Young ores in old rocks: Proterozoic iron mineralisation in Mesoarchean banded iron formation, northern Pilbara Craton, Australia
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The origin of bedded iron-ore deposits developed in greenstone belt-hosted (Algoma-type) banded iron formations of the Archean Pilbara Craton has largely been overlooked during the last three decades. Two of the key problems in studying these deposits are a lack of information about the structural and stratigraphic setting of the ore bodies and an absence of geochronological data from the ores. In this paper, we present geological maps for nearly a dozen former mines in the Shay Gap and Goldsworthy belts on the northeastern margin of the craton, and the first U-Pb geochronology for xenotime intergrown with hematite ore. Iron-ore mineralisation in the studied deposits is controlled by a combination of steeply dipping NE- and SE-trending faults and associated dolerite dykes. Simultaneous dextral oblique-slip movement on SE-trending faults and sinistral normal oblique-slip movement on NE-trending faults during initial ore formation are probably related to E–W extension. Uranium–lead dating of xenotime from the ores using the sensitive high-resolution ion microprobe (SHRIMP) suggests that iron mineralisation was the cumulative result of several Proterozoic hydrothermal events: the first at c. 2250 Ma, followed by others at c. 2180 Ma, c. 1670 Ma and c. 1000 Ma. The cause of the first growth event is not clear but the other age peaks coincide with well-documented episodes of orogenic activity at 2210–2145 Ma, 1680–1620 Ma and 1030–950 Ma along the southern margin of the Pilbara Craton and the Capricorn Orogen farther south. These results suggest that high-grade hematite deposits are a product of protracted episodic reactivation of a structural architecture that developed during the Mesoarchean. The development of hematite mineralisation along major structures in Mesoarchean BIFs after 2250 Ma implies that fluid infiltration and oxidative alteration commenced within 100 myr of the start of the Great Oxidation Event at c. 2350 Ma.
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