The Itabirites of the Quádrilátero Ferrífero and Related High-Grade Iron Ore Deposits: An Overview
Carlos A. Rosière, Carlos A. Spier, Francisco Javier Rios, Viktor E. Suckau, 2008. "The Itabirites of the Quádrilátero Ferrífero and Related High-Grade Iron Ore Deposits: An Overview", Banded Iron Formation-Related High-Grade Iron Ore, Steffen Hagemann, Carlos Alberto Rosière, Jens Gutzmer, Nicolas J. Beukes
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The Quadrilátero Ferrífero district, located on the southern portion of the San Francisco craton in Minas Gerais, Brazil, comprises Archean greenstone terranes of the Nova Lima Supergroup and the Paleoproterozoic cratonic cover sequences of the Minas Supergroup that consist of quartzites, metaconglomerates, phyllites, dolomites, and banded iron formations. The Minas Supergroup was affected by two orogenic events—the Paleoproterozoic Transamazonian-Mineiro (2.1–2.0 Ga) orogeny and the Neoproterozoic to Early Paleozoic Brasiliano-Araçuaí (0.65–0.50 Ga) orogeny, resulting in complex deformation and metamorphic grades that increase from greenschist facies in the West to amphibolite facies in the East. Metamorphosed iron formations, referred to as itabirites, are found in three compositionally distinct lithofacies, namely quartz itabirite, dolomitic itabirite, and amphibolitic itabirite; these lithofacies are host to a large number of economically important high-grade iron ore deposits that give rise to the name Quadrilátero Ferrífero, or "Iron Quadrangle."
High-grade iron ores replace itabirites in tectonically favorable, low-strain sites. faults acted as conduits while large fold hinges were sinks for mineralizing fluids. Hard and fine-grained hematite and/or magnetite orebodies are in the western low-strain domain of the Quadrilátero Ferrífero. Subsequent deformation led to recrystallization and development of distinctly schistose high-grade hematite ores characteristic of the eastern high-strain domain.
A combination of hypogene and geologically recent supergene processes is thus invoked to explain the formation of the high-grade iron ores of the Quadrilátero Ferrífero. Three stages of hypogene ore formation are distinguished. The first two of these stages took place early during the Transamazonian orogeny (2.1–2.0 Ga) and are well preserved in the western low-strain domain. During the first stage metamorphic fluids leached SiO2 and carbonates and mobilized iron, which resulted in the formation of massive magnetite bodies, Fe oxide veins, and Fe-rich itabirite bodies; during the second stage, low-temperature, low-salinity fluids caused oxidation of magnetite and Fe-rich dolomite to hematite. The resulting ore is porous to massive and has a granoblastic fabric. The third and final hypogene stage of ore formation is related to thrusts of uncertain age (Transamazonian or Brasiliano orogeny), which dominate the tectonic structure of the eastern high-strain domain of the Quadrilátero Ferrífero. Crystallization of tabular hematite and large platy specularite crystals that overprint the preexisting granular fabric in the presence of high-salinity hydrothermal fluids are characteristic of this stage. During the Neogene, supergene residual enrichment processes gave rise to the formation of soft to friable hematite orebodies. The larger soft orebodies that surround some smaller hard high-grade orebodies are typically associated with dolomitic itabirite. Together, both ore types comprise the giant high-grade iron deposits typical for the Quadrilátero Ferrífero, resulting from the superposition of both hypogene and supergene processes. Pure supergene deposits are considerably smaller and do not extend to deeper levels below the erosion surface.
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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