A suite of green and carbonaceous black chert interbedded with submarine volcanic rocks from several stratigraphic levels of the Onverwacht Group of the Barberton greenstone belt, from the top of the ~3.48 Ga Komati Formation to the base of the ~3.26 Ga Fig Tree Group have been investigated petrologically and geochemically. Provenance analysis was undertaken using immobile trace element ratios in comparison with potential source rocks from the Barberton granitoid-greenstone terrain. Raman spectroscopy was used to better characterise carbonaceous matter in different chert varieties. Green cherts consist predominantly of silicified mafic to ultramafic volcaniclastic material. Black cherts contain volcaniclastic and/or epiclastic material of ultramafic to felsic composition, admixed with carbonaceous matter. In several cases, the clastic sediment is compositionally distinct to the volcanic substrate, suggesting that it represents volcanic material of relatively distal sources. Soon after settling out of the water column, lithification due to silicification took place. It gave rise to excellent textural preservation, but strongly modified the mineralogical and chemical composition of the seafloor sediments. Zircon, Cr-spinel and rare phosphate minerals are the only primary minerals remaining, while clastic grains have been largely replaced by a fine intergrowth of microquartz, Ti-oxide and K-bearing mica. Chemical changes are similar to those reported previously for silicification of volcanic rocks from the Barberton belt and are consistent with low-temperature hydrothermal processes common to the Palaeoarchaean seafloor environment.

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