Skip to main content
Geosciences LibreTexts

8.6.4: Metamorphosed Iron Formations

  • Page ID
    18625
  • \( \newcommand{\vecs}[1]{\overset { \scriptstyle \rightharpoonup} {\mathbf{#1}} } \)

    \( \newcommand{\vecd}[1]{\overset{-\!-\!\rightharpoonup}{\vphantom{a}\smash {#1}}} \)

    \( \newcommand{\id}{\mathrm{id}}\) \( \newcommand{\Span}{\mathrm{span}}\)

    ( \newcommand{\kernel}{\mathrm{null}\,}\) \( \newcommand{\range}{\mathrm{range}\,}\)

    \( \newcommand{\RealPart}{\mathrm{Re}}\) \( \newcommand{\ImaginaryPart}{\mathrm{Im}}\)

    \( \newcommand{\Argument}{\mathrm{Arg}}\) \( \newcommand{\norm}[1]{\| #1 \|}\)

    \( \newcommand{\inner}[2]{\langle #1, #2 \rangle}\)

    \( \newcommand{\Span}{\mathrm{span}}\)

    \( \newcommand{\id}{\mathrm{id}}\)

    \( \newcommand{\Span}{\mathrm{span}}\)

    \( \newcommand{\kernel}{\mathrm{null}\,}\)

    \( \newcommand{\range}{\mathrm{range}\,}\)

    \( \newcommand{\RealPart}{\mathrm{Re}}\)

    \( \newcommand{\ImaginaryPart}{\mathrm{Im}}\)

    \( \newcommand{\Argument}{\mathrm{Arg}}\)

    \( \newcommand{\norm}[1]{\| #1 \|}\)

    \( \newcommand{\inner}[2]{\langle #1, #2 \rangle}\)

    \( \newcommand{\Span}{\mathrm{span}}\) \( \newcommand{\AA}{\unicode[.8,0]{x212B}}\)

    \( \newcommand{\vectorA}[1]{\vec{#1}}      % arrow\)

    \( \newcommand{\vectorAt}[1]{\vec{\text{#1}}}      % arrow\)

    \( \newcommand{\vectorB}[1]{\overset { \scriptstyle \rightharpoonup} {\mathbf{#1}} } \)

    \( \newcommand{\vectorC}[1]{\textbf{#1}} \)

    \( \newcommand{\vectorD}[1]{\overrightarrow{#1}} \)

    \( \newcommand{\vectorDt}[1]{\overrightarrow{\text{#1}}} \)

    \( \newcommand{\vectE}[1]{\overset{-\!-\!\rightharpoonup}{\vphantom{a}\smash{\mathbf {#1}}}} \)

    \( \newcommand{\vecs}[1]{\overset { \scriptstyle \rightharpoonup} {\mathbf{#1}} } \)

    \( \newcommand{\vecd}[1]{\overset{-\!-\!\rightharpoonup}{\vphantom{a}\smash {#1}}} \)

    8.57.jpg
    Figure 8.57: Banded iron formation from Dales Gorge, Western Australia

    Ironstone is a general name we give to sedimentary rocks that contain more than 15% iron. These rocks may contain iron hydroxides (limonite), oxides (magnetite and hematite), carbonates (siderite), or silicates (chamosite, Fe-rich chlorite). They generally have a uniform, nonfoliated texture.

    Iron formations are similar to ironstones but are mainly Precambrian (ironstones are Phanerozoic). Iron formations generally contain abundant chert and are often well banded with bands ranging from centimeters to meters thick. The bands consist of alternating iron- and chert-rich layers. Figure 8.57 photo shows an example of iron formation from western Australia.

    When ironstones and iron formations are metamorphosed, they quickly lose any original hydrous minerals. But any of the other original minerals may persist. At the lowest grades of metamorphism, magnetite and hematite most commonly dominate. If the original rock was rich in carbonate, siderite (Fe-carbonate) will be present. And sometimes pyrite is present as well. At higher grades, greenalite, minnesotaite, and glauconite (all iron silicates) may form. At still higher grades, metamorphism may produce actinolite, grunerite, hedenbergite, or fayalite. The table below summarizes these relationships.

    Common Minerals in Metamorphosed Iron Formations
    low grade high grade
    quartz
    SiO2
    pyrite
    FeS2
    actinolite
    Ca2(Fe,Mg)5Si8O22(OH)2
    hematite
    Fe2O3
    greenalite
    Fe2-3Si2O5OH4
    grunerite
    Fe7Si8O22(OH)2
    magnetite
    Fe3O4
    minnesotaite
    Fe3Si4O10(OH)2
    hedenbergite
    CaFeSi2O6
    siderite
    FeCO3
    glauconite
    (K,Na)(Fe,Al,Mg)2(Si,Al)4O10(OH)2
    fayalite
    Fe2SiO4

    The photos below show minerals common in metamorphosed iron formations. The hematite shown in Figure 8.58 is specular hematite (more common hematite has a red earthy color). Actinolite, seen in Figure 8.59, is a calcium-iron amphibole. Grunerite (Figure 8.60) is an iron amphibole. Greenalite (Figure 8.61) is an iron-rich variety of serpentine. Siderite (the brown mineral in Figure 8.62) is an iron carbonate, and pyrite (Figure 8.63) is iron sulfide. The pyrite in Figure 8.63 is somewhat tarnished.

    8.58.png
    Figure 8.58: Hematite from near Marquette, Michigan
    8.59.png
    Figure 8.59: Actinolite, northern Wisconsin
    8.60.png
    Figure 8.60: Grunerite from near Marquette Michigan. 7 cm across
    8.61.png
    Figure 8.61: Greenalite
    8.62.png
    Figure 8.62: Siderite with calcite from near Roxbury, Connecticut. Photo is about 15 cm across
    8.63.png
    Figure 8.63: Centimeter – sized pyrite crystals in metamorphosed iron formation near Marquette, Michigan

    This page titled 8.6.4: Metamorphosed Iron Formations is shared under a CC BY-NC-SA 4.0 license and was authored, remixed, and/or curated by Dexter Perkins via source content that was edited to the style and standards of the LibreTexts platform; a detailed edit history is available upon request.