Abstract

The Permian Phosphoria Formation, a petroleum source rock and world-class phosphate deposit, was deposited in an epicratonic successor basin on the western margin of North America. We calculate the seawater circulation in the basin during deposition of the lower ore zone in the Meade Peak Member from the accumulation rates of carbonate fluorapatite and trace elements. The model gives the exchange rate of water between the Phosphoria sea and the open ocean to the west in terms of an upwelling rate (84 m yr-1) and residence time (4.2 yr) of seawater in the basin. These hydrographic properties supported a mean rate of primary productivity of 0.87 g m-2 d-1 of carbon in the uppermost few tens of meters of the water column (the photic zone) and denitrifying redox conditions in the bottom water (below approximately 150 m depth). High rain rates, onto the sea floor, of the organic matter that hosted the phosphate and several trace elements contributed to the accumulation of phosphorite, chert, and black shales and mudstones. Evaporation in the Goose Egg basin to the east of the Phosphoria basin ensured the import of surface seawater from the Phosphoria sea. Budgets of water, salt, phosphate, and oxygen, plus the minor accumulation of the biomarker gammacerane, show that exchange of water between the two basins was limited, possibly by the shallow carbonate platform that separated the two basins.

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