Trace element mobility in dolomitic argillites of the Mesoproterozoic Belt-Purcell Supergroup, Western North America

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The Belt-Purcell Supergroup comprises dolomite-rich stratigraphic units in a dominantly siliciclastic succession, where sedimentation spans 1400-1470. Ma. Dolomitic units are variable mixtures of co-sedimented argillite and primary carbonate post-depositionally converted to secondary dolomite. Based on rare earth element (REE) relationships three distinct REE patterns are identified in the dolomite-rich units: Type 1 (T1d; d = dolomitic sample) with REE patterns parallel to post-Archean Upper Continental Crust (PA-UCC), albeit at lower absolute abundances due to dilution by carbonate content; Type 2 (T2d) with Heavy REE (HREE) enrichment but Light REE (LREE) depletion relative to T1d; and Type 3 (T3d) with enrichment in LREE and HREE relative to T1d, but erratic Middle REE (MREE) patterns. There is a progressive increase of ΣREE from T1d through T2d to T3d, whereas for ΣLREE/ΣHREE T2d < T1d < T3d. T1d-T2d and T3d represent three different " snapshots" of a continuous process. In terms of timing, dolomitization of calcite primary sediment in all samples likely took place broadly during burial diagenesis, as inferred for most Proterozoic dolomites. T1d is easily explained by provenance: however, T2d and T3d cannot be related to provenance, weathering or sedimentary sorting processes to explain higher concentrations of HREE referenced to PA-UCC and consequently developed in the sediment from a T1d precursor. The same three REE signatures have been described in previous studies in counterpart siliciclastic counterparts throughout the Belt-Purcell Supergroup at three different locations. Mobility of normally stable REE is accompanied by mobility of normally isochemical high field strength elements (HFSE) in T2d and T3d to give REE/REE, HFSE/HFSE, REE/HFSE and Y/HREE fractionations. No specific REE-HFSE signatures are apparent in the carbonate-rich units as compared to their non-dolomitic siliciclastic counterparts. This unusual mobility of REE and HFSE reflected in T2d and T3d is attributed to alkaline oxidizing post-depositional brines. Salinity was derived from seawater-sediment reactions, dissolution of evaporite minerals, and the smectite-illite transformation, whereas alkaline oxidizing conditions were promoted by groundwater interaction with mafic units in the basin, CO2 introduced into the system during episodic rifting with mantle degassing, and interaction of syn-sedimentary mafic intrusions with carbonate units at early stages of BPS deposition. Intermittent brine activity, inducing T2d and T3d patterns, spanned >1Ga as recorded by secondary monazite grains with age distributions that correspond to large scale tectono-thermal events in Laurentia.Post-depositional processes and redistribution of carbonate can have an impact on transitional stratigraphic contacts between dolomitic and siliciclastic units which may have been incorrectly described as primary due to sedimentary environment changes.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1733-1756
Number of pages24
JournalGeochimica et Cosmochimica Acta
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2011
Externally publishedYes


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