Paleomagnetic age of ferruginous weathering beneath the Hamersley Surface, Pilbara, Western Australia, and the Cenozoic apparent polar wander path

P. W. Schmidt*, G. E. Williams

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Citations (Scopus)


During the Mesozoic and Paleogene, the Precambrian rocks in the Pilbara, Western Australia, underwent erosion and deep weathering that produced an undulating landform now represented by the duricrusted and partly eroded Hamersley Surface. A reddened, ferruginous weathering zone occurs immediately beneath this duricrusted surface. Oriented block samples of ferruginised strata of the Neoarchean–early Paleoproterozoic Hamersley Group exposed within approximately 15 m below the duricrust were collected at 20 sites in roadcuts along the Great Northern Highway between Munjina and Newman and exposures along the adjoining Karijini Drive. Stepwise thermal demagnetisation of cored specimens revealed a stable, high-temperature (680°C) component carried by hematite, with a mean direction (n = 55 specimens) of declination D = 182.0°, inclination I = 52.9° (α95 = 3.6°), indicating a pole position at latitude λp = 77.6°S, longitude ϕp = 113.2°E (A95 = 4.3°) and a paleolatitude λ = 33.5 +3.6/–3.3°S. Both normal and reversed polarities are present, indicating that the remanent magnetism was acquired over an interval of at least two polarity chrons (say 105–106 years). Chi-square tests on the determined pole position and three different sets of Cenozoic poles, namely those for dated volcanic rocks in eastern Australia supplemented by poles for Australian Cenozoic weathering horizons, and inferred poles from Pacific Ocean and Indian Ocean hotspot analyses and North American Cenozoic poles rotated to Australian coordinates, yielded a mean age of ca 24 ± 3 Ma, i.e. late Oligocene to early Miocene, interpreted as the time of formation of hematite in the sampled ferruginous zone. The ferruginous weathering occurred under globally warm conditions and was followed during the early to middle Miocene climatic optimum by the deposition of channel iron deposits, which incorporated detrital hematitic material derived from erosion of the ferruginous weathering zone beneath the Hamersley Surface.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)239-249
Number of pages11
JournalAustralian Journal of Earth Sciences
Issue number2
Early online date13 Feb 2017
Publication statusPublished - 2017
Externally publishedYes


  • Pilbara Craton
  • Hamersley Province
  • Hamersley Surface
  • lateritic weathering
  • paleomagnetism
  • apparent polar wander path
  • Oligocene
  • Miocene
  • channel iron deposits


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