Chemical mobilizations in laterites: Evidence from trace elements and 238U-234U-230Th disequilibria

O. Dequincey*, F. Chabaux, N. Clauer, O. Sigmarsson, N. Liewig, J. C. Leprun

*Corresponding author for this work

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126 Citations (Scopus)


Geochemical and mineralogical investigations, including measurements of major and trace elements, Sr isotope ratios, and 238U-234U-230Th activity ratios, were made on an old African laterite to reconstruct its formation steps and assess recent chemical mobilization. The present data support a scenario of discontinous formation for the laterite, with different bedrock weathering conditions during the formation of each unit, rather than a scenario of continous formation. Absolute accumulation of Fe, U, and lanthanides in the uppermost ferruginous unit suggest an autochthonous origin of this iron cap by leaching of an older overlying profile. Present chemical distributions of lanthanides, as well as of Rb, K, Ba, and Sr, within the profile cannot be linked to the mineralogical distribution of both relictual primary and authigenic secondary phases. Complementary lanthanide patterns indicate that these elements were primarily accumulated in the uppermost ferruginous unit before further remobilization and accumulation in the underlying horizons. These redistribution processes may be related to the chemical instability of the ferruginous cap. The 238U-234U-230Th disequilibria indicate that recent U mobilization occurs in the whole profile and that, as for lanthanides, there is a vertical redistribution of U from the uppermost ferruginous unit to the underlying horizons. Moreover, these data show that both U losses and gains exist at each level of the profile. A simple modeling of this double U mobilization process is proposed to interpret the 238U-234U-230Th data. Differences in the mobilization and fractionation intensities of the U input and removal processes can account for the two evolution trends, which distinguish the ferruginous unit from the underlying ones. Furthermore, on the basis of this modeling, the profile appears to be in a transient state because of recent changes in the U mobilization conditions, which could correspond to major Pleistocene climatic variations.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1197-1210
Number of pages14
JournalGeochimica et Cosmochimica Acta
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - 2002

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was supported by the GDR Métallogénie (CNRS/BRGM) scientific program. It benefited from contacts with N. Arndt (LGCA-Grenoble) and P. Freyssinet (BRGM) and from fruitful discussions with H. Paquet and C. Roquin. The paper also benefited from the constructive comments of three anonymous reviewers and of the associate editor, Dr. K. Kyser. B. Kiefel, J. Samuel, R. Rouault, P. Larque, P. Karcher, and G. Morvan are thanked for technical assistance. Dr. M. Andrews is thanked for his English corrections of a previous version.


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