A clay-rich Callovo-Oxfordian sedimentary formation was selected in the eastern Paris Basin (MHM site) to host an underground laboratory dedicated to the assessment of nuclear waste-disposal feasibility in deep geological formations. As described initially, this formation shows a mineralogical transition from an illite-smectite (I-S) mixed-layered mineral (MLM), which is essentially smectitic and randomly interstratified (R = 0) in the top part of the series to a more illitic, ordered (R≥1) I-S in its deeper part.

This description has been challenged by using the multi-specimen method developed by Drits et al. (1997a) and Sakharov et al. (1999). It is shown that all samples contain a physical mixture of an unusually (?) illitic (~65% I) randomly interstratified I-Exp (illite-expandable MLM) and of a discrete smectite, in addition to discrete illite, kaolinite and chlorite. Structural parameters of the different clay phases vary little throughout the series. According to the proposed model, the mineralogical transition corresponds to the disappearance of smectite with increasing burial depth.

Comparison with clay minerals from formations of similar age (Oxfordian–Toarcian) throughout the Paris Basin shows that the clay mineralogy in the deeper part of the series originates from a smectite-to-illite transition resulting from a low-temperature burial diagenesis. The anomalous lack of evolution of clay minerals in the upper part of the series is thought to be related to specific interactions between organic matter and clay minerals.

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