Abstract

Precambrian iron formations are biochemical sediments that record ocean chemistry and circulation on the early Earth. The appearance of large, economically important continental margin iron formation reflects the creation of extensive continental shelves and oxygenation of the ocean-atmosphere system near the end of the Archean. Exhalative iron formation contains a record of hydrothermal vent chemistry through time. We introduce here fluvial iron formation, a new type of Fe-rich microbial-biochemical sediment that formed by mixing river discharge and seawater in coastal environments. The Paleoproterozoic Chiall Formation (ca. 1.8 Ga), Earaheedy Basin, Western Australia, contains laminated and granular hematitic iron formation in delta channel deposits. Where mixing occurred in adjacent peritidal settings, laminated iron formation and hematitic oncoids formed. Because fluvial iron formations precipitated at the interface between terrestrial and marine realms, the locus of known Fe precipitation processes is shifted landward into paleoestuarine settings and reflects Fe derived from both terrestrial weathering and coastal upwelling, providing a new window into ocean-atmosphere evolution.

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