Abstract

This present study provides an overview of the clay-mineral reactions involved in the chloritization process in a mixed-layer mineral series, and focuses on the properties of the resulting low-temperature chlorites (formed at <220°C) in diagenetic and hydrothermal systems. According to the literature, most chlorite species occurring in low-temperature geological systems are derived from specific clay precursors except for direct precipitates from solution in veins. In addition, three main types of clay-mineral series have been associated with these chloritization processes: saponite-to-chlorite, berthierine-to-chlorite and kaolinite-to-sudoite reactions. The conversion of saponite to chlorite results in the most common sequence of trioctahedral clay minerals related to the occurrence of Mg-Fe trioctahedral chlorite in a wide variety of hydrothermal and diagenetic to very low-grade metamorphism environments. Two models were proposed in the literature to describe the saponite-to-chlorite conversion through corrensite. The first model is a continuous transition model based on solid-state transformation (SST) mechanisms and is valid in rock-dominated systems (closed micro-systems with very low fluid-rock ratios). The second model is a stepwise transition model based on dissolution-crystallization mechanisms (DC) and is efficient in fluid-dominated systems (open systems with high fluid-rock ratio). The berthierine to Fe-chlorite transition results in a sequence of trioctahedral phases which are related to chloritization processes in iron-rich and reducing environments. This transformation is a cell-preserved phase transition dominated by a SST mechanism that operates simultaneously in different domains of the parental mineral and may be considered as a polymorphic mineral reaction. Finally, the conversion of kaolinite to sudoite (Al-Mg di-trioctahedral chlorite) has not been documented like the other two aforementioned conversion series. Despite the scarcity of detailed investigations, the conversion of kaolinite to sudoite through tosudite is considered a stepwise mineral reaction that is dominated by a DC mechanism. From a compilation of literature data, it appears that several parameters of hydrothermal and diagenetic chlorites differ, including the minimal temperature, the textural and structural characteristics and the extents of compositional fields. In hydrothermal systems, discrete chlorite occurs at a minimal temperature near 200°C, regardless of its chemical composition. In diagenetic systems, discrete chlorite occurs at minimal temperatures that vary according to its crystal chemistry (100–120°C for Mg-chlorite as opposed to 40–120°C for Fe chlorite). The strong discrepancy between the lowest temperature at which Mg- and Fe-chlorite form in buried sediments and in geothermal systems should result from drastically different heating rates, heat-flow conditions and tectonism between basins at passive margins and geothermal systems at active margins. The morphology, structure and compositional fields of the diagenetic Fe-rich chlorite may have been inherited from those of the berthierine precursor. All of the chlorite species formed through the DC mechanism have good geothermometry potential. However, the SST mechanism in which berthierine is transformed into chlorite could have unexplored consequences regarding the use of the chemistry (including stable isotope composition) of diagenetic Fe-chlorite for reconstructing the burial history of sediments. Further investigations regarding the formation mechanisms of mixed-layer minerals are required to provide us with insight to understand the chloritization process in low-temperature geological systems.

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