The Dianchi, Erhai and Fuxian lakes lie in faulted basins in a subtropical humid region of the Yunnan Plateau, China. Three groups of authigenic minerals have been recognized in their recent sediments - carbonate minerals, Fe-bearing minerals and silica minerals. The main authigenic minerals are goethite, calcite, aragonite, siderite and quartzine. Goethite is chemically precipitated from a colloidal suspension. Calcite is a widespread chemical precipitate that is present in deep parts of the lakes and in shallow areas associated with aquatic macrophytes. Aragonite is mainly biochemical in origin, and commonly associated with shallow benthos. Siderite forms in reducing environments, associated with pore waters with a high PCO2 that resulted from microbial degradation of organic matter. It forms mainly in deep-water environments. Quartzine, which occurs mainly in delta front and prodeltaic sites, forms from diatom dissolution and dissolved silica introduced by streams.

Six authigenic mineral associations are recognized, each of which can be related to depositional setting within the lake and the stage of lake development. The same associations can also be recognized in a 480-m-long core recovered from Dianchi Lake. Strong reducing environments and migrating pore fluids with high PCO2 have led to the early diagenetic alteration of some of the initial authigenic minerals. Using the mineral associations from the modern lakes, the Pliocene to Recent history of Dianchi Lake has been interpreted, and is in general agreement with palaeoenvironmental reconstructions based upon palaeontological and other evidence.