Carbonates and Evaporites

, Volume 24, Issue 1, pp 1–15 | Cite as

Early precambrian banded iron formations: Biochemical precipitates from highly evaporated hydrothermal solutions of polar region lakes



Banded iron-formations (BIFs), which provide the world’s main source of iron, accumulated during a restricted Lower Precambrian interval. Their alleged precipitation from mid-ocean hydrothermal ferruginous solutions mixing with down-slope flowing oxygenated water is not possible. No free oxygen could have accumulated in water under the prevailing anoxic conditions. Newly discovered sedimentary structures corroborate very shallow depositional settings. Accordingly, BIFs precipitated in huge lakes of warm hydrothermal solutions undergoing intensive evaporation and mineral concentration in the freezing-cold Polar Regions. As a result of half a year of illumination, cyanobacteria oxygenic photosynthesis deposited iron oxides with silica (geyserite) followed by a lamina of silica only, forming recurrent annual varves. Diamictites on top of BIF successions in Western Australia and South Africa accumulated from melting glaciers when the plates shifted to lower latitudes, as corroborated by paleomagnetic high-latitude paleo-positions. Calcium carbonate precipitated under higher water levels and more diluted solutions. The chemistry of these BliFs and associated carbonates do not represent the Early Precambrian oceans, and the diamictites at the end of their sequence do not attest to global glaciation.


Banded iron-formation (BIT) Lower Precambrian evaporite varves Polar Regions 


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. ALTERMANN, W., 2002, The evolution of life and its impact on sedimentation, in W. Altermann and P. Corcoran, eds., PrecambrianS edimentaryEnvironments. SpecialPublication of International Association of Sedimentologists, v. 33, p. 15–32.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. ALTERMANN, W., 2004, Precambrian stromatolites: problems in definition, classification, morphology and stratigraphy, in P.G. Eriksson, W. Altermann, D.R. Nelson, W.U. Mueller, and O. Catuneanu, eds., The Precambrian Earth: Tempos and Events. Developments in Precambrian Geology, v. 12, p. 564–574.Google Scholar
  3. ALTERMANN, W. and CORCORAN, P., 2002, Precambrian Sedimentary Environments: A modern approach to ancient depositional systems. Blackwell, Oxford, 464 p.Google Scholar
  4. ALTERMANN, W. and HERBIG, H.G., 1991, Tidal flat deposits of the Lower Proterozoic Campbell Group along the southwestern margin of the Kaapvaal Craton, Northern Cape Province: South African Journal of Earth Sciences, v. 13, p. 415–435.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. AWRAMIK, S.M., 1992, The oldest records of photosynthesis: Photosynthesis Research, v. 33, p. 75–89.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. BECKER, R.H. and CLAYTON, R.N., 1972, Carbon isotopic evidence for the origin of banded iron-formation in Western Australia: Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta, v. 36, p. 577–595.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. BEKKER, A., 2005, Correlation of Paleoproterozoic glacial deposits: evidence for three global glaciations between 4.4 and 2.22 Ga. Geological Society of America Annual Meeting Paper, no. 49-2.Google Scholar
  8. BEKKER, A., HOLLAND, D.H., WANG, P.-L., RUMBLE, III, D., STEIN, H.J., HANNAH, J.L., COETZEE, L.L., and BEUKES, N.J., 2004, Dating the rise of atmospheric oxygen: Nature, v. 427, p. 117–120.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. BEUKES, N.J, 1973, Precambrian iron-formation of South Africa: Economic Geology, v. 68, p. 960–1004.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. BEUKES, N.J., 1983, Paleoenvironmental settings of ironformationsin the depositional basin of the Transvaal Supergroup, South Africa, in A.F. Trendall and R.C. Morris, eds., Iron-Formations: Facts and Problems. Development in Precambrian Geology, v. 6, p. 131–209.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. BEUKES, J.B., 1987, Facies relations, depositional environments and diagenesis in a major Early Proterozoic stromatolitic carbonate platform to basinal sequence, Campbellrand Subgroup, Transvaal Supergroup, Southern Africa: Sedimentary Geology, v. 54, p. 1–46.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. BEUKES, N.J. and KLEIN, C., 1990, Geochemistry and sedimentology of a facies transition—from microbanded to granular iron-formation —in the early Proterozoic Transvaal Supergroup, South Africa: Precambrian Research, v. 47, p. 99–139.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. BEUKES, N.J., KLEIN, C., KAUFMAN, A., and HAYS, J.M., 1990, Carbonate petrography, kerogen distribution, and carbon and oxygen isotope variations in an Early Proterozoic transition from limestone to iron-formation deposition, Transvaal Supergroup, South Africa: Economic Geology, v. 85, p. 663–690.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. BLOCKLEY, J.G., 1990, Geology and mineral resources of Western Australia: Western Australia Geological Survey Memoir, no. 3, p. 679–692.Google Scholar
  15. BROCK, T.D., 1976, Environmental microbiology of living stromatolites. in Walter, MR., ed., Stromatolites. Developments in Sedimentology, v. 20, p. 141–148.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. BUTTON, A., 1976, Iron-formation as an end member in carbonate sedimentary cycles in the Transvaal Supergroup, South Africa: Economic Geology, v. 71, p. 193–201.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. CATUNEANU, O. and ERIKSSON, P.G., 2002, Sequence stratigraphy of the Precambrian Rooihoogte-Timeball Hill rift succession; Transvaal Basin, South Africa: Sedimentary Geology, v. 147, p. 71–88.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. CHAUVEL, J.-J. and DIMROTH, E., 1974, Facies types and depositional environment of the Sokoman Iron Formation, Central Labrador Trough, Quebec, Canada: Journal of Sedimentary Petrology, v. 44, p. 299–327.Google Scholar
  19. CLOUD, PE. Jr., 1968, Atmospheyic and hydrospheric evolution on the primitive Earth: Science, v. 160, p. 729–736.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. CLOUD, P.E. Jr., 1973, Paleoecological significance of banded iron-formation: Economic Geology, v. 68, p. 1135–1143.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. DALSTRA, H, 2003, Cover photo: Geology, v. 31, no. 10.Google Scholar
  22. DERRY, L.A. and JACOBSEN, S.B., 1990, The chemical evolution of Precambrian seawater: evidence from REEs in banded iron formations: Geochhnica et Cosmochimica Acta, v. 54, p. 2965–2977.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. EDGELL, H.S., 1964, Precambrian fossils from the Hamersley Range, Western Australia, and their use in stratigraphic correlation: Journal of the Geological Socies of Australia, v. 11, p. 235–261.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. EGGLESTON, J.R., and DEAN, W.E., 1976, Freshwater stromatolitic bioherms in Green Lake, New York, in M.R. Walter, ed., Stromatolites. Developments in Sedimentology, v. 20, p. 479–488.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. ERIKSSON, K.A., 1983, Siliciclastic-hosted iron-formation in the eayly Archaean Barberton and Pilbara sequences: Journal of tlie Geological Society of Australia, v. 30, p. 473–482.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. EVANS, D.A., BEUKES, N.J., and KIRSCHVINK, J.L., 1997, Low-latitude glaciation in the Paleoproterozoic era: Nature, v. 386, p. 262–266.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. FRYER, B.J., 1983, Rare earth elements in iron-formation, in A.F. Trendall and R.C. Morris, eds., Iron-Formation: Fact and Problems, Developments in Precambrian Geology, v. 6, p. 345–358.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. FRYER, B.J., FYFE, W.S., and KERRICH, R., 1979, Archaean volcanogenic oceans: Chemical Geology, v. 24, p. 25–33.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. GANDIN, A., WRIGHT, D.T., and MELZHIK, V., 2005, Vanished evaporates, and carbonate formation in the Neoarchaean Kogelbeen and Gamohaan formations of the Campbellrand Subgroup, South Africa: Journal of African Earth Sciences, v. 41, p. 1–23.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. GARRELS, R.M., 1987, A model forthe deposition ofmicrobanded Precambrian iron formations: American Journal of Science, v. 287, p. 81–106.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. GARRELS, R.M., PERRY, E.A. Jr., and MACKENZIE, F.T., 1973, Genesis of Precambrian iron-formations and the development of atmosphereic oxygen: Economic Geology, v. 68, p. 1173–1179.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. GEBELEIN, C.D., 1976, Open marine subtidal and intertidal stromatolites (Florida, the Bahamas and Bermuda), in M.R. Walter, ed., Stromatolites. Developments in Sedimentology, v. 20, p. 381–388.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. GROTZINGER, J.P. and ROTHMAN, D.H., 1996, An abiotic model for stromatolite morphogenesis: Nature, v. 383, p. 423–425.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. HALBICH, I.W., LAMPRECHT, D., ALTERMANN, W., and HORSTMANN, U.E., 1992, A carbonate-banded iron formation transition in the Early Proterozoicum of South Africa: Journal of African Earth Sciences, v. 15, p. 217–236.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. HALE, C.J., 1987, Paleomagnetic data suggest link between the Archean-Proterozoic boundary and inner-core nucleation: Nature, v. 329, p. 233–237.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. HOLLAND, H.D., 1973, The oceans: a possible source of iron in iron-formations: Economic Geology, v. 68, p. 1169–1172.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. HOLLAND, H.D., 1984, The Chemical Evolution of the Atmosphere and Oceans. Princeton University Press, Princeton, 582 p.Google Scholar
  38. IDNURIVI, M. and GIDDINGS, J.W., 1988, AustralianPrecambrian polar wander: a review: Precambrian Research, v. 40/41, p. 61–88.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. JAMES, H.L., 1983, Distribution of banded iron-formation in space and time, in A.F. Trendall and R.C. Morris, eds., Iron-Formations: Facts and Problems. Developments in Precambrian Geology, v. 6, p. 471–490.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. KAPPLER, A., PASQUERO, C., KONHAUSER, K.O., and NEWMAN, D.K., 2005, Deposition of banded iron formations by anoxygenic phototrophic Fe (II)-oxidizing bacteria: Geology, v. 33, p. 865–868.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. KLEIN, C., 2005, Some Precambrian banded iron-formations (BIB) from around the world: Their age, geologic setting, mineralogiy, metamorphism, geochemistry, and origin: American Mineralogist, v. 90, p. 1473–1499.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. KLEIN, C. and BEUKES, N.J., 1989, Geochemistry and sedimentology of a facies transition from limestone to iron-formation deposition in Early Precambrian Transvaal Supergroup, South Africa: Economic Geology, v. 84, p. 1733–1774.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. KLEDN, C., BEUKES, N.J., and SCHOPF, LW., 1987, Filamentous microfossils in the early Proterozoic Transvaal Supergroup: their morphology, significance, and paleoenvironmental setting: Precambrian Research, v. 36, p. 81–94.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. KONHAUSER, K.O., HAMADE, T., RAISWELL, R., MORRIS, R.C., FERRIS, F.G., SOUTHAM, G., and CANFIELD, D.E., 2002, Could bacteria have formed the Precambrian banded iron formation?: Geology, v. 30, p. 1079–1082.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. KONHAUSER, K.O., AMSKOLD, L., LALONDE, S.V., POSTH, N.R., KAPPLER, A., and ANBAR, A., 2007, Decoupling photochemical Fe(II) oxidation from shallow-water BIF deposition: Earth and Planetary Science Letters, v. 258, p. 87–100.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. KRAPEŽ B., BARLEY, M.R, and PICKARD, A.L., 2003, Hydrothermal and resedimented origins of the precursor sediments to banded iron-formation: sedimentological evidence from the Early paleoproterozoic Brockman Supersequence of Western Australia: Sedimentology, v. 50, p. 979–1011.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. LYNN, B.Y. and CAMPBELL, K.A., 2003, Diagenetic transformations (opal-a to quartz) of low-and midtemperature microbial textures in siliceous hot-spring deposits, Taupo Volcanic Zone, New Zealand: Canadian Journal of Earth Sciences, v. 40, p. 1679–1696.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. MARTIN, D. McB., 1999, Dep ositional s ettings ofPaleoproterozoic glaciomarine sedimentation in the Hamersley Province, Western Australia: Geological Survey of America Bulletin, v. 111, p. 189–203.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. MCELHINNY, M.W. and MCWILLAMS, M.O., 1977, Precambrian geodynamics —a palaeomagnetic view: Tectonophysics, v. 40, p. 137–159.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. MELEZHIK, V.A., 2006, Multiple causes of Earth’s earliest global glaciation: Terra Nova, v. 18, p. 130–137.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Morris, R.C., 1993, Genetic modeling for banded iron-formation of the Hamersley Group, Pilbara Craton, Western Australia: Precambrian Research, v. 60, p. 243–286.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. MORRIS, W.A., 1977, Paleomagnetism of the Gowganda and Chibougamau formations: evidence for 2,200-m.y.-old folding and remagnetization event of the southern province: Geology, v. 5, p. 137–140.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. PICKARD, A.L., 2002, SHRIMP U-Pb zircon ages of tuffaceous mudrocks in the Brockman Iron Formation of Hamersley Range, Western Australia: Australian Journal of Earth Sciences, v. 49, p. 491–507.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. PICKARD, A.L., BARLEY, M.E., and KRAPEŽ B., 2004, Deep-marine depositional setting of banded iron formation: sedimentological evidence from interbedded elastic sedimentary rocks in the early Palaeoproterozoic Dales Gorge Member of Western Australia: Sedimentary Geology, v. 170, p. 37–62.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. PIERSON, B.K., PARENTEAU, M.N., and GRIFFIN, B.M., 1999, Phototrophs in high-iron-concentration microbial mats: physiological ecology of phototrophs in an iron-depositing hot spring: Applied Environmental Microbiology, v. 65, p. 5474–5483.Google Scholar
  56. POWELL, C.M., OLIVER, N.H.S., LI, Z.X., MARTINI, D.M., and RONASZEKI, J., 1999, Synorogenic hydrothermal origin for giant Hamersley iron oxide ore bodies: Geology, v. 27, p. 175–178.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. ROBERT, F. and CHAUSSIDON, M., 2006, A palaeotemperature curve for the Precambrian oceans based on silicon isotopes in chert: Nature, v. 443, p. 969–972.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. SEILACHER, A., 2001, Concretion morphologies reflecting diagenetic and epigenetic pathways: Sedimentary Geology, v. 143, p. 41–57.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. SIEVER, R., 1992, The silica cycle inthe Precambrian: Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta, v. 56, p. 3265–3272.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  60. SIMONSON, B.M., 1985, Sedimentological constraints on the origins of Precambrian iron-Formations: Geological Society of America Bulletin, v. 96, p. 244–252.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  61. SIMONSON, B.M., 1987, 2.5 Ga carbonate turbidites in the banded iron formation-rich Hamersley Group of Wekern Australia. Geological Society of America, Annual Meeting Abstracts with Programs, v. 19, p. 846.Google Scholar
  62. SIMONSON, B.M. and GOODE, A.D.T., 1989, First discovery of ferruginous chert arenites in the early Precambrian Hamersley Group of Western Australia: Geology, v. 17, p. 269–272.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  63. STEWART, B.W., BAU, M., and CAPO, R.C., 2002, Neodymium isotope investigation of 2.6 Ga Hamersley Group carbonate, Western Australia: Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta, v. 66, p. A742.Google Scholar
  64. SUMNER, D.Y. and GROTZINGER, J.P., 2004, Implications for Neoarchaean ocean chemistry for primary carbonate mineralogy of the Campbellrand-Malmani Platform, South Africa: Sedimentology, v. 51, p. 1273–1299.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  65. SURDAM, R.C. and WRAY, I.L., 1976, Lacustrine stromatolites, Eocene Green River Formation, Wyoming, in M.R. Walter, ed., Stromatolites. Developments in Sedimentology, v. 20, p. 535–541.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  66. SYMONS, D.T.A., 1975, Huronian glaciation and polar wander from the Gowganda Formation, Ontario: Geology, v. 3, p. 303–306.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  67. TRENDALL, A.F., 1966, Second progress report on the Brockman Iron Formation in the Wittenoom-Yampire area. Geological Survey of Western Australia, Annual Report, v. 1965, p. 75–87.Google Scholar
  68. TRENDALL, A.F., 1973, Varve cycles in the Weeli Wolli Formation of the Precambrian Hamersley Group, Western Australia: Economic Geology, v. 68, p. 1089–1097.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  69. TRENDALL, A.F., 1981, The Lower Proterozoic Meteorite Bore Member, Hamersley Basin, Western Australia, in M.J. Hamnrey and W.B. Harland, eds., Earth’s Pre-Pleistocene Glacial Record. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, p. 555–557.Google Scholar
  70. TRENDALL, A.F., 1983, The Hamersley Basin, in A.F. Trendall and RC. Morris, eds., Iron-Formations: Facts and Problems. Developments in Precambrian Geology, v. 6, p. 69–129.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  71. TRENDALL, A.F., 2002, The significance of iron-formation in the Precambrian stratigraphic record, in W. Altermann and P.L. Corcoran, eds., Precambrian Sedimentary Environments: A Modern Approach to Ancient Depositional Systems. International Association of Sedimentologists Special Publications, v. 33, p. 33–66.Google Scholar
  72. TRENDALL, A.F. and BLOCKLEY, J.G., 1970, The ironformations of the Precambrian Harnersley Group, Western Australia, with special reference to the associated crocidolite: Western Australia Geological Survey Bulletin, v. 119, p. 1–365.Google Scholar
  73. TRENDALL, A.F. and BLOCKLEY, J.G., 2004, Precambrian iron-formation, in P.G. Eriksson, W. Altermann, D.R. Nelson, W.U. Mueller, and O. Catuneanu, eds., The Precambrian Earth. Tempos and Events. Developments in Precamhrian Geology, v. 12, p. 403–421.Google Scholar
  74. WALTER, M.R., 1972, A hot spring analog for the depositional environment of Precambrian iron formations of the Lake Superior region: Economic Geology, v. 67, p. 965–980.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  75. WALTER, M.R., 1976, Gyserites of Ydllowstone National Park: an example of abiogenic “stromatolites”, in MR. Walter, ed., Stromatolites. Developments in Sedimentology, v. 20, p. 87–112.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  76. WEBB, A.D., DICKENS, G.R., and OLIVER, N.H.S., 2003, From banded iron-formation to iron ore: geochemical and mineralogical constraints from across the Hamersley Province, Western Australia: Chemical Geology, v. 197, p: 215-251.Google Scholar
  77. WILLIAMS, G.E. and SCHMIDT, P.W., 1997, Paleomagnetism of the Paleoproterozoic Gowganda and Lorrain formations, Ontario: low paleolatitude for Huronian Alaciation: Earth and Planetary Science Letters, v. 153, p. 157–169.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  78. YOUNG, G.M., 1970, An extensive Early Proterozoic glaciation in North America?: Palaeogography, Palaeoclimatology, Paleoecology, v. 7, p. 85401.Google Scholar
  79. YOUNG, G.M., 1988, Proterozoic plate tectonics, glaciation and iron-formations: Sedimentary Geology, v. 58, p. 127–144.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Northeasten Science Foundation 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Geological Survey of IsraelJerusalemIsrael

Personalised recommendations