"When the well is dry, we know the worth of water.” This quote from Benjamin Franklin is all too true, especially in drought-stricken areas. Wells are supplied by groundwater that exists virtually everywhere below Earth’s surface. In some places like wetlands, groundwater nearly reaches the surface. In other locations, it may be hundreds of feet down and reachable only by drilling a well. Groundwater runs deep—continuing downward for as far as mankind has ever drilled, at depths greater than 30,000 feet—nearly six miles. But the water is always there and always slowly flowing through the sediments and rock layers of Earth at an average rate of 50 feet per year.
A recent report published in Nature by a team of English and Canadian scientists claims to have discovered groundwater supposedly over one billion years old in a deep mine in Canada.1 The scientists sampled water from fractured crystalline rocks from the Timmins Mine 1.5 miles below the surface. The Timmins Mine is located in Ontario, Canada, within what’s called the Precambrian Shield, and it produces copper and zinc from an ancient volcanic complex.
The study authors claim to have found this “trapped” water in free-flowing fractures, discharging from exploration boreholes at the bottom of the mine. At the same time, they measured groundwater flow rates through these fractures that were greater than a half-gallon per minute, making it extremely hard to support the claim that the water was truly “trapped.” Yet, based on trace amounts of neon and xenon gases dissolved in the water, and the specific isotopes they found, the researchers calculated that the water was isolated below the surface for at least one billion years. The scientists never considered other sources for the unusual noble gases found in the mine water. Instead, they used evolutionary assumptions and models of Earth’s supposed ancient atmospheric composition to back their assertions.
Other authors have made claims of trapped ancient water systems within fluid inclusions, or water surrounded by mineral crystals.2 There are even pockets of Ice Age water, a mere few thousand years old, trapped in low-permeable clays in Michigan that have become partially mixed with modern water.3 But even the authors of the present study were surprised by their “extraordinary” discovery of trapped, billion-year-old water flowing freely from fractures in the mine.1
Contrary to the claims made by these scientists, trapping water in fractured rocks is impossible. One of the major problems with the disposal of nuclear waste is finding a rock medium that can contain the spent fuel. Millions of dollars have been exhausted studying nuclear waste disposal in volcanic or igneous rock systems. Unfortunately, all of the proposed sites have shown evidence of continual groundwater flow through the rocks. These studies have demonstrated that fractured rocks even at great depths—more than one mile—commonly have high groundwater flow rates.4 Because of these reports, groundwater flow in fractured rock is usually approximated as a porous medium, similar to sandstone, and follows general groundwater flow equations such as Darcy’s Law.4
Finally, these nature scientists never considered the almost unlimited interactions that take place at depth between the mobile water and the fractured rock surfaces that may be capable of trapping or dissolving unusual noble gases. Physical reactions between the water and the rocks, like adsorption and diffusion, and chemical reactions, like ion exchange and precipitation, continually alter the dissolved composition of all groundwater systems regardless of depth.4 One possible solution to the mysterious presence of these noble gases was recently published in a subsequent paper in Nature Geoscience.5 This group of scientists found that noble gases like neon and argon can become trapped within common crystal igneous minerals found in the crust, just like the findings at the Timmins Mine. Groundwater flowing through the fractured rock and contacting these minerals could then release the gases and, consequently, explain their unusual occurrence in the mine.
Belief in an evolutionary origin for Earth, its atmosphere, and its ancient age has led many scientists astray from God’s truth. This paper is another example of outlandish claims based on evolutionary assumptions—it ignores continual groundwater flow. Water is always moving through the ground, which actively alters the water chemistry. As scientists and engineers search for places to dispose of nuclear waste, they are finding that everything leaks.
- Holland, G., et al. 2013. Deep fracture fluids isolated in the crust since the Precambrian era. Nature. 497 (7449): 357-360.
- Lippmann-Pipke, J., et al. 2011. Neon identifies two billion year old fluid component in Kaapvaal Craton. Chemical Geology. 283 (3-4): 287-296.
- Clarey, T. L., et al. 1999. Isotopic and geochemical evidence for mixing of Late Pleistocene and Holocene-age waters within a regional confined aquifer, Bay County, Michigan. 33rd Annual North-Central Section Meeting. Geological Society of America. Abstracts with Programs, p. A-9.
- Neretnieks, I. 1993. Solute transport in fractured rock-applications to radionuclide waste repositories. In Flow and Contaminant Transport in Fractured Rock. Bear, J., C.-F. Tsang, and G. de Marsily, eds, London: Academic Press, Inc., 39-127.
- Jackson, C. R. M., et al. Noble gas transport into the mantle facilitated by high solubility in amphibole. Nature Geoscience. Posted on nature.com June 16, 2013, accessed June 17, 2013.
* Dr. Clarey is Research Associate at the Institute for Creation Research and received his Ph.D. from the University of Western Michigan.
Cite this article: Clarey, T. 2013. Ancient Water Claims Have Leaks. Acts & Facts. 42 (8): 9.