Petrology, physical volcanology and geochemistry of a Paleoproterozoic large igneous province: The Hekpoort Formation in the southern Transvaal sub-basin (Kaapvaal craton)

Fabien Humbert, Michiel O. de Kock, Wladyslaw Altermann, Marlina A. Elburg, Nils Lenhardt, Albertus J.B. Smith, Samson Masango

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Citations (Scopus)


The ∼2.23 Ga Hekpoort Formation (Transvaal sub-basin) and the ∼2.43 Ga Ongeluk Formation (Griqualand West sub-basin) represent voluminous Paleoproterozoic igneous events on the Kaapvaal craton of South Africa that predate the emplacement of the ∼2.055 Ga Bushveld Complex, and probably covered most of the craton at the time of their extrusion. In this contribution, we present field, petrological and geochemical studies of the Hekpoort Formation and compare it with the Ongeluk Formation. The Hekpoort Formation consists of a thick subaerial volcanic sequence in which volcanoclastic rocks occur mainly at the base. Rare, localized hyaloclastites and variolitic rocks record the presence of ponded water, while interbedded sedimentary rocks and paleo-weathered flow tops suggest prolonged time-breaks in volcanic activity. The Hekpoort rocks underwent metamorphism up to greenschist facies but also episodes of metasomatism and silicification. Preserved primary magmatic minerals are clinopyroxene (pigeonite, augite and diopside), and rarely plagioclase (labradorite). Both the variable whole rock Mg# (evolving from 69 to 50) and the changes in clinopyroxene composition attest to magmatic fractionation. Lava units of both the Hekpoort and Ongeluk formations are mostly basalts, with silicification responsible for increased SiO2 contents. Lava units of both formations also display remarkably similar trace elements patterns, which is noteworthy for units separated by 200 million years, and unique among the Precambrian mafic magmatic units of the Kaapvaal craton that we evaluated. Similar to other Precambrian mafic magmatic units of the Kaapvaal craton, the Hekpoort Formation shows an arc-like trace element signature, mainly represented by negative Nb-Ta anomalies (in normalized trace element patterns). The Hekpoort (and Ongeluk), together with three other Paleoproterozoic mafic units of the craton older than 2.2 Ga, exhibit relatively high contents of Th and U, which sharply contrasts with Archean units. The data suggest that a subduction process marked the Archean-Proterozoic boundary on the Kaapvaal craton.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)232-256
Number of pages25
JournalPrecambrian Research
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2018


  • Archean-Proterozoic boundary
  • Geochemistry
  • Hekpoort and Ongeluk formations
  • Kaapvaal craton
  • Large igneous province
  • Paleoproterozoic within-craton volcanism

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geology
  • Geochemistry and Petrology


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