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Discovery of a 1.2 billion year old underground water system in a mine in Africa

© Oliver Warr

The search for underground water has always been the subject of various investigations. Moreover, these underground waters have always been preserved in the depths for thousands of years. But recently, researchers claimed to have discovered deep groundwater, believed to be 1.2 billion years old. This underground water system would be found in South Africa in the Moab Khotsong gold and uranium mine. The researchers found the waters at a distance of 2.9 km below the surface of Moab. According to them, this discovery will provide some explanations for how life has been maintained on Earth.

A potential source of energy

Barbara Sherwood Lollar, a professor in the Department of Earth Life from the University of Toronto, said this is not the first time groundwater has been discovered. Indeed, ten years ago, researchers already made a similar discovery under the Canadian Shield dating from1 billion years. The recent discovery is therefore the subject of several researches, especially at the level of its components. The results of the study have been published in the journal NatureCommunications.

Indeed, the site contains uranium as well as various radioactive elements. Moreover, this allows scientists to define the roles of groundwater, especially in terms of energy. In addition, they also discovered that microorganisms were the previous inhabitants of this basement. Namely that, thanks to alpha, beta and gamma radiation, elements such as uranium, thorium and potassium are forming. Then, these disintegrate in the basement and cause the radiogenic reaction in the nearby rocks and waters.

The constituent elements of groundwater

According to the analysis of these waters, the researchers affirmed that they contained a significant quantity of helium, neon, argon and also radiogenic xenon. The researchers also performed radiolysis with water samples. This process involves separating radiation from the water molecule to create hydrogen. Hydrogen is essential for living beings such as microbes to have light and carry out photosynthesis without the intermediary of the sun.

By further researching the groundwater, the researchers also discovered that despite the low porosity of the crystalline rocks, the water had not infiltrated. On the contrary, she isolated herself. This is the reason why it could be preserved for 1.2 billion years.