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The origin of clays and clay minerals in the Paleocene Clayton (CF) and Porters Creek (PCF) Formations within the Mississippi embayment of central North America has been debated for more than 50 years. X-ray diffraction and petrographic analysis of samples of the CF and PCF from a mine in southeastern Missouri are used to evaluate contributions from Cretaceous-Paleogene (K-Pg) impact debris and the role of sediment diagenesis in the fine-grained sediment.

Expandable clay minerals increase in abundance relative to illite and kaolinite above the K-Pg unconformity in the CF and PCF, and include dioctahedral smectite, vermiculite, and minor mixed-layered clay components, along with trioctahedral smectitic clays in the CF and lowermost PCF. Additional diagenetic phases include clinoptilolite (in the CF and lower PCF), pyrite, siderite, and opal CT (mainly in the PCF).

The results of the petrographic analysis show no evidence for volcanic ash contributing directly to the sediment in the PCF. The detrital silicate minerals are mainly quartz, muscovite, biotite, and metamorphic minerals, consistent with an ancestral Appalachian Mountains source rather than volcanic ash or a Cretaceous western interior sediment source. The illite, kaolinite, dioctahedral smectite, and ordered illite-smectite mixed-layered clays are present in varying quantities in Cretaceous through Paleogene marine and nonmarine mudstones from the Mississippi embayment, and appear to be detrital in origin. Trioctahedral smectite and clinopti-lolite in the CF and lowermost PCF are argued to derive from alteration of glassy impact debris; clasts in the basal CF contain microtektites replaced by trioctahedral smectitic mixed-layered clay with randomly interstratified illite. The X-ray diffraction characteristics of the vermiculite in the PCF indicate a hydroxyl-interlayered aluminous variety that is argued to have a diagenetic origin, formed by clay mineral reactions under variably anoxic conditions in the PCF sediments during early diagenesis. Throughout the CF and PCF, pyrite precipitated under reducing conditions during diagenesis, locally along with siderite replacement of micritic carbonate. In addition, opal-CT precipitated as a result of silicate reactions and dissolution of diatoms under alkaline conditions and replaced matrix and calcitic microfossils throughout much of the upper PCF.

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