Not all Neoproterozoic iron formations are glaciogenic: Sturtian-aged non-Rapitan exhalative iron formations from the Arabian–Nubian Shield

  • Yasser Abd El-RahmanEmail author
  • Jens Gutzmer
  • Xian-Hua Li
  • Thomas Seifert
  • Chao-Feng Li
  • Xiao-Xiao Ling
  • Jiao Li


Neoproterozoic iron formations are exposed in the Wadi Hamama area (Egypt) in the northwestern part of the Arabian–Nubian Shield. Mafic and felsic volcanic and volcaniclastic rocks of an intra-oceanic island-arc setting host multiple, thin iron-formation units. Major element compositions of the iron formation confirm a low detrital input, whereas the rare-earth elements and Y data suggest deposition related to an influx of low-temperature hydrothermal fluids. Unlike most Neoproterozoic banded iron formations, but similar to other iron-formation occurrences from the Arabian–Nubian Shield, the Nd isotopic compositions of the Wadi Hamama iron formations are predominantly mantle-like. SIMS U–Pb zircon ages of the host volcaniclastic units indicate that the age of iron-formation deposition is ca. 695 Ma, which is within the Sturtian epoch that is presumed to be a glacial event of global extent. Nevertheless, there is no robust evidence of any influence of Sturtian glaciation in the Arabian–Nubian Shield. Our results rather suggest that the iron formations in the area may have formed as low-temperature exhalites on the floor of an island-arc basin. The iron formations were deposited during periods of volcanic quiescence, with metals having been derived during low-temperature pervasive hydrothermal alteration of volcanic and volcaniclastic rocks exposed at the seafloor–seawater interface. Precipitation took place due to mixing of metal-bearing hydrothermal fluids and cold, oxygenated seawater. There is no need to invoke possible effects of global glaciation to explain the origin of the Sturtian-aged iron formations in the shield. Our study thus suggests that not all Neoproterozoic iron formations are necessarily linked to glacial events as the Hamama deposit represents a non-Rapitan exhalative iron formation.


Cryogenian Exhalite Hydrothermal Iron formations Island arc Sturtian glaciation 



Ernest Chi Fru and Thomas Pichler are especially thanked for providing geochemical data on iron oxyhydroxides of the Milos Island and Tulum Bay, respectively. This is a contribution to IGCP project 648. We thank Nick Beukes for reviewing the manuscript and our appreciation extends to the associate editor Alexandre Raphael Cabral for his careful editing and thoughtful comments. The manuscript has significantly been improved by John Slack due to his thorough review and constructive comments.

Funding information

This work benefited from the Chinese Academy of Science (CAS) Grants XDB18000000 and QYZDY-SSW-DQC017, and the CAS President’s International Fellowship Initiative (PIFI) for Abd El-Rahman is gratefully acknowledged. SIMS U–Pb zircon dating and Nd isotope analyses were supported by the State Key Laboratory of Lithospheric Evolution, IGG-CAS grant (SKLLE Grant Number K201708) to the first author. Major and trace element analyses were funded by an Alexander von Humboldt Postdoctoral Fellowship to Abd El-Rahman.

Supplementary material

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ESM 1 (XLSX 66 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.State Key Laboratory of Lithospheric Evolution, Institute of Geology and GeophysicsChinese Academy of SciencesBeijingChina
  2. 2.Geology Department, Faculty of ScienceCairo UniversityGizaEgypt
  3. 3.Department of MineralogyTU Bergakademie FreibergFreibergGermany
  4. 4.Helmholtz Institute Freiberg for Resource TechnologyFreibergGermany
  5. 5.College of Earth and Planetary SciencesUniversity of Chinese Academy of SciencesBeijingChina

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