Patterns of mineral transformations in clay gouge, with examples from low-angle normal fault rocks in the western USA

TitlePatterns of mineral transformations in clay gouge, with examples from low-angle normal fault rocks in the western USA
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2012
AuthorsHaines SH, van der Pluijm B
JournalJournal of Structural Geology
Date Published10/2012

Neoformed minerals in shallow fault rocks are increasingly recognized as key to the behavior of faults in the elasto-frictional regime, but neither the conditions nor the processes which wall-rock is transformed into clay minerals are well understood. Yet, understanding of these mineral transformations is required to predict the mechanical and seismogenic behavior of faults. We therefore present a systematic study of clay gouge mineralogy from 30 outcrops of 17 low-angle normal faults (LANF's) in the American Cordillera to demonstrate the range and type of clay transformations in natural fault gouges. The sampled faults juxtapose a wide and representative range of wall rock types, including sedimentary, metamorphic and igneous rocks under shallow-crustal conditions. Clay mineral transformations were observed in all but one of 28 faults; one fault contains only mechanically derived clay-rich gouge, which formed entirely by cataclasis.

Clay mineral transformations observed in gouges show four general patterns: 1) growth of authigenic 1Md illite, either by transformation of fragmental 2M1 illite or muscovite, or growth after the dissolution of K-feldspar. Illitization of fragmental illite–smectite is observed in LANF gouges, but is less common than reported from faults with sedimentary wall rocks; 2) ‘retrograde diagenesis’ of an early mechanically derived chlorite-rich gouge to authigenic chlorite–smectite and saponite (Mg-rich tri-octahedral smectite); 3) reaction of mechanically derived chlorite-rich gouges with Mg-rich fluids at low temperatures (50–150 °C) to produce localized lenses of one of two assemblages: sepiolite + saponite + talc + lizardite or palygorskite +/− chlorite +/− quartz; and 4) growth of authigenic di-octahedral smectite from alteration of acidic volcanic wall rocks. These transformation groups are consistent with patterns observed in fault rocks elsewhere. The main controls for the type of neoformed clay in gouge appear to be wall-rock chemistry and fluid chemistry, and temperatures in the range of 60–180 °C.