A combined sedimentological-mineralogical study of sediment-hosted gold and uranium mineralization at Denny Dalton, Pongola Supergroup, South Africa.
The ~2.98 - 2.87 Ga Pongola Supergroup in South Africa is subdivided into the lower volcano-sedimentary Nsuze Group, and the upper sedimentary Mozaan Group, the latter comprising a several kilometres thick succession of fluvial to shallow marine sandstones and shales. Thin beds of gold and uranium-bearing conglomerates are locally present in the Mandeva Formation near the base of the Mozaan Group and have been mined at Denny Dalton in northern KwaZulu-Natal. The style of mineralization strongly resembles that of the Witwatersrand goldfields, however appears to be of low grade and limited tonnage. The ~1 m thick basal conglomerate, the “Mozaan Contact Reef” (MCR, herein referred to as CG 1), at Denny Dalton hosts erratic gold and uranium mineralization. The conglomerate is laterally discontinuous and occupies east-northeast trending scour channels. Polymict, matrix-supported conglomerates are common, while clast-supported conglomerates are rare. Well rounded, pebble to cobble-sized clasts of vein quartz and chert are hosted in a sandy matrix of quartz, pyrite and sericite. Where mineralized, the CG 1 hosts abundant rounded pyrite grains, interpreted as detrital in origin, with subordinate U-bearing minerals, such as brannerite and uraniferous leucoxene. Rounded detrital pyrite occurs in three phases, compact, porous and radial. Gold forms inclusions within massive pyrite grains, which are concentrated in shoots associated with the basal parts of the channel scours. SEM-EDX results, as well as the high reflectivity of the gold show a high Ag content, indicative of a primary origin for the gold within the pyrite grains. Uranium within CG 1 is hosted primarily as secondary inclusions of uranium within black chert pebbles within the basal cobble-sized regions of the conglomerate. Geochemical comparison of the chert pebbles at Denny Dalton with similar chert from the Nondweni Greenstone Belt indicates that the uranium is secondary in origin as no U anomalies occur in the Nondweni chert. Geochemical and SEM analysis of the uppermost conglomerate (CG 4) indicate the presence of uraninite and coffinite within the uppermost horizon as both fillings of voids within, and coatings on, detrital pyrite grains. Palaeocurrent data indicate a likely source terrain for the detrital material to the west of the inlier. This orientation, as well as differing mineralogical and sedimentological aspects between the Mandeva Formation and the correlative Sinqeni Formation within the main Pongola basin, indicate a separate and more proximal provenance for the auriferous conglomerates of the White Umfolozi Inlier. The Mandeva Formation is a fluvial to shallow marine sequence that has been affected by cyclic sea-level changes. The basal conglomerates of the Denny Dalton Member were deposited in a proximal braided alluvial plain environment. The conglomerates fine upwards into trough cross-bedded quartz arenites which appear to have been deposited as shallow marine sands in a shoreface environment. They are overlain with a sharp contact by a laterally extensive unit of polymictic conglomerate which represents a transgressive ravinement surface within the wave zone and marks the onset of a major marine transgression into the Pongola basin. The conglomerate is overlain by massive grits and coarse-grained quartz arenite. This unit is overlain with a sharp and locally sheared contact by shales and subordinate banded iron formation which can be traced into other parts of the Pongola basin and indicates continued rapid transgression onto large parts of the Kaapvaal Craton with deeper marine, sub-storm wave base sediments being deposited in quiet-water environments on a sediment-starved shelf. The heavy mineral assemblage as well as bulk geochemical data is consistent with a granitoid-greenstone source terrain for the conglomerates and sandstones. The geochemical composition of chert pebbles from the CG 1 is similar to the composition of cherts present in the Nondweni Greenstone Belt that is situated ~30 km west of the White Umfolozi Inlier. Multiple sulphur isotope (ä34S, ä33S) values for detrital pyrite from the MCR are consistent with an origin from mantle-like rocks, such as hydrothermal sulphide-quartz veins in a granitoid-greenstone setting. Palaeocurrent, mineralogical and geochemical data all point to a likely granitoid-greenstone provenance to the west of the White Umfolozi Inlier.