A stable-isotope study of lateritic bauxites

Michael I. Bird*, Allan R. Chivas, Anita S. Andrew

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

31 Citations (Scopus)


Stable-isotope analyses of gibbsitic samples from a number of lateritic bauxites suggest that the accepted oxygen- and hydrogen-isotope fractionation factors for the mineral at surficial temperatures are incorrect. A new αox of 1.0143 ± 0.002 and αhy of 0.998 ± 0.015 is proposed for gibbsite, and, in addition, an αox of 1.0175 ± 0.001 and αhy of 0.975 ± 0.008 is proposed for boehmite at surficial temperatures. Application of these fractionation factors suggests that gibbsite from many of the equatorial bauxites analyzed formed in equilibrium with meteoric waters similar to those which commonly accompany monsoon-type rainfall. These waters are generally depleted in 18O and D compared to precipitation derived from tradewinds. The isotopic composition of gibbsite from the mid-Tertiary Weipa bauxite in north Queensland indicates equilibrium with waters similar in isotopic composition to modern groundwaters in the region. This suggests that a monsoon-type climate, similar to that of the present, has prevailed in the region since at least the mid-Tertiary. The oxygen- and hydrogen-isotope composition of gibbsite from the Paragominas deposit in Brazil is markedly out of isotopic equilibrium with modern tradewind-derived regional rainfall but in equilibrium with waters comparable to those derived from monsoonal rains. This suggests that, since the formation of the deposit, the climate has changed and the monsoons no longer operate in the region. Thus, the link between the isotopic composition of bauxite minerals and the nature of the climate prevailing during their formation can be used to define tropical regions which have previously experienced a monsoonal climate, providing valuable information on the nature of atmospheric circulation in the past.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1411-1420
Number of pages10
JournalGeochimica et Cosmochimica Acta
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 1989
Externally publishedYes


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