Argillaceous rocks are considered to be a suitable geological barrier for the long-term containment of wastes. Their efficiency at retarding contaminant migration is assessed using reactive-transport experiments and modeling, the latter requiring a sound understanding of pore-water chemistry. The building of a pore-water model, which is mandatory for laboratory experiments mimicking in situ conditions, requires a detailed knowledge of the rock mineralogy and of minerals at equilibrium with present-day pore waters. Using a combination of petrological, mineralogical, and isotopic studies, the present study focused on the reduced Opalinus Clay formation (Fm) of the Benken borehole (30 km north of Zurich) which is intended for nuclear-waste disposal in Switzerland. A diagenetic sequence is proposed, which serves as a basis for determining the minerals stable in the formation and their textural relationships. Early cementation of dominant calcite, rare dolomite, and pyrite formed by bacterial sulfate reduction, was followed by formation of iron-rich calcite, ankerite, siderite, glauconite, (Ba, Sr) sulfates, and traces of sphalerite and galena. The distribution and abundance of siderite depends heavily on the depositional environment (and consequently on the water column). Benken sediment deposition during Aalenian times corresponds to an offshore environment with the early formation of siderite concretions at the water/sediment interface at the fluctuating boundary between the suboxic iron reduction and the sulfate reduction zones. Diagenetic minerals (carbonates except dolomite, sulfates, silicates) remained stable from their formation to the present. Based on these mineralogical and geochemical data, the mineral assemblage previously used for the geochemical model of the pore waters at Mont Terri may be applied to Benken without significant changes. These further investigations demonstrate the need for detailed mineralogical and geochemical study to refine the model of pore-water chemistry in a clay formation.

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