The reliability of ~2.9 Ga old Witwatersrand banded iron formations (South Africa) as archives for Mesoarchean seawater: Evidence from REE and Nd isotope systematics

Sebastian Viehmann, Michael Bau, Albertus J.B. Smith, Nicolas J. Beukes, Elton L. Dantas, Bernhard Bühn

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

40 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Pure marine chemical sediments, such as (Banded) Iron Formations, (B)IFs, are archives of geochemical proxies for the composition of Precambrian seawater and may provide information about the ancient hydrosphere-atmosphere system. We here present rare earths and yttrium (REY) and high precision Sm-Nd isotope data of ~2.90 Ga old Superior-type BIFs from the Witwatersrand Supergroup, South Africa, and compare those with data for near-contemporaneous BIFs from the correlative Pongola Supergroup (Superior-type BIF) and from the Pietersburg Greenstone Belt (Algoma-type IF), respectively. All Witwatersrand samples studied display the typical general REY distribution of Archean seawater, but their REY anomalies are less pronounced and their immobile element concentrations are higher than those of other pure (B)IFs. These observations indicate the presence of significant amounts of detrital aluminosilicates in the Witwatersrand BIFs and question the reliability of the Contorted Bed and Water Tower BIFs (Parktown Formation, West Rand Group) as archives of Mesoarchean seawater. Significant post-depositional alteration of the REY budget and the Sm-Nd isotope system is not observed. The Nd isotopic compositions of the purest BIF samples, i.e. the most reliable archives for Witwatersrand seawater, show initial εNd values between -3.95 and -2.25. This range is more negative than what is observed in ambient shales, indicating a decoupling of suspended and dissolved loads in the "near-shore" Witwatersrand Basin seawater. However, εNd range overlaps with that of the correlative Pongola BIF (Alexander et al., 2008). The deeper-water Algoma-type Pietersburg BIF shows more positive (i.e. more mantle-like) εNd2.9Ga values, supporting the hypothesis that a significant amount of its REY inventory was derived from black smoker-style, high-temperature hydrothermal fluids that had altered seafloor basalts. In marked contrast, the dissolved REY budgets (including the Nd isotopic compositions) of the Witwatersrand and Pongola seawater, however, were dominated by similar terrigenous REY sources from the Kaapvaal Craton.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)322-334
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of African Earth Sciences
Volume111
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2015

Keywords

  • Archean
  • BIF
  • Nd isotopes
  • REE
  • Seawater
  • Witwatersrand

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geology
  • Earth-Surface Processes

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