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54047 | Non-Metalliferous Deposits | Friday

201310648 December 15, 2017

Banded Iron Formations (BIFs) and Associated Sediments Do Not Reflect the Physical and
Chemical Properties of Early Precambrian Seas
By Zeev Lewy

Summary:

Banded Iron Formations, or BIFs, refer to sedimentary rocks that are composed of chert
layers interbedded with iron minerals containing chert. Because its iron-rich layers have been
recorded to contain anomalously high total iron content ranging from 25% - 35%, these formations
are considered to be representative of the world’s most important iron ore reservoir. Aside from
its composition, another distinctive aspect of BIFs is its age and origin. BIFs were found to have
formed exclusively during the Precambrian era reinforced by the fact that no BIF has formed or is
forming at present. Because of its highly constrained age and origin, BIFs are considered to be
important factors in the reconstruction of the conditions during the early years of the Earth. This
is especially true for early Precambrian seas reconstruction studies as it is believed that BIFs reflect
the chemical and physical properties of the Archaean-Paleoproterozoic oceans. The general
consensus is that such formations formed in deep ocean waters either by the mixing of ferrous iron
bearing sea-water or mud with shallow marine silica-rich waters, by photochemical-related ferrous
iron oxidation, or by photosynthetic process related to oxygenic cyanobacteria. However, as
concluded in this paper, the Australian Early Precambrian BIF did not result from such. It is further
concluded that its depositional setting is actually non-marine and is restricted to Polar regions.

Supporting this conclusion is the presence of lithified ring-in-ring structures that were
found on a bedding surface of the Dales Gorge Member BIF. Because such structure forms only
in the surface, this contradicts the belief that BIFs form in deep ocean depositional setting. The
remarkably uniform characteristic observed over the extensive varves cannot possibly be the result
of mixing of ferrous iron bearing sea-water or mud with shallow marine silica-rich waters. This,
along with the delicate mineralogical features of the BIF supports the argument that it formed in
the polar regions of the Earth. The evaporites associated with the BIFs, along with the ring-in-ring
structures, contradicts the deep ocean formation assumption as these implies that they accumulated
in restricted basins under intensive evaporation. Granular-iron formation was also noted in the
stratigraphy of the South African BIF which implies periods of high-energy flow. All these
suggests BIF formation is warm hydrothermal shallow lakes on plates shifting through polar
regions.

Because these findings present a non-marine BIF deposition, it suggests that BIFs and its
associated sediment does not reflect the chemical and physical properties of the early Precambrian
Seas. It is even further suggested that the seas may not have existed as their Phanerozoic
configuration during the early, early years of the Earth.