Mineralium Deposita

, Volume 54, Issue 7, pp 983–1010 | Cite as

Geochemistry of canga (ferricrete) and evolution of the weathering profile developed on itabirite and iron ore in the Quadrilátero Ferrífero, Minas Gerais, Brazil

  • C. A. SpierEmail author
  • A. Levett
  • C. A. Rosière


Mineralogical and whole rock geochemical analyses for 60 elements on 31 samples of hard ferruginous crust (canga) provide insights into the evolution of the lateritic profile developed on itabirite. Canga can form in two environments: in situ canga that typically caps itabirite and transported canga that covers country rock. Both have similar mineralogical and chemical compositions. Detrital haematite and rare quartz inherited from the itabirite and iron ore comprise the matrix of canga, cemented by goethite, minor gibbsite, and rare manganese oxides and secondary phosphates. Fe2O3 represents more than 91% of its chemical composition and the concentrations of trace elements are low, generally less than 50 ppm. A comparison of the chemical weathering of dolomitic itabirite against the quartz itabirite shows that, although weathering processes are less effective in the former, the geochemical trends of major and trace elements are similar. Negative Ce anomalies (Ce/Ce* = 0.8) and U/Th ratios lower than 1.5 suggest that saprolite formation occurred under slightly anoxic and mildly acidic conditions, allowing rare earth elements (REEs) to remain in the saprolite and also the formation of secondary Al phosphates, instead of Fe phosphates. These conditions became more aggressive during the canga formation process, resulting in further removal of trace elements from the system. The canga formation (pedogenesis) and the chemical weathering of the itabirite (saprolite formation) are independent, but interrelated processes that have been occurring since the Palaeocene.


Canga Ferricrete Geochemistry Strengite Iron ore Quadrilátero Ferrífero 



The samples and analytical data presented in this paper were obtained by C.A.S. during his PhD studies at the Geoscience Institute of the University of São Paulo (USP). The research project was possible thanks to the grant issued by the Comissão de Aperfeiçoamento de Pessoal de Nível Superior (CAPES) (grant BEX2189/02-0) and by the financial support of Minerações Brasileiras Reunidas-MBR (now Vale). We acknowledge the contribution of Prof. Sonia M. B. de Oliveira to the initial discussions that resulted in this paper. Prof. José Domingos Ardisson is thanked for the help with the interpretation of Mössbauer spectra. We are also very grateful to Prof. Ken Collerson and Dr. David Murphy for careful reading and valuable suggestions of the first version of this manuscript. The assistance of Dr. Julius Motuzas with the micro-XRD analysis and interpretation was much appreciated. Jack Ward, Daniel Franks and Dr. John Caulfield are acknowledged for their careful editing. This paper benefited from the insightful comments of Mineralium Deposita’s Associate Editor Alexandre Cabral and of Carlos Augusto de Medeiros Filho (Vale).

Supplementary material

126_2018_856_MOESM1_ESM.docx (15 kb)
Appendix A. Sample location, material type, and description (DOCX 15 kb)
126_2018_856_MOESM2_ESM.xlsx (24 kb)
Appendix B. Analytical results for in situ and transported canga and the brick-red material (XLSX 24 kb)
126_2018_856_MOESM3_ESM.xlsx (30 kb)
Appendix C. Correlation matrixes. C1 - Dolomitic itabirite, soft ore, and canga samples. C2 - Soft ore (saprolite) samples. C3 - In situ and transported canga (XLSX 29 kb)
126_2018_856_MOESM4_ESM.xlsx (41 kb)
Appendix D. Mass change (%) values in the soft ore (saprolite) and canga (ferricrete) in relation to dolomitic itabirite (bedrock) relatively to TiO2 as the immobile component (XLSX 41 kb)


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Earth and Environmental SciencesThe University of QueenslandSaint LuciaAustralia
  2. 2.Instituto de GeociênciasCampus da UFMGBelo HorizonteBrazil

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