Geospace, American Geophysical Union
July 31, 2017
Acidified water draining from abandoned mines, studied primarily as a modern environmental hazard, may offer insight into the oxygenation of Earth’s early atmosphere and development of life on other planets, according to a new study.
Scientists studying abandoned coal mines in Kentucky found evidence for a bacterium capable of oxidizing iron in acidic runoff coming from these sites. These bacteria can survive in a range of conditions – from highly acidic to basic – and thrive on driving oxygen to react with iron and pyrite from rocks in the abandoned mines.
The researchers think these bacteria may be similar to those present during the Neoarchean period 2.8 to 2.5 billion years ago.