Mineralogy and geochemistry of clay sediments in pans of the Northern Cape Province, South Africa.
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This thesis reports the results of a mineralogical and geochemical study of pans situated in the Northern Cape Province with special emphasis on the clay minerals. From east to west the depth and size of the pans increase and associated with this increased maturity the abundance of salt (halite and thenardite) and the quantity of green sediment are also enhanced. Chemically the sediments are dominated by SiO2 that also dilutes Fe2O3, K2O, Na2O, Al2O3 and MgO (when associated with dolomite) concentrations. Authigenic calcite, dolomite, analcime and loughlinite (Na-sepiolite) occur in some of the pans to the west and FTIR spectrometry indicates that all the pans host glauconite and/or celadonite. However, smectite, illite/smectite interstratification, kaolinite and/or chlorite and loughlinite only occur in some pans. The glauconite and/or celadonite does not occur as discrete mineral grains, but forms part of the fine-grained matrix common to all of the pans and no evidence of any precursor minerals were observed. The pan environment appears to present a closed, saline setting that is conducive for the direct precipitation of a mica with a chemical composition between that of glauconite and celadonite. The influence of the water-table on the formation of the glauconite and/or celadonite appears to be significant, as the highest abundance of salt is invariably associated with the position in the profile where the sediment appears to reach its most intense green colour. In the case of Koi Pan, the celadonite component of the solid solution seems to increase as the green colour intensifies. Loughlinite in Koi Pan and Brak Pan sediments also appear to be authigenic and it is suggested that it forms after precipitation of low Mg calcite that leads to Mg enrichment of the system and consequent sepiolite formation associated with minor dolomite. Thermoluminescence ages obtained from the Koi Pan sediment range between 37ka and 48ka before present at a depth of ~120cm below the surface, while for Brak Pan, at roughly the same depth, an age of between 110ka and older than 150ka before present was obtained. This may suggest different sedimentation rates in the pans or much younger ages and thus faster formation of glauconite and/or celadonite in Koi Pan since it is suggested that the mineral is authigenic.