• Authigenic xenotime;
  • cementation history;
  • Palaeoproterozoic;
  • sandstone diagenesis;
  • U–Pb geochronology


An ≈ 26 m thick unit of phosphatic sandstone and black shale (the Phosphatic Unit) in the Palaeoproterozoic Mount Barren Group of south-western Australia contains abundant authigenic xenotime crystals showing well-preserved diagenetic textures. Despite extensive regional deformation and thermal metamorphism, the peak of which occurred at ≈ 1205 Ma, the Phosphatic Unit was preserved as a low-strain envelope because of its pre-compaction carbonate and phosphate cementation. In situ U–Pb geochronology of xenotime reveals four discrete age populations at 1693 ± 4, 1645 ± 3, 1578 ± 10 and 1481 ± 21 Ma. When integrated with petrography, the age data place a timeframe on: (i) sediment deposition; (ii) phosphogenesis; (iii) diagenetic cement infilling; (iv) diagenetic pyrite formation; (v) secondary porosity generation; (vi) hydrocarbon migration; (vii) burial compaction; and (viii) hydrothermal alteration, up until peak thermal metamorphism. Xenotime growth at ≈ 1693 Ma occurred prior to compaction, whereas xenotime growth at ≈ 1645 Ma occurred during burial. Xenotime growth at ≈ 1580 Ma and at ≈ 1480 Ma appears to be the far-field record of thermotectonic events associated with intracontinental extension and magmatism recorded elsewhere in Australia. Geochemical analysis, integrated with geochronology, shows a systematic increase in MREE/HREE in xenotime crystals with decreasing age and with increasing stratigraphic depth. Coupled with a decrease in xenotime abundance and age with depth, it suggests that: (i) the main focus of porosity infilling was at the top of the Phosphatic Unit and progressed downwards over the > 200 Myr period of porosity infilling, and (ii) the changes in xenotime REE chemistry may be due to an influx of MREE from increasing amounts of dissolved apatite or changes, with respect to REE solubility, in the physiochemical nature of the fluids with burial depth.