Abstract

Offshore areas, along the North Shore of the St. Lawrence Estuary, have major lithostratigraphic and seismostratigraphic units that relate to the advance or retreat of the Late Wisconsinan Ice Sheet, subsequent marine transgression or regression, and reworking of postglacial deposits. Glacial diamicton and glaciomarine units (acoustic units 1 and 2) were emplaced between >18 and 14.5 ka, by basal meltout or ice-marginal sedimentation; they reflect ice-proximal sedimentation associated with ice-terminal stillstands. Deep-water muds (acoustic unit 3) represent ice-distal accumulation of glaciomarine sediment from glaciofluvial plumes between 13.5 and 11 ka. After this time exceptionally thick nearshore coarse-grained deltaic and estuarine successions (acoustic unit 4) were deposited. The uppermost postglacial sediment (acoustic unit 5) forms the seabed and reflects a reworking phase concomitant with a lowering sea level and ablating Late Wisconsinan ice sheets.Glacioisostatic rebound, which occurred about 23 ka to the present, uplifted glacial and marine deposits and resulted in extensive reworking and production of modern placers. Heavy-mineral concentrations vary as follows: terrestrial tills, 9–20%; modem storm-berm and delta top deposits, 43–60%; delta slope deposits, 25–55%; and deep (170+ m) offshore sediments, 0–2%. Three stages occurred in marine placer formation: (1) 6700 BP, fluvial discharge was high, and fluvial-dominated deltas were built; marine limit was 30 m asl, with progradation of deltas and delivery of sediments with at most 2% heavy minerals; (2) 5200 BP, fluvial discharge was reduced; marine limit was 15 m asl, deltaic sediments were reworked, increasing heavy mineral concentration to 2–8%; (3) 2800 BP, fluvial input was greatly reduced, waves and tides were more influential, a strong littoral current system developed, causing significant reworking of nearshore sediments, heavy mineral concentrations increased, with values exceeding 20% locally. Mass budget calculations show that the second-cycle reworked sediment (acoustic unit 5) is a potential economic target (1 km3, or 1700 Mt). If 7% (using atomic weights) of this target sediment is ilmenite (FeTiO3). then 27 Mt of titanium may be available.

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