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Beach placer, a proxy for the average Nd and Hf isotopic composition of a continental area

Marion Garçon 1 Catherine Chauvel 1 Sara Bureau 1 
1 Géochimie
ISTerre - Institut des Sciences de la Terre
Abstract : Beach placer deposits concentrate detrital heavy minerals which are the erosion products of large areas of continental crust. Here, we report the first analyses of Nd-Hf isotopic ratios and trace element concentrations that we measured in a beach placer from Camargue, France and in its pure mineral separates. Both the bulk composition of the placer and those of its pure mineral separates were determined. We also report mineral proportions obtained using observations under a binocular microscope and micro X-ray fluorescence mapping. Our results indicate that monazite totally controls the placer's Nd isotopic composition (εNd = − 9.3) while zircon dominates its Hf isotopes (εHf = − 13.0) even though both mineral phases represent only a small proportion of the heavy mineral assemblage (3.5 and 10% respectively). We demonstrate that the Camargue placer provides a good estimate of the average Nd and Hf isotopic composition of the continental area drained by the Rhone River in Western Europe (εNd ≈ − 9 and εHf ≈ − 13). Using these values, we calculate two stage model ages and show that almost all the placer minerals are derived from Proterozoic crustal protoliths. This provides valuable information on the history of the continental crust drained by the Rhone River. In particular, it suggests that little juvenile crust was created during the recent geological events that formed the Alps and the Massif Central, the two main massifs from which the placer minerals originate. More generally, we propose that similar measurements made on other worldwide beach placer deposits could provide estimates of the present-day Nd and Hf isotopic composition of large continental areas, values that are difficult to obtain due to the well-known heterogeneity of continental material but are essential to model the growth of continental crust through Earth history or to model the impact of crustal material when recycled into the mantle.
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Marion Garçon, Catherine Chauvel, Sara Bureau. Beach placer, a proxy for the average Nd and Hf isotopic composition of a continental area. Chemical Geology, Elsevier, 2011, 287 (3-4), pp.182-192. ⟨10.1016/j.chemgeo.2011.06.007⟩. ⟨insu-00680322⟩



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