The Biga Peninsula of NW Turkey is host to many kaolin and halloysite deposits with mineralization occurring at the intersections of fault zones in contact with Late Eocene–Miocene calc-alkaline volcanic rocks. Distinguishing between the relative overprinting of hypogene by supergene processes in these deposits is a challenge and important because they affect the physical-chemical properties of minerals and their potential for industrial applications. This study examines the Sarıbeyli-Sığırlı and Bodurlar kaolin deposits in NW Turkey, which were formed from similar volcanics as evidenced by 40Ar/39Ar. Late Eocene (34.2 ± 0.20 Ma) to Early Oligocene (32.7 ± 0.17 Ma) ages for both primary volcanic rocks and alunites are consistent with surrounding rocks in the Çanakkale region. Criteria used to distinguish hypogene alteration from supergene alteration processes come from X-ray diffraction (XRD), Fourier-transform infrared (FTIR) and Raman spectroscopies, thermal gravimetric analysis (TGA), scanning and transmission electron microscopy (SEM, TEM), and elemental analyses. Isotopic δ18O depletion and δD enrichment of the Sarıbeyli-Sığırlı deposit suggests that it was more influenced by magmatic waters than was the Bodurlar deposit. The Bodurlar deposit contains a paucity of dickite compared to the Sarıbeyli-Sığırlı deposit, which is evidenced by lower TGA endotherms, higher ratios of XRD intensities for reflections at 1.316 Å and 1.307 Å, distinctive FTIR absorbance bands at 3620 cm−1 and 3652 cm−1, and relative Raman intensities of the ν1 and ν5 vibrational modes.
A genetic model is proposed whereby these deposits are mainly formed through an acid-sulfate hydrothermal alteration, in what appears to be a volcanic-hydrothermal system. The extent of hydrothermal alteration was controlled by fault density and the initial texture of the volcanic rocks. These steam-heated environments included sulfide-enriched vapors and groundwater mixed to varying degrees in the vadose zone. The Sarıbeyli-Sığırlı and Bodurlar deposits, respectively, contain mineral assemblages that reflect both hypogene (kaolinite, alunite, dickite) and supergene (kaolinite, halloysite, jarosite) processes. These observations offer a basis for comparing and discriminating the relative influence of these two important alteration processes responsible for the formation of kaolin deposits in NW Turkey and around the world.