Chemical and mineralogical characterisation of illite-smectite: Implications for episodic tectonism and associated fluid flow, central Australia

Middleton A. W., Uysal I. T., Golding S. D.

GEOCHIMICA ET COSMOCHIMICA ACTA, vol.148, pp.284-303, 2015 (SCI-Expanded) identifier identifier

  • Publication Type: Article / Article
  • Volume: 148
  • Publication Date: 2015
  • Doi Number: 10.1016/j.gca.2014.09.035
  • Journal Indexes: Science Citation Index Expanded (SCI-EXPANDED), Scopus
  • Page Numbers: pp.284-303
  • Hacettepe University Affiliated: No


The Warburton-Cooper-Eromanga basins of central-eastern Australia contain a number of reactivated fracture-fault networks that relate to a complex and poorly understood thermal and tectonic evolution. Authigenic illite was sampled from two prominent features of the Warburton-Cooper basins: the Gidgealpa-Merrimelia-Innamincka Ridge, composed of anticlinal imbricate thrust fault blocks, and the synclinal Nappamerri Trough. These sample sets were investigated using a combination of clay mineralogical, trace element and stable isotope analyses to deduce the palaeofluid chemistry associated with past tectonothermal perturbations. The Nappamerri Trough hosts the highly radiogenic Big Lake Suite granite and part of one of Australia's larger on-shore oil and gas reserves. Calculated fluid stable isotope values from the trough, in conjunction with calculated palaeotemperatures, indicate an influx of evolved high-latitudinal meteoric waters under an extremely high geothermal gradient (similar to 100 degrees C km(-1)) and high water/rock ratios consistent with an extensional environment. Such high water/rock ratios resulted in intense alteration of the granite during which it underwent substantial enrichment in the heat-producing elements (HPE), particularly Th. This hydrothermal system is interpreted to result from continent-wide transmission of tensional stress originating from episodic rifting of the eastern Australian margin in the mid Cretaceous, as dated by Sm-Nd, Rb-Sr and Ar-Ar. The Gidgealpa-Merrimelia-Innamincka Ridge, by contrast, is marked by a lower, but still elevated, palaeogeothermal gradient (similar to 42 degrees C km(-1)) and calculated fluid isotopic values compatible with evolved basinal fluids of meteoric origin under low water/rock ratio conditions. Distinct trace element compositions of residue and leachate aliquots further indicate two periods of fluid flow with unique chemical compositions. In light of previous geochronology, these events are interpreted as westward extensions of widespread crustal tensional stress that affected much of central and eastern Queensland in the Carboniferous and Late Triassic.