A geochemical study of the crown formation and bird member lavas of the mesoarchaean witwatersrand supergroup, South Africa

F. Humbert, A. Hofmann, M. de Kock, A. Agangi, Y. M. Chou, P. W. Mambane

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2 Citations (Scopus)


The ca. 2.97 to 2.80 Ga Witwatersrand Supergroup, South Africa, represents the oldest intracontinental sedimentary basin of the Kaapvaal craton. Two volcanic units occur in this supergroup: the widespread Crown Formation lavas in the marine shale-dominated West Rand Group and the more geographically restricted Bird Member lavas, intercalated with fluvial to fluvio-deltaic sandstone and conglomerate of the Central Rand Group. These units remain poorly studied as they are rarely exposed and generally deeply weathered when cropping out. We report whole-rock major and trace elements, Hf and Nd-isotope whole-rock analyses of the lavas from core samples drilled in the south of the Witwatersrand basin and underground samples from the Evander Goldfield in the northeast. In the studied areas, both the Crown Formation and Bird Member are composed of two units of lava separated by sandstone. Whereas all the Crown Formation samples show a similar geochemical composition, the upper and lower volcanic units of the Bird Member present clear differences. However, the primitive mantle-normalized incompatible trace element concentrations of all Crown Formation and Bird Member samples show variously enriched patterns and marked negative Nb and Ta anomalies relative to Th and La. Despite the convergent geodynamic setting of the Witwatersrand Supergroup suggested by the literature, the Crown Formation and Bird Member are probably not related to subduction-related magmatism but more to decompression melting. Overall, the combined trace element and Sm-Nd isotopic data indicate melts from slightly to moderately depleted sources that were variably contaminated with crustal material. Greater contamination, followed by differentiation in different magma chambers, can explain the difference between the two signatures of the Bird Member. Finally, despite previous proposals for stratigraphically correlating the Witwatersrand Supergroup to the Mozaan Group of the Pongola Supergroup, their volcanic units are overall geochemically distinct.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)663-684
Number of pages22
JournalSouth African Journal of Geology
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2021

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geology


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