A Yellowknife entrepreneur is selling pieces of what some geologists believe is the oldest known rock in the world.
Located on an island about 300 kilometres north of the N.W.T. capital, the Acasta River rock deposit is believed to be 3.96 billion years old, making it the oldest known intact crustal deposit on Earth, according to a team of U.S. and Canadian geologists led by Sam Bowring of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
Prospector Mark Brown is now selling chunks of the ancient rock, which he had brought back after he staked a claim in the area.
Brown started a website — called Rock of Ages N.W.T. — to market the chunks, and he said he showed off some specimens to visitors at Northern House during the Winter Olympics in Vancouver.
"I had one fellow at the Olympics there … he said, 'That would make an excellent headstone.' I'd never really thought of it like that," Brown said with a laugh.
"I talked to another chap there from Germany, and [he] thought making chess people would be a good thing," he added. "I look at it as 100 per cent raw potential."
Brown is not the first person to sell the Acasta River rock: another Yellowknife prospector, Walt Humphries, staked the mineral rights to the area in 1989 and brought some rocks home with him.
"We decided, well, if we're going to the expense of flying up there, we might as well stake a claim on it, bring some rock out, and then we can sell the rock and that will pay for the flight — which is basically what we did," Humphries said.
Leave it alone: scientist
The N.W.T. deposit's claim as the oldest rocks on Earth has already been challenged by a competing claim about an even older deposit in northern Quebec.
But Bowring, the MIT geologist who discovered the Acasta River rock and determined its age, said he stands behind the science that puts the N.W.T. rock as the world's oldest.
As for what to do with the Acasta deposit, Bowring said it should be left alone so people can continue to go there and study it.
"Turn it into some sort of more of a tourist attraction so that people could actually come and walk around and see the rocks in place," Bowring said.
"That's much more educational than having a little lump of stone sealed in Plexiglas."
Brown said he hasn't had many sales of the Rock of Ages goods, although he said many people have expressed interest.