Is the geologic column with its millions of years essential for mineral exploration?
Ron B. from Canada asks about long ages and geological exploration.
I have a friend who works closely with geologists in conjunction with the mining industry. The geologists told him that if they did not go by the millions of years and the geologic column it would be a lot harder to find uranium. It doesn’t seem to me that either of those things is necessary to find uranium. I’m thinking that they would use seismology among other kinds of technology. Is there some information you could offer me to help my friend?
CMI’s geologist Tas Walker responds:
You are right that geologists use technology to do their geological exploration. One of the most basic techniques is to observe the rocks in the field and plot the different kinds of rocks on a map. This would be the easiest, cheapest and most fundamental method of geological exploration. We also use magnetic methods, either on the ground or airborne. Other methods include aerial photography, seismic exploration, drill cores, gravity anomalies, and electrical methods. Plus we sample rocks from the surface and from drill cores to analyse their mineral content for resource potential. As you can see, all these techniques depend on making observations and measurements in the present and none of them gives any direct measurement of millions of years.
One part of the exploration program is to construct models of what the rocks look like under the earth. We may do this by developing geological cross sections from maps, by building three dimensional computer models from seismic recordings, and by applying deposition models for sediments that are based on sea level rising and falling. (The last mentioned technique, ‘sequence stratigraphy’, does have a long–age assumption built into it, but that is not particularly significant to the method, which is basically a geometric method.) In all these methods time is irrelevant in the analysis. It’s mostly about rock strata, type of rock, rock distribution, and geometry.
One of the tools that geologists use to document their observations is the geological column. This is essentially a classification system, and in crude terms it could be compared to different drawers in a filing cabinet. (Over the years the number of drawers in the cabinet has changed, as well as the labels on the drawers.) From exploration in the field, geologists will decide where the rocks belong on the column. Some will be placed in slots toward the top of the column while others will be placed lower down. As exploration proceeds and new information is uncovered, geologists may change the slot where certain rocks are placed. The geological column is used as a legend on geological maps, and is very useful to see what has already been discovered about an area, and as a springboard for further work.
All the drawers on the column are labelled in terms of millions of years, and this is what the geologists were probably thinking about, who spoke to your friend. The geologists believe that the labels on the column represent the actual time that has elapsed, but that is a belief based on the assumption of uniformitarianism. If we changed the time labels it would make very little difference to the quality and usefulness of the information.
The fact is that the geology of the earth was mainly formed as a result of the Noah’s Flood catastrophe. Geologists do careful exploration and the geological column preserves their findings and reflects a general Flood order, but with many exceptions. The million–year dates assigned to the different parts of the column should really be changed to represent the actual time involved in Noah’s Flood. This article The geological column is a general Flood order with many exceptions explains the relationship.
In summary, none of the exploration techniques demand that the rocks be millions of years old. However, because the geological information presented is labelled in terms of millions of years, these labels have become part and parcel of the geologists’ thinking. Interestingly, the time labels on the geological column are continually being changed, with the new numbers coordinated by a group called the International Commission on Stratigraphy. They regularly revise their charts with the latest dates on it (for the latest chart see the Commission Website.)
So, there is no problem changing the date labels on the geologic column; geologists are still able to do their exploration work. So the labels could be changed to numbers that would represent a Flood time sequence. That too would require a global coordination effort among geologists, and that would be quite an amazing global development. With the new time labels exploration would not be adversely affected. Geologists would just need to adjust to the new numbers.
By connecting the time information on the column to Noah’s Flood the geological column would better reflect what actually happened to form the geology of the earth. It would have the effect of helping geologists better picture the processes involved, which in turn would stimulate ideas that would make their exploration programs more effective.
All the best,