The mineralogy and geochemistry of the Voëlwater banded iron-formation, Northern Cape Province

Tsikos, Harilaos (1995) The mineralogy and geochemistry of the Voëlwater banded iron-formation, Northern Cape Province. Masters thesis, Rhodes University.

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Abstract

Banded iron-formations (BIFs) are chemically precipitated sedimentary rocks in which Fe-rich bands or laminae alternate with Fe-poor ones. They formed within a specific time-span of the geological record. Their occurrence is restricted between 2.3 and 1.9 Ga, and characterises virtually all the major Precambrian-aged sedimentary basins of the world. The Precambrian Transvaal Basin in Griqualand West, South Africa, is noted for its well-developed BIF units. The Kuruman and Griquatown BIFs comprising the Asbesheuwels Subgroup (up to 1000m thick) are the best known and thickest of these. As far as metallogenesis is concerned, the Kuruman BIF is of major importance, for it carries the world's largest crocidolite (blue asbestos) deposits. The uppermost, youngest member of iron-formation deposition in the Griqualand West Sequence is represented by the Voëlwater BIF. The direct association between the latter and the giant Mn-deposits of the Kalahari Field, renders the Voëlwater association unusual, if not unique, in the geological record. The Voëlwater BIF represents a typical example of the so-called "Superior-type", and in the area of study it has undergone late-diagennetic to low-grade metamorphic processes. This is evident from the mineralogical composition and textural signature of the various BIF lithologies. Specifically, the minerals that make up the Voëlwater BIF are mainly chert(quartz), Fe-oxides (magnetite and hematite), Fe-silicates (greenalite, stilpnomelane, minnesotaite, riebeckite, Fe-mica), Fe-carbonates (members of the dolomite-ankerite series and siderite), calcite and pyrite. Soft-sediment deformation structures and shear-stress indicators are abundant in carbonate-rich and granular, silicate-rich BIF lithologies respectively. The bulk chemical composition of the study rocks is relatively simple and is characterised by the abundance of essentially three elements, namely Si, Fe, and Ca, which make up more than 90% of the total chemical composition of the Voëlwater BIFs. The detrital component of the study rocks is negligible. Mn-enrichments characterise all the transitional lithologies towards the interbedded Mn-orebodies, as well as the well-developed, hematitic BIF-unit between the Ongeluk lavas and the lower Mn-horizon. In terms of trace element composition, no significant enrichments or depletions, were encountered, except for some unusually high values of Sr and Ba and Co in carbonate-rich and Mn-rich lithologies respectively. Geochemical comparisons on the basis of major, trace and light rare-earth element composition verified the similarity between the Voëlwater BIF and other major Superior-type BIFs of the world (e.g. Kuruman, Griquatown, Sokoman, Biwabik, Gunflint, Mara-Mamba, Brockman, etc.). The processes that led to the formation of the Voëlwater BIFs may have been very similar to the ones described in various genetic models proposed in recent years. They would have involved a combination of: i. hydrothermal processes related to mid-ocean ridge (MOR) or hot-spot activity that acted as major iron suppliers; ii. storm-mixing in stratified oceans (bottom, anoxic, Fe⁺² reservoir-thermo- pycnocline zone-upper, mixed, SiO₂-saturated layer), largely dictated by seasonal changes and contemporaneous volcanism; iii. periodic, convection-driven upwelling mechanisms acting as major Fe-precipitators; and, iv. organic carbon productivity that was responsible for the anoxic diagenesis of the initial sediment. However, the origin of Fe and Mn for the genesis of the Voëlwater sediments was difficult to explain with typical convection-cell models in active mid-ocean ridges, in contrast to previous hypotheses. Instead, large-scale endogenous processes in the form of magma convection, underplating, differentiation and associated degassing, may have played a critical role in the supply of metals for the formation of large amounts of BIFs in the Precambrian. The present study of the Voëlwater BIF also bears strong implications regarding the metallogenesis of Mn in the Precambrian. The common association of Mn with carbonate-bearing sediments, the transitional character of the Voëlwater BIF towards carbonate lithologies (Mooidraai dolomites) and the critical timing of the deposition of the former in terms of the Precambrian atmospheric-lithospheric- hydrospheric evolution, may be important indicators for the exploration of large Mn-deposits in Precambrian sedimentary basins of the world.

Item Type:Thesis (Masters)
Uncontrolled Keywords:Mineralogy, South Africa, Northern Cape, Geochemistry, Geology
Subjects:Q Science > QE Geology
Divisions:Faculty > Faculty of Science > Geology
ID Code:3946
Deposited By: Ms Chantel Clack
Deposited On:05 Nov 2012 07:42
Last Modified:05 Nov 2012 07:42
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