Micro-scale Complexity in Iron-Sulfide Phases in Precambrian Sedimentary Rocks Determined by Synchrotron Microprobe Spectroscopy

Monday, 15 December 2014: 2:19 PM
Samuel Webb1, Jena E Johnson2, Sarah P Slotznick2, Courtney Roach1 and Woodward W Fischer3, (1)SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory, Menlo Park, CA, United States, (2)California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, CA, United States, (3)Caltech, Pasadena, CA, United States
The record of sedimentary pyrite forms the foundation for most isotope records working to define the coupled evolution and behavior of the ancient iron and sulfur cycles. In order to assess the strengths and limitations of records derived from pyrite-rich rocks (e.g. iron speciation, sulfur isotope ratios), we need to understand more about the processes that form and alter sedimentary pyrite.

From samples of the Archean/early Proterozoic Transvaal and middle Proterozoic Belt Supergroups, petrography reveals that what might operationally be called sedimentary pyrite has complex textures that hint at a rich process history of sulfur mineralization. A common limitation of virtually all proxy measurements employed to date is that they operate on ‘bulk’ samples, typically gram-sized or larger pieces. As such, they lose the ability to relate geochemistry to petrography at the scale of mineral grains. Many of the sedimentary pyrites in the Transvaal Supergroup exhibit complex redox and electronic structures of S and Fe, with crystals of pyrite, pyrrhotite, and sulfate-bearing minerals throughout.

Parallel application of multiple techniques on the same samples across micron bases spatial scales, provide an opportunity to diagnose issues resulting from post-depositional alteration of sedimentary rocks. We have integrated light and electron microscopy for petrography, electron microprobe and synchrotron XRF for elemental composition, synchrotron X-ray spectroscopy for redox and chemical state, and secondary ion mass spectrometry (SIMS) for isotopic composition. The coupling of these tools allows in essence “images” of the proxy data at the micrometer scale, giving a wide array of textural and mineralogical information designed to inform and untangle the complicated histories of these early Precambrian rocks.