Compositional data for 464 clay minerals (2:1 type) were analyzed by statistical techniques. The objective was to understand the similarities and differences between the groups and subgroups and to evaluate statistically clay mineral classification in terms of chemical parameters. The statistical properties of the distributions of total layer charge (TLC), K, VIAl, VIMg, octahedral charge (OC) and tetrahedral charge (TC) were initially evaluated. Critical-difference (P = 1%) comparisons of individual characteristics show that all the clay micas (illite, glauconite and celadonite) differ significantly from all the smectites (montmorillonite, beidellite, nontronite and saponite) only in their TLC and K levels; they cannot be distinguished by their VIAl, VIMg, TC or OC values which reveal no significant differences between several minerals.

Linear discriminant analysis using equal prior was therefore performed to analyze the combined effect of all the chemical parameters. Using six parameters [TLC, K, VIAl, VIMg, TC and OC], eight minerals groups could be derived, corresponding to the three clay micas, four smectites (mentioned above) and vermiculite. The fit between predicted and experimental values was 88.1%. Discriminant analysis using two parameters (TLC and K) resulted in classification into three broad groups corresponding to the clay micas, smectites and vermiculites (87.7% fit). Further analysis using the remaining four parameters resulted in subgroup-level classification with an 85–95% fit between predicted and experimental results. The three analyses yielded D2 Mahalanobis distances, which quantify chemical similarities and differences between the broad groups, within members of a subgroup and also between the subgroups. Classification functions derived here can be used as an aid for classification of 2:1 minerals.

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