Mineralogy and Petrology

, Volume 113, Issue 3, pp 307–327 | Cite as

Highly siderophile elements in Archaean and Palaeoproterozoic marine shales of the Kaapvaal Craton, South Africa

  • Glen T. NwailaEmail author
  • Hartwig E. Frimmel
Original Paper


Determination of highly siderophile element (HSE; Au, Pt, Pd, Ir, Os, Rh and Ru) concentrations in relatively unweathered and unaltered marine shales from the Barberton, Witwatersrand and Transvaal supergroups in the Kaapvaal Craton revealed systematic differences, interpreted to reflect secular changes in the HSE content of Mesoarchaean to Palaeoproterozoic seawater. Most of the studied marine shales have HSE concentrations in the range given for average Archaean crustal rocks (0.5–5 ppb), with the exception of the shales in the Witwatersrand Supergroup. These shales contain up to three times more HSE, independent of source rock lithology in the granitoid-greenstone-dominated hinterland. Although sedimentary pyrite incorporated gold from synsedimentary to early diagenetic waters, its modal proportion (<3 vol.%) is too small to account for the total amount of Au and PGE in the studied marine shales. Instead, our results suggest that in addition to contributions from pyrite, some colloidal gold was attached to clay-sized sediments during source area weathering. Probably, colloidal gold and some of the platinum group elements were mechanically aggregated during sediment suspension and deposited synchronously with the host marine sediments.


Marine shale Archaean Ocean Highly siderophile elements Kaapvaal Craton 



This work was supported by the National Research Foundation (NRF) of South Africa to G. Nwaila (Grant UID: 88323). We thank Sibanye Gold Limited for providing the Witwatersrand Supergroup samples, as well as Helene Brätz and Ulrich Schüßler for assistance with the ICP-MS and XRF analyses, respectively. Chris Heubeck and Axel Hofmann are acknowledged for supplying some of the Barberton Supergroup samples. We thank Ross Large and Christopher Lawley for their constructive reviews of the original manuscript and Maarten Broekmans for editorial handling.

Supplementary material

710_2018_650_MOESM1_ESM.png (80 kb)
Fig. S1 Negative correlation between Au content and sediment provenance indicator elemental ratios (a - Zr/Ni, b – Th/Sc) for the Booysens Formation shales, indicating preferred derivation of gold from mafic source rocks. (PNG 4.62 MB)
710_2018_650_MOESM2_ESM.png (186 kb)
Fig. S2 Index of chemical variability (ICV) versus chemical index of weathering (CIW) for marine shales of the Kaapvaal Craton. Notes: ICV = (CaO + K2O + Na2O + Fe2O3 (T) + MgO + MnO + TiO2)/Al2O3 and CIW = Al2O3/ (Al2O3 + Na2O + CaO*) × 100). Values for Archaean rain water pH are from Krupp et al. 1994, values for Archaean river water pH are from Frimmel 2005, and values from Archean seawater pH are from Halevy and Bachan 2017.(PNG 4.58 MB)
710_2018_650_MOESM3_ESM.xlsx (107 kb)
Supplementary data S1 Whole–rock major (wt%) and trace element (ppm) concentrations including gold and platinum group elements for marine shales of the Barberton, Witwatersrand and Transvaal supergroups. (XLSX 107 kb)


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of GeosciencesUniversity of the WitwatersrandJohannesburgSouth Africa
  2. 2.Bavarian Georesources Centre (BGC), Institute of Geography and GeologyUniversity of WürzburgWürzburgGermany
  3. 3.Department of Geological SciencesUniversity of Cape TownRondeboschSouth Africa

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