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Mineralogical and sulphur isotopic evidence for the influence of sulphatereducing and -disproportionating bacteria on pyrite and marcasite formation in the Georgia kaolins

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The Georgia, USA, kaolins contain three major occurrences of Fe-sulphide minerals, namely (1) in burrow structures, (2) as nodules associated with lignite and (3) as finely disseminated material. We have used sulphur isotope analysis and X-ray powder diffraction to understand these three occurrences in order to gain insight into the diagenetic conditions and microbial influences affecting the kaolin mineralogy. Burrows and nodules are dominated by corroded marcasite with thin pyrite overgrowths. The δ34S composition of each sulphide sample has internal fractionations (δ34Shigh – δ34Slow) ranging from 22‰ to 67‰. The secondary pyrite phase tends to be the most 34S depleted, with a low δ34S value of –47‰, whereas marcasite displays a δ34S range from 30‰ to +33‰. Early acidic environments from organic acids could have facilitated the initial marcasite crystallization, with a pH increase during later diagenesis producing pyrite overgrowths. Sulphide formation would have continued until burial restricted the diffusion of sea-water sulphate. At this point, the metabolism of sulphate-reducing bacteria would have been retarded, producing δ34S values ranging from –30‰ (open sulphate supply) to +40‰ (highly restricted sulphate supply). Under the nutrient-starved conditions of later-diagenesis, disproportionate sulphur-reducing bacteria would likely have become more dominant, yielding additional δ34Ssulphide fractionation and producing the observed fractionation (δ34Ssulphate – δ34Ssulphide) values of +67‰.
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Keywords: BURROWS; DISPROPORTIONATE; GEORGIA; KAOLIN; LIGNITE; MARCASITE; MICROORGANISMS; PYRITE; SULPHIDE; SULPHUR ISOTOPES

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 2012-12-01

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