Formation of weathering-derived magnesite deposits in the New England Orogen, New South Wales, Australia: Implications from mineralogy, geochemistry and genesis of the Attunga magnesite deposit
Oskierski, H.C., Bailey, J.G., Kennedy, E.M., Jacobsen, G., Ashley, P.M. and Dlugogorski, B.Z. (2013) Formation of weathering-derived magnesite deposits in the New England Orogen, New South Wales, Australia: Implications from mineralogy, geochemistry and genesis of the Attunga magnesite deposit. Mineralium Deposita, 48 (4). pp. 525-541.
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Nodular, cryptocrystalline, weathering-derived magnesite deposits in the New England Orogen, Australia, provide a significant source of high-purity magnesite. Common textural features and related isotopic fingerprints indicate a close genetic relationship between weathering-derived magnesite deposits hosted by ultramafic rocks at Attunga and by sediments at Kunwarara while silica-carbonate rock alteration and rare hydrothermal magnesite vein deposits reflect contrasting conditions of formation. Localised weathering of carbonates in a soil environment shifts stable isotopic composition towards low δ13C and high δ18O typical for weathering-derived magnesites while intrusion-related fluids do not significantly change the isotopic composition of affected carbonates. At Attunga, magnesite consists of irregular, nodular veins and masses filling faults and cracks in the weathered serpentinite host rock as well as soft powdery magnesite in pervasive serpentinite alteration zones. The high-grade magnesite at Attunga can be contaminated by amorphous silica and serpentine relicts but does not contain dolomite or ferroan magnesite as observed for its hydrothermal equivalent, the Piedmont magnesite deposit, or other widespread deposits of silica-carbonate rock in the Great Serpentinite Belt. Heavy δ18O values are compatible with a supergene formation from meteoric waters while low δ13C suggests C3-photosynthetic plants as the predominant source of carbon for the Attunga magnesites. We infer that weathering-derived, nodular magnesite deposits hosted in ultramafic rocks like the Attunga magnesite deposit have formed in a two-step process involving the hypogene formation of a pre-cursor magnesite deposit and complete supergene overprinting by meteoric waters that acquired carbon from percolation through soil.
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