The Middleback Ranges is a major iron ore belt in the southeastern region of the Gawler Craton, South Australia, interpreted to be of BIF origin. Iron ore deposits are hosted within similar to 2550 Ma metasedimentary rocks of the Middleback Group and occur as a series of N-S trending hills, forming a similar to 60 km-long magnetic anomaly. A petrographic-geochemical study of iron-oxides from BIFs and iron ores was undertaken on samples from thirteen locations spanning the strike of the belt. Iron-oxides are texturally diverse due to multiple processes accompanying and postdating ore formation. Primary magnetite features preserved in the southern segment of the belt display distinct overprinting features (e.g., increased porosity, reworked grain boundaries) and multiple generations of growth associated with deposition of trace minerals, including native gold. Northwards along strike, this overprint is expressed by the pseudomorphic replacement of magnetite by hematite (martite) and is locally associated with brecciation, the presence of rare earth element (REE)-minerals, and replacement by iron-hydroxides. Whereas evidence of microplaty hematite accompanying martitization and predating iron-hydroxides is observed throughout the belt, distinct iron-oxide generations postdating the iron-hydroxides are inferred based on compositional zoning with respect to Si and intimate relationships between iron-oxides and-hydroxides. Chondrite-normalized fractionation trends obtained from the various iron-oxides and from different BIF types generally display LREE-enrichment and distinct positive Eu- and Y-anomalies. An increasing Sigma REY- and LREE-trend accompanies martitization. The presence of specific element groups, e.g., granitophile elements (U, W, Sn, Mo), or transition metals (Cr, Mn, Co, Ni, Ti, V, Nb) within the lattice of iron-oxides suggests their formation in evolving environments associated with the emplacement of felsic and mafic lithologies, respectively. The impact of local setting on iron-oxide formation is highlighted by complex trace element signatures of iron-oxides; the northern segment of the belt is relatively enriched in As and Sb, while the southern segment is enriched in granitophile elements and REY. Further complexity is shown in the local variation of Mn and Zn in iron-oxides in the southern segment of the belt, where the Iron Magnet deposit shows the strongest correlation between the two elements. Various depositional settings for BIFs are inferred based upon Post-Archean Australian Shale-normalized REY fractionation trends of iron-oxides and various water types. These settings include environments where iron-minerals precipitate from mixtures of 1) anoxic seawater and high-temperature hydrothermal fluids, 2) anoxic seawater and low-temperature hydrothermal fluids, and 3) oxygen-richer seawater and low-temperature hydrothermal fluids. A genetic model for ore formation is proposed based upon textural and compositional variations observed in iron-oxides throughout the belt and includes formation resulting from supergene fluids rich in elements leached from local granites penetrating BIF, interaction with granite-derived hydrothermal fluids, and heat generated during emplacement of younger dikes. Recognition of petrographic features linked to changes in composition demonstrates the utility of iron-oxides to trace iron ore formation in a temporal and spatial context, with implications for ore genesis and models of mineral exploration.
Middleback Ranges;Banded iron formation;Fe-oxides;Trace element geochemistry;Hydrothermal overprinting;