Rare earth element variations in mid-Archean banded iron formations: Implications for the chemistry of ocean and continent and plate tectonics

Yasuhiro Kato, Izumi Ohta, Tomoki Tsunematsu, Yoshio Watanabe, Yukio Isozaki, Shigenori Maruyama, Noboru Imai

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149 Citations (Scopus)


Abundances of major and rare earth elements (REEs) are reported for mid-Archean (3.3-3.2 Gyr) sedimentary rocks including banded iron formations (BIFs) and ferruginous/siliceous mudstone from the Cleaverville area in the Pilbara craton, Western Australia. Geological, lithological, and geochemical lines of evidence indicate that these sedimentary rocks preserve a continuous record of depositional environments, ranging from that typical of mid-oceanic spreading centers to convergent plate boundary settings; a range of environments most likely caused by plate movements. Except for the mudstone, the REE content of these sedimentary rocks changes gradually from the lower to upper stratigraphic horizons. Europium anomalies decrease up-section (Eu/Eu* values normalized to NASC change from 3.5 to 1.1) as the REE contents and LREE/HREE ratios increase. The striking similarity in these REE signatures of BIFs and modern hydrothermal sediments leads us to propose that the BIFs were in situ hydrothermal precipitates near a mid-ocean ridge. Significant amounts of terrigenous materials contributed to the siliceous and ferruginous mudstone of the uppermost horizon. The observation that the source of the sediments shifted from proximal hydrothermal through distal hydrothermal to terrigenous suggests that plate tectonics, dominated by horizontal movement, was already operating in the mid-Archean. Distal hydrothermal sediments without a Eu anomaly (when normalized to NASC) suggest that mid-Archean seawater had already been strongly influenced by a riverine flux from an upper continental crust and that this component bore no Eu anomaly (i.e, it had a negative Eu anomaly when normalized to chondrite). In addition to an absence of a Eu anomaly, mid-Archean seawater did not have a Ce anomaly, suggesting less oxic conditions in the mid-Archean than in the modern ocean.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3475-3497
Number of pages23
JournalGeochimica et Cosmochimica Acta
Issue number21-22
Publication statusPublished - Nov 1998
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geochemistry and Petrology


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