The Precambrian Villa Mónica Formation clay was analyzed using petrographic and scanning electron microscopy, X-ray diffraction and chemical analysis, with the aim of characterizing the Ti-bearing phases present and determining their possible origin and/or source. Two Ti-bearing minerals were found to be present, rutile and anatase. The crystals are needles between 5 and 15 μm in size, with no evidence of abrasion or corrosion. They are commonly found in association with the (001) faces of illite flakes or in the pores between the flakes. Their disposition is similar in the three quarries studied. No zonation or differential settling due to differences in specific gravity was observed. In addition, chemical analyses indicated a positive correlation between TiO2 and K2O suggesting that both oxides behave similarly after the deposition of the sediment. The TiO2 content in the bulk fraction ranges from 0.8 to 1.98 wt.%, values that are similar to those exhibited in other clay deposits from different ages and geneses.
All observations are consistent with an in situ. origin of these Ti-bearing phases during post-depositional processes that included recrystallization of existing minerals and crystallization of new phases. The original detrital minerals such as biotite, ilmenite as well as detrital illite, were the primary sources of the TiO2 and of the Fe oxides that coat the clay. Understanding the origin and the reaction mechanisms involved during the post-depositional alteration of the Villa Mónica Formation suggests that the Ti-bearing phases in different sediment types were formed by similar mechanisms involving redox processes at low to medium temperatures, even in Precambrian sediments where the presence of rutile could lead to an incorrect assumption of high temperatures involved.