The discovery in Tanzania is the result of a new exploration approach for the precious gas that is essential to spacecraft, MRI scanners, nuclear energy, according to the Oxford University statement. Helium also fills party balloons.The intense Tanzanian heat appears to have broken down helium bearing rocks deeper in the crust, allowing the gas to escape. Helium is hard to mine for a couple of reasons: first is that it's essentially inert and nothing can be used to react with it and capture it; second, it's a tiny molecule that can escape very well-sealed containers. What's left in the earth's crust is from atomic decay of heavier elements giving off alpha particles. The helium is probably left over from the formation of the solar system.
This is the first time helium has been found intentionally, said the statement. Until now, the gas has been found in small amounts accidentally during oil and gas drilling.
Independent experts have estimated the helium discovery is about 54 billion cubic feet, Oxford professor Chris Ballentine said.