Sedimentology of cherts in the Early Proterozoic Wishart Formation, Quebec-Newfoundland, Canada



The siliciclastic Wishart Formation of the Early Proterozoic Labrador trough is a high-energy shelf deposit. Wishart sandstones contain both interstitial chert with textures of void-filling cement and thin chert intercalations contaminated with siliciclastic mud. Although volumetrically minor, these cherts occur in several thin, areally extensive stratigraphic intervals. The Wishart contains intraclasts of both the chert-cemented sandstone and the impure chert layers (as well as several other types of chert sand and gravel). This suggests the cherts formed penecontemporaneously, which is consistent with the absence of any signs of replacement in all but one of the chert types and the clear-cut distinctions between chert types, even where they are side by side in a single thin section. The origin which appears to be most compatible with available evidence is that the cherts represent silica precipitated from thermal waters that rose through the sediments of the Wishart shelf and discharged into suprajacent seawater. A biogenic origin is unlikely in view of the lack of appropriate organisms during the Early Proterozoic and the rapidity with which the cements formed. A volcanogenic origin is unlikely because volcaniclastic textures are plentiful in associated formations but absent from the Wishart. Precipitation induced by evaporative concentration is unlikely in view of the widespread evidence of tidal currents and the lack of evidence of desiccation in the Wishart. Finally, the cherts are not restricted to the lowest-energy facies, and therefore they presumably did not accumulate as a background sediment. Deposition of silica above the sediment/water interface was probably made possible by ambient concentrations of silica that were significantly higher than those of Phanerozoic seawater. Cherts with similar textures occur in other Early Proterozoic sediments, most notably arenitic or granular iron-formations.