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Dirty goethite – a geochemical characterisation of some western Robe River channel iron deposits


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Author E Beattie, C Placzek and K Blake


Channel iron deposits (CID) consist of ferruginous chemical sediments, and are an unusual subset of Phanerozoic ooidal ironstone deposits almost unique to the Pilbara, where they constitute around 19 per cent of the Pilbara’s iron ore exports. These deposits occupy many of the ancestral river channels of the Pilbara region, especially the Robe River palaeochannels, incising and meandering through the Precambrian banded iron formations (BIF) of the Hamersley Group and the underlying Fortescue Volcanics.

This paper explores the factors underlying geochemical variation in CID, particularly the chemical properties of goethite. The selected deposits in the western Robe palaeochannel and its tributaries show little or no secondary reworking by later water tables. There is a total absence of aluminosilicate clays with all the deleterious elements such as aluminium and silica. Instead, these are associated with the goethite mineral lattice, either within or adsorbed to the cortices of pelletoids.

A thickly vegetated environment, and the presence of the Maddina Volcanics as potential source rocks for these western Robe CID is offered as an explanation for relatively high aluminium in the deposits studied, and, in turn, as the reason most parts of the palaeochannel are preserved as inverted topography.


Beattie, E, Placzek, C and Blake, K, 2017. Dirty goethite – a geochemical characterisation of some western Robe River channel iron deposits, in Proceedings Iron Ore 2017, pp 489–502 (The Australasian Institute of Mining and Metallurgy: Melbourne).