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Keywords:

  • Banded iron formation;
  • Hamersley;
  • hydrothermal sediments;
  • Precambrian;
  • sequence stratigraphy;
  • turbidites

Abstract

The Early Palaeoproterozoic Brockman Supersequence comprises banded iron formation (BIF), bedded chert, limestone, mudrock, sandstone, breccia, tuffaceous mudstone, ashfall tuff and, in sections not reported here, basalt and rhyolite. Density current rhythms are preserved in sandstones, mudrocks, tuffaceous mudstones and limestones. Relics of similar rhythms in BIF imply that its precursor sediments were also deposited by density currents. Hemipelagic deposits are siliciclastic or mixed siliciclastic–volcaniclastic mudstones. Bedded chert, chert nodules and the chert matrix of BIF preserve evidence for formation by diagenetic replacement. For bedded chert (and chert nodules), silica replacement occurred before compaction close to or at the sediment–water interface, indicating that it is siliceous hardground. The chert matrix of BIF formed during compaction but before burial metamorphism. Original sediments were resedimented from two sources: (1) limestone, mudrock, sandstone, breccia and tuffaceous mudstone from a shelf; and (2) BIF from within the basin realm. Shelf sediments were resedimented to basin-floor fans during third-order lowstands. The precursor sediments to BIF are interpreted to have been granular hydrothermal muds, composed of iron-rich smectite and particles of iron oxyhydroxide and siderite that were deposited on the flanks of submarine volcanoes and resedimented by density currents. Resedimentation occurred by either bottom currents or gravity-driven turbidity currents, and the resulting sediment bodies may have been contourite drifts. The concept that BIF records high-frequency alternating precipitation from ambient sea water of iron minerals and silica is negated by this study. Instead, it is postulated that the precursor sediments to BIF originated in much the same way as modern Red Sea hydrothermal iron oxide deposits, implying that at least the particles of iron oxyhydroxide originated from the oxidation of vent fluids by sea water. Several orders of cyclicity in basin filling establish a relationship between rising to high sea levels, episodic sea-floor hydrothermal activity and BIF that is reminiscent of the link between eustacy and spreading-ridge pulses.