning behind it.
    Yoou know like you go there and you find next step of the puzzle....

    May 25, 2013 at 2:42 am |
  5. USMC1371

    Wouldn't all water be the same age?

    May 24, 2013 at 6:25 am |
  6. CMI

    Mumbo-Jumbo. It is mathematically impossible that molecules just happened to line up in a DNA sequence. It is scientifically impossible that life "happened" by itself and scientifically impossible that complex organisms somehow evolved from bacteria and amoeba.

    May 22, 2013 at 11:30 pm |
  7. Chris

    How can water be "ancient"? Isn't all water on the planet the same age?

    May 22, 2013 at 5:15 pm |
  8. OMar

    I beleive our Creator created life on earth 6,000 years ago. That being said, I love how science will tell you what happened 3.6 billion years ago yet has no clue what happened only 6,001 years ago. They always go into the millions and billions. It seems nothing happened 6000 years to 1 million years ago. Science once said the world was flat; the bible says its round. Science once said the sun revolved around the earth; the bible teaches otherwise. Science once believed the earth was mounted on the back of a giant tortoise; the bible says it's suspended by nothing.

    May 20, 2013 at 4:41 pm |
    • Michael

      Open thine eyes lest ye be blinded forever. 6,001 years ago? Mankind was working their collective way down what is now called the Americas. Mankind was already cultivating crops and in process of wiping out major fauna, domesticating dogs and cats, fighting wars and decribing natural events in supernatural terms, inventing mythology to describe what could not be defined in their current language and technology. So if the earth is only 6,000 years old, where are the Velociraptors and T. Rex? Do you honestly think that mankind could co-exist with such creatures? Or are you one of those that think the earth was created with skeletons already in place? Or that oil was created in situ? The evidence strongly indicates the 6,000 year old earth completely wrong, yet some continue to blindly follow what they're told, truly like sheep ... or lemmings.

      May 21, 2013 at 7:31 am |
      • Hadley

        Well the lord IS their shepherd, after all......

        June 5, 2013 at 1:27 pm |
  9. RickM

    My wife and I went to the Galapogos a few years ago. Spend a week with a naturalist there, and it becomes pretty apparent to most people that the earth is a bit older than 6000 years old. Evidence favoring the theory of evolution was also everywhere.

    Not everyone can see it though. Apparently the group who was on our boat the week before had major theological concerns with the concept of evolution. In fact the naturalists were instructed not to use the word evolution during any of their talks. Give that the name of the boat we were on was the "MV EVOLUTION" I can only imagine how carefully they had to speak!

    I guess people can believe whatever they want, and any time evidence supporting an alternate view appears, they can stick their head in the sand and keep pretending it isn't there.

    May 20, 2013 at 7:56 am |
    • Kilgore Trout

      How bizarre. I wonder why they were there? It's like going to the Louvre and demanding that your guide not mention art.

      May 20, 2013 at 9:42 am |
  10. science guy

    Funny how the religious fanatics seem to forget that without science they would be writing this all on paper and sending via the pony express. Three phase power, transistors, etc...all results of GREAT science.

    May 20, 2013 at 5:48 am |
    • Mark

      What does that have to do with evolution? I would consider evolutionists to be religious fanatics. This article is about 70% religion and 30% science and people like you need to just stop trying to equate technological advancement with atheism and evolution.
      We owe nearly every advancement scientifically and technologically to guys who were far ahead of their time and pushing the envelope of what those around them were even capable of comprehending. This kind of individual genius doesn't seem to exist today. Newton, Tesla, Einstein. Guys who also believed in a creator. Now scientific advancement has to be compartmentalized because we're pursuing an incorrect theory and putting people like Dawkins or Neil Degrasse Tyson on a pedestal simply because they'll toe the evolutionary line.
      Newton was more interested in the bible then in science and Tesla read the bible for scientific inspiration.
      We owe nothing to the belief in evolution or the non-belief in god. If you don't agree with that then you're ignorant.

      May 20, 2013 at 9:49 am |
      • Michael

        The article doesn't mention religion at all. So where do you get the 70/30 split? This is only about finding water that is ancient by any measure. People that insert religion into an article lascking any mention of the word/concept, I see that as being overly defensive.

        May 21, 2013 at 7:20 am |
    • Sigrid D

      Also funny how human inventions didn't just happen by themselves...it took someone to make them happen..hmmm.

      May 21, 2013 at 1:07 am |
      • Michael

        Yeah, their parents. Use the scientific method to unequivicably prove the existence of any supreme being without using artifacts of the religion you're trying to prove. Can't be done. Every human on the planet that is of European decent has about 5% Neanderthal DNA ... that's evolution. Every human on the planet can be genetically traced back to just 9 mating pairs in the horn of Africa area. That's evolution.

        May 21, 2013 at 7:25 am |
      • Beezie

        Absolutely correct, it took someone to create those 'human inventions' the same ones also created gods and eventually God, humans created them all, inventions that they discovered that made their life and work easier and gods to explain all those things they didn't understand yet.

        May 21, 2013 at 10:02 am |
    • SoundFuture

      As a "religious" person, a believer in evolution, and a scientist, I find your comments pretty offensive. These are not mutually exclusive things. Being a fanatic about anything (be it a deity/theology or a particular belief) makes you a religious person, something people tend to forget.

      May 21, 2013 at 12:43 pm |
    • rentafriend2000

      How sad that you think Evolution and science are one and the same. Please, enlighten the religious nuts and tell us how evolutionary beliefs resulted in electricity, computers, the internet, etc etc. If you are right, then to discredit Darwin would also be to disprove the laws of gravity, thermodynamics, motion, etc. Do you REALLY believe that?

      May 23, 2013 at 7:49 pm |
      • darren

        why if we evolved hav science shown us that for hundreds of thousands of years we were one type of Humanoid then overnight we beocome another type of humanoid? science hasn't shown me yet where we 'Evolved' in between say neanderthal and the next supposed step theres no gradual changing, it just jumps from one to another just like that??? smells more like Evolutionaries grasping at straws to try and support there own 'Beliefs'

        July 16, 2013 at 4:48 am |
  11. Jebediah Israel

    If God doesn't exist then how was water created? the stupidity of nonbelievers never ceases to amaze me. There is no evidence that "Science" is true, all "scientific proof" is fake, products of overactive heathen imaginations.

    Make up all the fancy fairy tales you want with your "science" but anyone with a shred of decency knows that God created everything just a few thousand years ago. The earth is 6,000 years old. It is written, end of story.

    May 20, 2013 at 12:30 am |
    • Hiindenburg

      There are a large number of evangelical Christians working in science today...including the co-director of the Brain Mapping Project. But it's clear you are not one of them. For starters, neither they nor their colleagues are stupid.

      May 20, 2013 at 1:00 am |
    • Texasmike

      Okay, kid, quit trolling and go back to class.

      May 20, 2013 at 7:54 am |
      • Beezie

        If all things MUST be created by some sentient being, then who or what created your God? The answer is........man created your God

        May 20, 2013 at 8:00 am |
    • ryan d

      umm... water is created by the spontaneous exothermic fusion of hydrogen and oxygen, two of the most abundant elements in the universe. OMG NO WAY THAT'S IMPOSSIBLE SKYFAIRY MAKE WATER FROM NOTHINGNESS.
      Nothing can come from nothing, big bang is stupid. GOD MADE EVERYTHING ON THE FIRST DAY FROM THE VOID.
      Oops, i think my bipolar is showing.

      May 20, 2013 at 9:15 am |
    • Jackson

      And what is YOUR proof Israel? A book? Were you there? Did you see everything being created?
      I respect your right to believe and I respect your beliefs, even if I don't share them. BTW, your last sentence was very telling; "End of STORY".

      May 20, 2013 at 5:57 pm |
    • Mike S.

      Jebediah Israel, you dear silly child. Science is for grown-ups. One day when you get older you too will understand what the adults are talking about. But for now why don't you go to your room with all your little friends and continue playing Magic.

      May 22, 2013 at 6:24 pm |
    • onetruegod

      water come from star dust like us. we and everything else in this world god made the universe not just one little planet so wake up and look around

      May 25, 2013 at 2:53 am |
    • Matt

      Well Jebediah you comment shows how smart you really are science has proven a lot of things, religion has proven nothing .Would you believe in a current day cult no of course you wouldn’t ,religions are just cults that have lasted ,cults bring in the poor mental stupid and unhappy a few thousand years ago there was a lot of people like that and the cult leaders took advantage of them just like todays cult leaders ,there leaders used manipulation to gain power through fantasy story’s and the members believed this because they needed something to believe in to know there was something good in their lives and these stories were passed onto their children and so on until someone passed their beliefs onto you .The golden rule that cult leaders put into their fantasy story’s was have faith a way they could prevent people from asking for proof of something that was the biggest lie in history . Anyone can turn a lie into the truth if no proof is needed. So Jebediah what cult do you belong to??

      May 27, 2013 at 11:39 pm |
  12. Sigrid D

    I believe God created everything. How we interpret what we find on this earth is our take on it. It doesn't disprove how it came into existence.

    May 19, 2013 at 11:57 pm |
  13. deaks

    How do you know the earth is 4.56 billion years old? Were you there? Do you have evidence? Or is it just faith in theoretical science fiction?

    May 19, 2013 at 8:23 pm |
    • Michael

      Remove the "fiction" part and you'll be closer to the answer. Then actually take some science classes... oh wait, I'm talking to someone who calls evidence fiction and a story about a rib woman and a talking snake "fact."

      May 19, 2013 at 9:04 pm |
      • Rational Scientist

        An excellent insight. Since modern science explains the world's origins, please describe what preceded the 'Big Bang'. Also, please describe the origin of the first uni-cellular living organism. Run me through the basic science of that little inorganic to organic transition.

        May 19, 2013 at 11:55 pm |
      • ryan d

        @"Rational" Scientist
        you're using the term "organic" completely wrong. organic compounds aren't living things and are very easy to spontaneously create. they are simply carbon based compounds. Replicating the environment of the early earth and using simulated lightning or radiation, scientists have managed to replicate the "primordial soup" theory and get these simple compounds to form into complex amino acids and essential proteins.
        However, the formation of those compounds into simple organisms is a very complex idea, and is being actively studied by dozens of researchers. Look up "abiogenesis" if you'd like to understand some of the theories, but more likely you'll just go look up genesis and read about how all life came from the few thousand animals that a tripping dude supposedly stuck on a boat when thousands of times the water that exists on the planet suddenly materialized and drowned everything else.

        May 20, 2013 at 9:26 am |
      • deaks

        OK, so I take out fiction, and then I'm left with theoretical science. Still based on theory, where is the fact? I have taken many science courses, and I am trying to show you the holes in your reasoning. I never mentioned anything about religion, but you claim that I believe in it because I don't believe in the general brainwashing that many scientists are spewing out. The fact is, no one knows. I was being facetious when I mentioned 'where you there?' It was taken from that test that was published online last week. The truth is, it takes faith to believe in religion, and it takes faith to believe in theories that are still just that...a THEORY.

        May 21, 2013 at 8:55 am |
    • Genius

      Scmuck.

      May 19, 2013 at 9:06 pm |
    • Kilgore Trout

      That's based upon the best objective evidence. Do you know that to be wrong? Were you there?

      May 19, 2013 at 10:38 pm |
    • Kilgore Trout

      deaks, the answer is the same for World War 1. How do you know it happened. WERE YOU THERE? Or do you just have faith in that theoretical history and theoretical photography?

      May 19, 2013 at 10:43 pm |
      • Michael

        My grandfather served in World War One. Your comment reeks. Fake photograhy from WW1? Are you totally delusional? Do you doubt WW2, Korea, Viet Nam, et al, as well? So anything not written in your fantasy book is, by definition, untrue? If so, please don't reproduce. Get thee to any Middle Eastern country where your brand of extremism is celebrated ... for it certainly is not in any civilized country.

        May 21, 2013 at 7:38 am |
      • Kilgore Trout

        Easy fella, I was trying to point out the absurdity of denying evolution. Perhaps I should have ended with *sarcasm* to make it clear to those who might lose their minds after reading it...

        May 29, 2013 at 12:27 am |
    • kenny

      radiometric dating ... google it moroon ...

      May 19, 2013 at 10:53 pm |
      • ryan d

        that uses fancy gizmos invented by satan to trick humans into believing his LIES. how do you know what the fancy machine is doing inside of its computerness? for all you know it could be a little anti-pope with a direct radio-link to SATAN who tells him what number to put on the screen!
        All hail god, may we kill all the gays and enslave the lesser races. You can have my daughter too if you pay well.

        May 20, 2013 at 9:32 am |
      • Michael

        @ryan – You need to go back on your meds. You're using the strawman arguement to disprove or cast doubt on any and all pieces of technology just because you're too freaking ignorant to understand it? You're using a computer to access the internet. Is that device the work of a mythological creature called "Satan" to spew lies and misinformation, too? So anything not directly mentioned in your book of lies is fake? A tool of Satan? OK, do you drive a car? You're using a computer. You enjoy the comfort of HVAC? Go live in a mud hut, P'taQ ... you're a blight on hunamity. Your mother should be slapped for raising such an intellectually stunted Ultra Maroon ...

        May 21, 2013 at 7:43 am |
      • deaks

        What do you get when you google 'moroon' ...lol! Radiometric dating is still based on human faith, as they are the ones who came up with the algorithm. At the university close to my house, they have a piece of wood that dates almost 2000 years into the future based on radiometric dating. How do you explain that?

        May 21, 2013 at 8:50 am |
    • Michael

      @deaks – if you'd taken science classes, you'd know the difference between what is and what is not a theory. Gravity is a theory – go step off the nearest bridge to prove that it's in error. There's a huge difference between faith and theory. Science explains why airplanes fly; faith flys them into buildings.

      May 21, 2013 at 10:37 pm |
      • deaks

        I understand that Scientific Theories are consistent and are almost irrefutable. But on the other hand, theories are still proven wrong every day. Even an established theory, the Theory of Relativity is being questioned. All I am saying, is that a Theory is not 100% truth, and not 100% verifiable. If evolution of man were an established Truth, there would be more data connecting the jump from ape to man, but is a theory, not even a scientific one because it is lacking consistent scientific method to empirically support it. ALSO!!! You did not answer my question of the 5000CE piece of wood that exists at my local university. Please tell me how radiometric dating could date it as such if it is 100% accurate? Thanks, but I am sure I have taken more science courses that you.

        May 22, 2013 at 11:33 am |
      • Dave

        If you took science courses, you must have slept through them Deaks...

        There is no 'leap' from ape to man... modern apes and humans share a common ancestor.

        You might want to refrain from bragging about how much science you've studied if you really don't understand the basics.

        You never replied to my post asking you to cite your sources or provide evidence btw. Seeing your posts, you seem to be threatened by science. Since you know of one bad radio carbon test (A. is it NOT 100% accurate, B. a lot can go wrong in that testing, including contamination), you then make the leap of that it's all a bunch of hooey.

        Does that make you sleep better or something? Invalidating science in your own mind so your religious beliefs seem more real?

        And if you do need to tear down science to feel better about your religion, I suggest to you that your faith is actually pretty fragile isn't it?

        May 22, 2013 at 3:20 pm |
  14. bill

    kinda reminds me when my mother in law stated she needed to get "new" water in the swimming pool she bought for the grandkids. i told her that they stopped making water billions of years ago. she didn't get it.

    May 19, 2013 at 6:26 pm |
  15. Matt

    Wow. I'm a firm christian follower. Baptised Roman Catholic. But what the hell is everyone barking at on here. This is a pretty cool article and fascinating what people are finding. Finding water that is 2 billion years old doesnt' disprove religion, so religious fanatics....settle down...it's just an article about water containing life. Even me a firm believer in god accepts there was life on our planet prior to jesus walking the earth. comon people settle down. It's just an article about very old water found in Canada. Chill out!

    May 19, 2013 at 4:31 pm |
  16. jsijsdaiofjdsa

    Damn Canadian liberals. The earth is only 4000 years old.

    May 19, 2013 at 4:20 pm |
    • erik

      4,000 years old? You are crazy. I only have evidence that the Earth is 43 years old. Before me, it didn't exist!

      May 20, 2013 at 9:43 am |
      • Jackson

        You go, Erik!!!

        May 20, 2013 at 6:02 pm |
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