A case study of the internal structures of gossans and weathering processes in the Iberian Pyrite Belt using magnetic fabrics and paleomagnetic dating

Abstract : In the Rio Tinto district of the Iberian Pryrite Belt of South Spain, the weathering of massive sulfide bodies form iron caps, i.e., true gossans and their subsequent alteration and re-sedimentation has resulted in iron terraces, i.e., displaced gossans. To study the stucture and evolution of both types of gossans, magnetic investigations have been carried out with two foci: (1) the characterisation and spatial distribution of magnetic fabrics in different mineralised settings, including massive sulfides, gossans, and terraces, and (2) paleomagnetic dating. Hematite has been identified as the suceptibility carrier in all sites and magnetic fabric investigation of four gossans reveals a vertical variation from top to bottom, with: (1) a horizontal foliation refered to as "mature" fabric in the uppermost part of the primary gossans, (2) highly inclined or vertical foliation interpreted as "immature" fabric between the uppermost and lowermost parts, and (3) a vertical foliation interpreted to be inherited from Hercynian deformation in the lowermost part of the profiles. In terraces, a horizontal foliation dominates and is interpreted to be a "sedimentary" fabric. Rock magnetic studies of gossan samples have identified goethite as the magnetic remanence carrier for the low-temperature component, showing either a single direction close to the present Earth field (PEF) direction or random directions. Maghemite, hematite, and occasionally magnetite are the remanence carriers for the stable high-temperature component that is characterized by non PEF directions with both normal and reversed magnetic polarities. No reliable conclusion can be yet be drawn on the timing of terrace magnetization due to the small number of samples. In gossans, the polarity is reversed in the upper part and normal in the lower part. This vertical distribution with a negative reversal test suggests remanence formation during two distinct periods. Remanence in the upper parts of the gossans is older than in the lower parts, indicating that the alteration proceeded from top to bottom of the profiles. In the upper part, the older age and the horizontal "mature" fabric is interpreted to be a high maturation stage of massive sulfides' alteration. In the lower part, the age is younger and the inherited "imature" vertical Hercynian fabric indicates a weak maturation stage. These two distinct periods may reflect changes of paleoclimate, erosion, and/or tectonic motion.
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Mourad Essalhi, Stanislas Sizaret, Luc Barbanson, Yan Chen, France Lagroix, et al.. A case study of the internal structures of gossans and weathering processes in the Iberian Pyrite Belt using magnetic fabrics and paleomagnetic dating. Mineralium Deposita, Spinger, 2011, 46 (8), pp.981-999. ⟨10.1007/s00126-011-0361-8⟩. ⟨insu-00602626⟩

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