Scientists use potash mine to test feasibility of living in Mars

A group of European researchers has set shop 1,100 metres below ground, at Israel Chemicals Limited’s (ICL) Boulby potash mine, to hunt for elusive dark matter particles, atoms that make up about a quarter of the total energy content of the universe, but which cannot be seen.

Scientists use potash mine to test feasibility of living in Mars

The mine is 1,400m deep and has tunnels that go far out under the North Sea. (Via Google Maps)

According to The Northern Echo, studies underway at Boulby Underground Laboratory, the UK's deep underground science facility, include the analyses of cosmic rays and climate, astrobiology and life in extreme environments, development of techniques for deep 3D geological monitoring and detection of radioactivity in the environment.

Scientists use potash mine to test feasibility of living in Mars

Underground Laboratory (Images courtesy of ICL UK)

One of the scientists’ main goal, adds the article, is to probe whether life can exist on Mars, as the mine’s dark, salty environment is similar to what’s present in other planets.

Scientists use potash mine to test feasibility of living in Mars

Boulby potash mine. (Image courtesy of Boulby Underground Laboratory.

The Boulby potash mine, Britain’s deepest, began operations in 1973. Currently, its tunnels go far out under the North Sea, which means miners take about seven minutes to travel 1,400m down, where the temperature can reach 40 ºC (104 ºF).

The operation grabbed headlines this week due a gas blow-out that killed one man. In April, seven workers were taken to hospital after a fire broke out at the mine, which employs about 1,100 people.