Citation

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Solomon, M. & Sun, S.S., 1997. Earth's evolution and mineral resources, with particular emphasis on volcanic-hosted massive sulphide deposits and banded iron formations. AGSO Journal of Australian Geology and Geophysics  17:1:33-48. Australian Geological Survey Organisation, Canberra.

Abstract

From 3.5 Ga the overall uniformity of the composition and character of sedimentary and mantle- and crustal-derived igneous rocks, and the persistence of ore types related to convergent continental margins (e.g. volcanic-hosted massive sulphide, porphyry Cu-Mo, Sn-W and lode Au), indicates continuity of tectonic processes broadly similar to the present. Secular variations in abundance of these ores reflect tectonic cycles having periods of perhaps several hundred million years, but other ores reflect long-term changes in tectonic style and the composition of the ocean and atmosphere. Thus the development of extensive continental margins and depositional basins from about 3.0 Ga heralded development of giant Au-U conglomerate and banded iron formation deposits, with at least the former suppressed in the Palaeoproterozoic as a result of increased atmospheric PO2. Aggregation of large continents and the development of extensive basins allowed formation of giant Cu-Co, Pb-Zn and U-platinum group elements-Au ores from about 2.0 Ga. There is no firm evidence that mantle heterogeneity has contributed to ore distribution, nor that Archaean crust or mantle was anomalously enriched in Au or platinum group elements. Mineralogical and isotopic data from volcanic-hosted massive sulphide deposits support the hypothesis that there was abundant sulphate in deep oceans from 3.5 Ga, and the lack of Pb and barite in Late Archaean ores may be related to the mafic-rich composition of the local shallow crust, steep thermal gradients, anoxic, sulphate basin waters or the compositions of particular magma types. Both the ocean margin (Holland 1973) and the hydrothermal plume/gravity current models for the origin of banded iron formations are broadly compatible with their composition, secular distribution and timing with respect to glaciation, ocean anoxia and tectonic activity. In the gravity current model the possible impact of the hydrothermal activity on climate warrants further investigation.
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1997

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Earth Sciences

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