Mineralogy and parental brine evolution in the Pedro de Valdivia nitrate deposit, Antofagasta,Chile.

Juan J. Pueyo, Guillermo Chong, Marta Vega


The Chilean nitrate deposits have been formed by a complex paragenesis of saline minerals that infill the porosity and open spaces of different country rocks. The study of the mineral infilling sequences in the rock porosities at the Pedro de Valdivia deposit has enabled to gain information about the evolution of the parental brines of the saline (nitrate bearing) paragenesis. This evolution is revealed by the precipitation of a sequence of progressively more soluble minerals: silicates (zeolites); calcite; Ca-, Na-, (K-) and Mg-sulphates; Na- and KMg-nitrate-sulphates; nitratine; and small amounts of iodates, Na- and KMg-iodate-sulphates, chromates, borates and perchlorates. Two specific trends have been distinguished in the general sequence. A Na- trend characterised by the association glauberite-darapskite-(hectorfloresite), and a K-Mg-Na- trend related to bloedite-polyhalite-humberstonite-niter-(fuenzalidaite). Parental brines of the deposit were Oligocene-Miocene (but older that 6 Ma) the age of the mineralisation. The main physiographic features were similar to the recent ones in this period, the climate being more humid. The genesis of the parental brines of the Chilean nitrate deposits is assumed to include thermal processes and recycling by leaching of previous salts formed in the arid environment of the Atacama Desert. Evaporation has also been involved in their genesis. It is the only mechanism effective enough to saturate the brines in very soluble minerals. Nevertheless, the nitrate ores cannot be considered as true evaporites owing to their arrangement infilling veins (and porosities) and the almost complete absence of displacive growths (as nodules or enterolithes) and other typical structures of evaporites.

How to cite this article Pueyo, J.; Chong, G.; Vega, M. 1998, Mineralogy and parental brine evolution in the Pedro de Valdivia nitrate deposit, Antofagasta,Chile.. Revista Geológica de Chile 25 (1) : 3-15. .