Petrology and major element geochemistry of Peru margin phosphorites and associated diagenetic minerals: Authigenesis in modern organic-rich sediments

Craig R. Glenn, Michael A. Arthur

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141 Scopus citations


New petrographic and major element geochemical data from modern Peru margin upper slope-outer shelf phosphorites are presented, which provide insight into their origin and paragenetic relationship with other authigenic minerals (glauconite, pyrite and dolomite) occurring in organic-rich sediments. Glauconites are precipitated relatively early following the partial reduction of ferric iron and, following this process, phosphate, pyrite, and then dolomite precipitation take place at progressively deeper levels in the sediment in association with microbial reduction of sulfate. As in many ancient economic phosphorite deposits, the phosphatic facies here consist of nodules, crusts, coatings and strata composed of phosphatic pelletal grains (ooids, structureless grains, intraclasts, clumps and biogenic grains) in association with organic-rich biosiliceous sediments. All are considered to have formed within a few centimeters or within a few tens of centimeters below the sediment-water interface. Important factors that influence which morphology will tend to develop include the amount of available pore space, the presence of suitable nucleation sites, the amount and size of siliciclastic detritus incorporated as inclusions and the relative solution chemistries of the precipitating solutions. Bacterial mediation may play an important, but as yet unspecified role in the precipitation process. Textural data and factor analysis of chemical data suggest that structureless pellets are relatively inclusion-free Na-F-Mg-CO3-substituted pore-water precipitates whereas ooids are inclusion-rich pore-water precipitates poor in lattice-substituted components. Variations in nodular cement birefringence and crystallinity are suggested to have been produced by similar lattice substitutions that directly reflect pore-water carbonate ion concentrations and thus relative degrees of organic-matter degradation. Phosphate and dolomite are intimately mixed, yet mineralogically distinct phases in phosphatized dolomicrites. Depth-stratified threshold carbonate ion concentrations may control the lower limit at which phosphatic minerals may precipitate. Below depths of a few centimeters, excessive carbonate ion concentrations and diminished reactive iron and sulfate concentrations favor the development of dolomite while precluding further development of phosphatic minerals and pyrite. Periodic sediment reorganization (bioturbation, current winnowing and erosion, mass wasting, etc.) plays an important role in both concentrating pelletal grains and maintaining nodules and crusts at critical depth levels in the sediment, as well as mixing ordered mineral parageneses into complicated sequences.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)231-267
Number of pages37
JournalMarine Geology
Issue number3-4
StatePublished - May 1988

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Oceanography
  • Geology
  • Geochemistry and Petrology


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