Archean cherts derived from chemical, biogenic and clastic sedimentation in a shallow restricted basin: examples from the Gorge Creek Group in the Pilbara Block



The >3·0 Ga chert sequence of the Gorge Creek Group is exposed at Ord Ranges about 50 km east of Port Hedland in the Pilbara Block. The chert sequence examined in this study is 15 m thick and consists of oxide-rich laminated chert, grey chert (silicified clastic rock), carbonaceous black chert and carbonate-rich laminated chert. Although the cherts have undergone postdepositional silica enrichment, such as cementation and metasomatic silicification, primary precipitation of silica at the site of deposition is indicated by abundant microstructures (mosaic and spherulitic structures). Other primary to early diagenetic components were carbonates, sulphates (gypsum and anhydrite) and organic matter. Although these mineral associations, on the whole, correspond to those of modern marine evaporites, they are different from modern equivalents with respect to abundant precipitation of amorphous silica and presumed primary precipitation of iron-carbonate (siderite). This feature is a possible manifestation of peculiar physicochemical conditions in the water mass from which the chemical sediments were precipitated; compared with modern ocean waters, the concentrations of Fe and Si were significantly higher and the pH value might have been lower. These conditions could be obtained by contributions of Fe- and Si-enriched hydrothermal solutions and continental run-off to the site of deposition.

Grey cherts contain detrital quartz and altered Fe–Ti oxides and were formed in a period of input of terrigenous detrital materials. They are characterized by higher concentrations of TiO2, Al2O3, Cr, Ni, Zn, Rb and Zr compared with the other types of chert and by very low (< 4) Al2O3/TiO2 values. These features are attributed to the supply of terrigenous detrital materials that contain abundant Fe–Ti oxides (ilmenite and titanomagnetite) and fine TiO2 particles. Such detrital materials might have been formed by extensive chemical alteration of source rocks and residual enrichment of Ti relative to Al.