Geochemistry of Precambrian Carbonates: II. Archean Greenstone Belts and Archean Sea Water

Geochim Cosmochim Acta. 1989;53:859-71. doi: 10.1016/0016-7037(89)90031-8.


Carbonate rocks with geological attributes of marine sediments are a minor component of the Archean greenstone belts. Despite their relative scarcity, these rocks are important because they record chemical and isotopic properties of coeval oceans. The greenstones containing such carbonates appear to cluster at approximately 2.8 +/- 0.2 and approximately 3.5 +/- 0.1 Ga ago. The samples for the younger group are from the Abitibi, Yellowknife, Wabigoon (Steep Rock Lake), Michipicoten and Uchi greenstone belts of Canada and the "Upper Greenstones" of Zimbabwe. The older group includes the Swaziland Supergroup of South Africa, Warrawoona Group of Australia and the Sargur marbles of India. Mineralogically, the carbonates of the younger greenstones are mostly limestones and of the older ones, ferroan dolomites (ankerites); the latter with some affinities to hydrothermal carbonates. In mineralized areas with iron ores, the carbonate minerals are siderite +/- ankerite, irrespective of the age of the greenstones. Iron-poor dolomites represent a later phase of carbonate generation, related to post-depositional tectonic faulting. The original mineralogy of limestone sequences appears to have been an Sr-rich aragonite. The Archean carbonates yield near-mantle Sr isotopic values, with (87Sr/86Sr)o of 0.7025 +/- 0.0015 and 0.7031 +/- 0.0008 for younger and older greenstones, respectively. The best preserved samples give delta 13C of +1.5 +/- 1.5% PDB, comparable to their Phanerozoic counterparts. In contrast, the best estimate for delta 18O is -7% PDB. Archean limestones, compared to Phanerozoic examples, are enriched in 16O as well as in Mn2+ and Fe2+, and these differences are not a consequence of post-depositional alteration phenomena. The mineralogical and chemical attributes of Archean carbonates (hence sea water) are consistent with the proposition that the composition of the coeval oceans may have been buffered by a pervasive interaction with the "mantle", that is, with the oceanic crust and the coeval ubiquitous volcanosedimentary piles derived from mantle sources.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Australia
  • Calcium Carbonate / analysis
  • Calcium Carbonate / chemistry
  • Canada
  • Carbon Isotopes
  • Carbonates / analysis
  • Carbonates / chemistry*
  • Earth, Planet
  • Eswatini
  • Evolution, Planetary*
  • Geologic Sediments / chemistry*
  • India
  • Iron / analysis
  • Iron / chemistry
  • Magnesium
  • Manganese / analysis
  • Manganese / chemistry
  • Oxygen Isotopes
  • Seawater / chemistry*
  • Strontium Isotopes
  • Zimbabwe


  • Carbon Isotopes
  • Carbonates
  • Oxygen Isotopes
  • Strontium Isotopes
  • Manganese
  • Iron
  • Calcium Carbonate
  • Magnesium
  • calcium magnesium carbonate