Hypogene Alteration Associated with High-Grade Banded Iron Formation-Related Iron Ore
Lydia Maria Lobato, E Silva Figueiredo Rosaline Cristina, Steffen Hagemann, Warren Thorne, Márcia Zucchetti, 2008. "Hypogene Alteration Associated with High-Grade Banded Iron Formation-Related Iron Ore", Banded Iron Formation-Related High-Grade Iron Ore, Steffen Hagemann, Carlos Alberto Rosière, Jens Gutzmer, Nicolas J. Beukes
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Hydrothermal alteration in structurally controlled, high-grade banded iron formation (BIF)-related iron deposits at Carajás (Brazil), Hamersley (Australia), and Thabazimbi and the Zeekoebaart prospect (South Africa) exhibit significant similarities and differences in geologic setting and hypogene alteration. In Carajás, Paleoproterozoic hematite deposits are hosted in low-metamorphic grade Archean jaspilites that are encased in metabasalts. The Paleoproterozoic BIF-hosted deposits of the Hamersley district, the Thabazimbi deposit, and the Zeekoebaart prospect are surrounded by shales.
At Carajás, the hydrothermal alteration of jaspilites is characterized by a distal alteration zone with magnetite-calcite-quartz-pyrite where the primary microcrystalline hematite → magnetite (±kenomagnetite). The intermediate alteration zone consists of martite-microplaty hematite-quartz with magnetite → martite, whereas the proximal alteration zone contains hematite ± carbonate ± quartz with martite → microlamellar hematite → anhedral hematite → euhedral-tabular hematite. The proximal alteration zone represents the high-grade ore (i.e., porous hard to soft and hard ores). Hydrothermal alteration also affected mafic wall rocks with chlorite-quartz-carbonate ± hematite in distal alteration zones, and chlorite-hematite-quartz-albite-mica-carbonate ± titanite ± magnetite ± sulfides and hematite-chlorite-quartz-albite-mica-carbonate ± titanite ± magnetite ± sulfides in intermediate and proximal alteration zones, respectively.
At the Mount Tom Price deposit in the Hamersley district, three spatially and compositionally distinct hydrothermal alteration zones are distinguishable: (1) distal magnetite-siderite-iron silicate, where the shape of the magnetite is suggestive of it being pseudomorphous after preexisting minerals, likely siderite; (2) intermediate hematite-ankerite-magnetite, with euhedral and bladed magnetite showing minor replacement by martite along crystal boundaries and replacement of iron-silicates by anhedral and microplaty hematite; and (3) proximal martite-microplaty hematite zones, where carbonate is removed. Martite and anhedral hematite replace magnetite and iron silicates of the intermediate alteration assemblage, respectively.
The Thabazimbi deposit and the Zeekoebaart prospect lack unequivocal evidence for the formation of paragenetically early hydrothermal magnetite. Chert in ore zones has been replaced by microplaty hematite or has been leached, giving rise to porosity. Veins contain coarse tabular hematite and coarse crystalline quartz. High-grade hematite-martite orebodies are the result of SiO2 leaching and associated volume loss that created widespread brecciation of the high-grade hematite ore. In addition to high-grade hematite-martite ores, four mineralogically distinct types of iron ore have been recognized: (1) goethite-rich, (2) low-grade dolomite-hematite, (3) low-grade calcite-hematite, and (4) talc-hematite.
The comparison of hydrothermal alteration characteristics in the three case study areas revealed: (1) a similar paragenetic sequence of iron oxides, marked by an abundance of open-space filling and replacement textures; (2) distinct lack of a penetrative fabric in alteration lithologic units and high-grade ores; and (3) the importance of porosity and brecciation to accommodate volume loss. Differences include: (1) the formation of carbonate in different hydrothermal alteration zones of each deposit; (2) the presence of stilpnomelane in BIF that is surrounded by shales and hosted in sedimentary basins but absence in BIF that is bounded by mafic rocks; (3) the presence of significant amount of siderite in distal alteration zone in the Hamersley deposits but absence in the Carajás and Thabazimbi deposits; (4) the presence of significant amount of sulfides in the Carajás deposits but absence in the Hamersley and Thabazimbi deposits; and (5) significant amounts of chlorite, talc, white mica, and albite in basalt-hosted iron ore deposits (e.g., Carajás) or mafic dikes that are spatially and temporally associated with iron mineralization (e.g., in the Hamersley province).
The systematic documentation of hydrothermal-alteration minerals and assemblages has significant implications for the exploration of concealed high-grade iron orebodies, because key hydrothermal alteration minerals such as chlorite, talc, carbonates or iron silicates are an expression of the hydrothermal footprint of the BIF iron-ore mineral system and, therefore, can be used as mineral vectors.
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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