An overview of the geology of the Transvaal Supergroup dolomites (South Africa)
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In the Neoarchaean intracratonic basin of the Kaapvaal craton, between approximately 2640 Ma and 2516 Ma, two successive stromatolitic carbonate platforms developed. Deposition started with the Schmidtsdrif Subgroup, which is probably oldest in the southwestern part of the basin, and which contains stromatolitic carbonates, siliciclastic sediments and minor lava flows. Subsequently, the Nauga formation carbonates were deposited on peritidal flats located to the southwest and were drowned during a transgression of the Transvaal Supergroup epeiric sea, around 2550 Ma ago. This transgression led to the development of a carbonate platform in the areas of the preserved Transvaal and Griqualand West basins, which persisted for 30–50 Ma. During this time, shales were deposited over the Nauga Formation carbonates in the southwestern portion of the epeiric sea. A subsequent period of basin subsidence led to drowning of the stromatolitic platform and to sedimentation of chemical, iron-rich silica precipitates of the banded iron formations (BIF) over the entire basin. Carbonate precipitation in the Archaean was largely due to chemical and lesser biogenic processes, with stromatolites and ocean water composition playing an important role. The stromatolitic carbonates in the preserved Griqualand West and Transvaal basins are subdivided into several formations, based on the depositional facies, reflected by stromatolite morphology, and on intraformational unconformities; interbedded tuffs and available radiometric age data do not yet permit detailed correlation of units from the two basins. Thorough dolomitisation of most formations took place at different post-depositional stages, but mainly during early diagenesis. Partial silicification was the result of diagenetic and weathering processes. Karstification of the carbonate rocks was related to periods of exposure to subaerial conditions and to percolation of groundwater. Such periods occurred locally at the time of carbonate and BIF deposition. Main karstification, however, probably took place during an erosional period between approximately 2430 Ma and 2320 Ma.
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