, Volume 107, Issue 3, pp 387-402

Tourmaline mineralization in the Barberton greenstone belt, South Africa: early Archean metasomatism by evaporite-derived boron

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Abstract

Tourmaline-rich rocks are common in the lowgrade, interior portions of the Barberton greenstone belt of South Africa, where shallow-marine sediments and underlying altered basaltic and komatiitic lavas contain up to 50% tourmaline. The presence of tourmaline-bearing rip-up clasts, intraformational tourmalinite pebbles, and tourmaline-coated grains indicates that boron mineralization was a low-temperature, surficial process. The association of these lithologies with stromatolites, evaporites, and shallow-water sedimentary structures and the virtual absence of tourmaline in correlative deep-water facies rocks in the greenstone bels strengthens this model.

Five tourmaline-bearing lithologic groups (basalts, komatiites, evaporite-bearing sediments, stromatolitic sediments, and quartz veins) are distinguished based on field, petrographic, and geochemical criteria. Individual tourmaline crystals within these lithologies show internal chemical and textural variations that reflect continued growth through intervals of change in bulk-rock and fluid composition accompanying one or more metasomatic events. Large single-crystal variations exist in Fe/Mg, Al/Fe, and alkali-site vacancies. A wide range in tourmaline composition exists in rocks altered from similar protoliths, but tourmalines in sediments and lavas have similar compositional variations. Boron-isotope analysis of the tourmalines suggest that the boron enrichment in these rocks has a major marine evaporitic component. Sediments with gypsum pseudomorphs and lavas altered at low temperatures by shallow-level brines have the highest δ11B values (+2.2 to-1.9‰); lower δ11B values of late quartz veins (-3.7 to-5.7‰) reflect intermediate temperature, hydrothermal remobilization of evaporitic boron. The δ11B values of tourmaline-rich stromatolitic sediments (-9.8 and-10.5‰) are consistent with two-stage boron enrichment, in which earlier marine evaporitic boron was hydrothermally remobilized and vented in shallow-marine or subaerial sites, mineralizing algal stromatolites. The stromatolite-forming algae preferentially may have lived near the sites of hydrothermal discharge in Archean times.