Formation age and geodynamic setting of the Neoproterozoic Shalong iron formation in the Central Tianshan, NW China: Constraints from zircon U–Pb dating, geochemistry, and Hf–Nd isotopes of the host rocks

Abstract

The recently discovered Shalong iron deposit in the Central Tianshan with a reserve of 14 Mt of iron at 25–30 wt.% Fe shows the typical iron formation geological characteristics: The host rocks are mainly metamorphosed volcanic rocks including quartz hornblende schist, mica quartz schist, and plagioclase amphibolite; the iron orebodies are stratiform and bedded, indicative of strata-controlled deposits; metallic minerals are dominated by magnetite with haematite and ilmenite in minor quantities, whereas gangue minerals are quartz, amphibole, chloritoid, and plagioclase; and ore textures are banded and laminated. Here, we present LA-ICP-MS zircon U–Pb ages, whole-rock geochemistry, Sm–Nd isotope, and zircon Lu–Hf isotope analyses on the host rocks in order to constrain the timing and geodynamic setting of the deposit. The geochemical characteristics, Sm–Nd isotope, and zircon Lu–Hf isotope compositions of the host rocks indicate that their protoliths were likely basic and felsic volcanic rocks. The bimodal kind rock types, the juvenile Nd–Hf isotopic characters, and the within-plate trace element geochemical features of the host rocks together indicate that these rocks formed in a rift-like extensional setting. Zircon U–Pb dating of the host rock interlayer suggests that the Shalong iron formation was formed in the Neoproterozoic (ca. 760 Ma). Combined with geological characteristics, close association with meta-volcanic rocks, absence of glacial deposits, and within-plate geochemical and juvenile isotopic signatures of the host rocks, the Shalong iron deposit is interpreted to be an Algoma-type Neoproterozoic iron formation. The formation of this deposit can be linked to rift-like volcanic activities related to the breakup of the Rodinia supercontinent. Our results in conjunction with previous studies suggest that the Central Tianshan should be related to the breakup of Rodinia, as indicated by the Neoproterozoic rift-related igneous events of the Central Tianshan.

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