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Proceedings Paper

Deep gold mines of South Africa: windows into the subsurface biosphere
Author(s): Tullis C. Onstott; K. Tobin; H. Dong; M. F. DeFlaun; James K. Fredrickson; T. Bailey; Fred J. Brockman; Thomas L. Kieft; Amy Peacock; David C. White; David Balkwill; Tommy James Phelps; D. R. Boone
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Paper Abstract

Recent investigations have identified microorganisms in various crustal environments to 2800 meters below the surface (mbls.). Relatively few deep samples of the continued crust (> 800 mbls.) have been collected for microbiological analyses, however, because coring is technically difficult and expensive. The gold mines into the 2.9 Ga Witwatersand Supergroup in South Africa may provide an alternative means of studying microbial communities at depths up to 3500 meters. Uranium-rich, Au-bearing, carbonaceous rock and water from a gallery borehole at a mined depth of 3200 mbls, and an ambient temperature of 50 degree(s)C were collected for microbial analyses. Measures were taken to avoid contamination during mining and sampling. Samples were shipped to the USA in sterile, anaerobic canisters on ice, processed under sterile anaerobic conditions and distributed to participating labs. Microscopic observations revealed the presence of intact cells including filamentous microorganisms. Phospholipid fatty acid and DNA analyses indicated that the samples contain cyanobacteria, sulfate-reducing bacteria and iron- reducing bacteria (IRB). The water sample yielded a strain of Thermus (IRB-SA) that is the first reported Thermus to reduce Fe(III) and the first facultative, thermophilic Fe(III) reducer.

Paper Details

Date Published: 11 July 1997
PDF: 14 pages
Proc. SPIE 3111, Instruments, Methods, and Missions for the Investigation of Extraterrestrial Microorganisms, (11 July 1997); doi: 10.1117/12.278789
Show Author Affiliations
Tullis C. Onstott, Princeton Univ. (United States)
K. Tobin, Princeton Univ. (United States)
H. Dong, Princeton Univ. (United States)
M. F. DeFlaun, Envirogen, Inc. (United States)
James K. Fredrickson, Pacific Northwest National Lab. (United States)
T. Bailey, Pacific Northwest National Lab. (United States)
Fred J. Brockman, Pacific Northwest National Lab. (United States)
Thomas L. Kieft, New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology (United States)
Amy Peacock, Univ. of Tennessee/Knoxville and Oak Ridge National Lab. (United States)
David C. White, Univ. of Tennessee/Knoxville and Oak Ridge National Lab. (United States)
David Balkwill, Florida State Univ. (United States)
Tommy James Phelps, Oak Ridge National Lab. (United States)
D. R. Boone, Oregon Graduate Institute of Science and Technology (United States)


Published in SPIE Proceedings Vol. 3111:
Instruments, Methods, and Missions for the Investigation of Extraterrestrial Microorganisms
Richard B. Hoover, Editor(s)

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