Structural Controls on High-Grade Iron Ores Hosted by Banded Iron Formation: A Global Perspective
Hilke J. Dalstra, Carlos A. Rosière, 2008. "Structural Controls on High-Grade Iron Ores Hosted by Banded Iron Formation: A Global Perspective", Banded Iron Formation-Related High-Grade Iron Ore, Steffen Hagemann, Carlos Alberto Rosière, Jens Gutzmer, Nicolas J. Beukes
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Iron enrichment in banded iron formation (BIF)-hosted high-grade iron deposits is the final result of sequential removal or replacement of gangue minerals from the host by hydrothermal and supergene processes. Apart from the presence of the host BIF, structure is the most important control on the location of these deposits. Also, the distinct structural setup of the mineralizing environment results in iron ore of distinct textural features and consequently variable physical properties.
In the Hamersley province of Western Australia pre-Upper Wyloo Group extensional faults are most often associated with high-grade hematite deposits in the Paleoproterozoic Brockman Iron Formation. The most important faults provide a fluid pathway between underlying dolomites of the Wittenoom Formation, through a sequence of shales and cherts, and into the overlying BIF. Iron ore in the Kaapvaal province of South Africa is hosted within BIFs of similar age to the Pilbara craton. The BIFs in the Kaapvaal province rest directly on dolomite, and Paleoproterozoic karst structures form the main spatial control on the high-grade iron ore. In contrast, low-angle thrust faults are the principal structural control on large deposits in the Marra Mamba BIF in the Hamersley province. These structures provided a more effective fluid pathway between the BIF and the overlying dolomites. A very similar structural scenario controls the very large Paleoproterozoic iron deposits in the Quadrilátero Ferrífero province in Brazil, although individual deposits are often highly complex due to postmineralization deformation during the Brasiliano orogeny. Structural reconstruction suggests that early structures, particularly thrust faults and tight folds that link a potential fluid source such as the dolomites of the Gandarela Formation with the underlying BIFs, form the most important control on ore formation in this province.
Iron deposits hosted by Archean BIFs are less well understood. In the Carajás province of Brazil, fluids derived from granitoid intrusions are interpreted to have caused the initial hypogene alteration of the BIF which later focused the supergene ore fluids that led to high-grade hematite formation. Major structures that linked these granitoids with the BIF were crucial in the formation of the protores.
In all these districts, mineralizing structures are those that provided the most effective link between a source of hydrothermal, silica-undersaturated fluids and iron formation, or allowed the influx of surface-derived meteoric waters to control the sites of ore formation in the BIF. Another important effect of structures is that they locally caused a differential pressure gradient during deformation and concentrated fluids into low-strain or dilational sites of iron ore formation.
Most high-grade iron deposits formed close to (paleo)-unconformity surfaces and are, therefore, prone to rapid erosion. The structural setting can play a major role in preservation of these deposits. Ore deposits near normal faults in extensional grabens and karst structures are particularly favorable to ore preservation because the faults usually caused downthrow of the mineralized zones and burial by younger sediments. Compressional structures such as thrusts were far less favorable, because they usually caused uplift and erosion of the orebodies within them. Orebodies controlled by these structures require postmineralization preservation events, such as a major postore orogeny, or formed relatively recently, and therefore erosion did not progress far enough to erode them.
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The spark to put together this volume on banded iron formation (BIF)-related high-grade iron ore was born in 2005 during a steamy night in Carajás where the iron research group from the Universidade Federal Minas Gerais, Vale geologists, Carlos Rosière and Steffen Hagemann, were hotly debating the hypogene alteration genesis for the high-grade, jaspilite-hosted Serra Norte iron ore deposits. A couple of caipirinhas later we decided that the time was opportune to put together a volume that captured the new and innovative research that was being conducted on BIF-related high-grade iron ores throughout the world. We had little problem convincing our South African colleagues Jens Gutzmer and Nic Beukes to join the effort and decided that the 2008 biannual Society of Economic Geologists' (SEG) meeting in South Africa would be the perfect place to present this project through a combined field trip and workshop near Sishen.
The enthusiastic support that we received from the research community, SEG, and industry to put this volume together was generated by the significant increase in exploration activity, and with it the need for more detailed information on what exactly controls the location of high-grade iron orebodies, and renewed research interest around the world in models for the genesis of BIF-related high-grade iron ore, and particularly the relative importance of hypogene and supergene processes in formation of high-grade ore.
This volume concentrates on new research on the characteristics and metallogenesis of BIF-related high-grade iron ores. It contains a state of the art series of papers on established and new iron ore districts and deposits, the different components of the BIF iron mineral system, and how to best explore for this ore type. Although the emphasis of many of the contributions to this volume is on the hypogene aspect of high-grade iron ore formation, it is important to note that most BIF-related iron ore districts have a very pronounced supergene overprint due to deep lateritic weathering. The transformation of many hypogene iron orebodies of reasonable grade and size to the giant deposits exploited today can be related to this geologically recent supergene overprint; most of the past and still much of the present mining of high-grade iron ore relates to soft ore interpreted in most cases to be the direct result of supergene processes. Also mentioned here should be the recent resurgence of a syngenetic model that advocates the formation of chert-free BIF