Diagenetic evolution of Aptian evaporites in the Namibe Basin (south-west Angola)

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Abstract

The widespread and dissected nature of the Angolan gypsiferous salt residuals offers a uniquely detailed view of the lateral and vertical relations inherent to secondary evaporite textures, which typify exhumed salt masses worldwide. Such secondary textures are sometimes misinterpreted as primary evaporite textures. Thin, metre-scale and patchy, dome-like gypsum accumulations are well-exposed within strongly incised present-day river valleys along the eastern margin of the Namibe and Benguela basins (south-west Angola). These sections are time equivalent to the main basinward subsurface evaporites (Aptian Loeme Formation) which mostly consist of halite. The gypsum (here called the Bambata Formation) is interpreted to represent the final residual product of fractional dissolution and recrystallization of the halite mass that occurred during Late Cretaceous margin uplift and continues today. This halite underwent multiple episodes of diagenetic alteration between its deposition and its final exhumation, leading to the formation of various secondary gypsum fabrics and solution-related karst and breccia textures that typify the current evaporite outcrop. Four different diagenetic gypsum fabrics are defined: thinly bedded alabastrine, nodular alabastrine, displacive selenite rosettes and fibrous satin-spar gypsum. Current arid conditions are responsible for a thin weathered crust developed at the top of the outcropping gypsum, but the fabrics in the main core of the current at-surface evaporite unit mostly formed during the telogenetic stage of uplift prior to complete subaerial exposure. Alteration occurred as various dissolving and rehydrating saline minerals encountered shallow aquifers in the active phreatic and vadose zones. Geomorphological and petrographic analyses, mostly based on the cross-cutting relations and crystallographic patterns in the outcrop, are used to propose a sequence of formation of these different fabrics.

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