Abstract

Possibly the most extensive and best-preserved Archaean halite casts yet discovered occur in the c. 2.58 Ga upper Black Reef and basal Oaktree formations, Transvaal Supergroup, in Mpumalanga Province, South Africa. Halite casts are isolated on bedding planes, range in size from c. 1 mm to 20 mm, and have cubic, dumbbell and triangular shapes, as well as hopper-like pyramidal hollows on cube faces. Some of the casts display distinct hopper shapes characteristic of halite crystals. The halite cast-bearing pavements are developed within silicified mudstone interbedded with siltstone or stromatolitic dolomite. Associated sedimentary structures pointing to subaerial exposure include adhesion ripples and warts, desiccation and prism cracks, rill marks and tepee structures. Halite cast-bearing beds are interpreted as supratidal flat or sabkha deposits. The presence of isolated casts and hopper-shaped crystals suggests that halite resulted from displacive growth within the sediment from supersaturated residual brines after mudstone deposition. Absence of any indication of the former presence of gypsum or anhydrite supports previous contentions that the Neoarchaean ocean was deficient in sulphate or contained a high bicarbonate to calcium ratio such that with progressive evaporation, most calcium was consumed before the gypsum stability field was reached. The association of halite and carbonate in the upper Black Reef and basal Oaktree formations constrains the palaeolatitude of the Transvaal Basin at 2.58 Ga to subequatorial (10–30°).

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