Coastal Restoration Trust of New Zealand

Coastal Dune Ecosystem Reference Database

Stratigraphy, provenance and localisation of the titanomagnetite placer at Waikato North Head, South Auckland, New Zealand Journal Paper

Brathwaite, R.L., Christie, A.B. &; Gazley, M.F.
Journal / Source
Mineralium Deposita
Coastal sands, Ironsand, Stratigraphy, Tephra, Electron probe microanalysis (EPMA), Automated mineralogy, Provenance, Titanomagnetite, Ilmenite, Taranaki andesite, Taupo Volcanic Zone ignimbrite, Palaeogeography
The sequence of coastal and river sands of Pleistocene to Holocene age at the north head of the Waikato River is ~80-m thick; the sands are located in a fault-angle depression at the southern end of the Awhitu Peninsula, a 40-km-long coastal sand barrier. The sequence at Waikato North Head (WNH) consists of three main formations: Awhitu Sands, Hood Sands and Mitiwai Sands. The Waiuku Black Sand member of the Hood Sands and the Entrican Sand member of the Mitiwai Sands contain titanomagnetite-rich dune sands, which are currently mined by New Zealand Steel and constitute a giant placer deposit that has a total resource of ~90 Mt Fe. A tephra at the top of the Awhitu Sands is correlated with the ~1000 ka Waiuku (Potaka) tephra. The Mitiwai Sands overlie the 1.85 ka Taupo Pumice. Comparison of electron probe microanalyses (EPMA) of titanomagnetites in heavy mineral separates of surface and drill-hole samples indicated that the bulk of the titanomagnetite in the Waiuku Black sand and the Entrican Sand is derived from andesitic rocks of the Taranaki Volcanoes 220 km to the south. The Waiuku Black Sand may correlate with an influx of andesitic clasts and mafic minerals in the cover beds of the ~400 ka Ararata Terrace in south Taranaki. There is also a contribution of titanomagnetite and minor ilmenite from the ignimbrites of the Taupo Volcanic Zone (TVZ), particularly in the Lower Hood and Entrican sands. Automated mineralogy data collected on selected sand samples contain silicate and resistate minerals that indicate other potential sources in addition to the Taranaki andesites and TVZ ignimbrites. Minor olivine was likely derived from the late Pleistocene basalts of the South Auckland volcanic field, whereas almandine and epidote were likely sourced from metasedimentary rocks of the Murihiku and Waipapa terranes. The formation of the giant placer at WNH was a multistage process involving (1) a supply of titanomagnetite-bearing sand eroded from the late Pleistocene–Holocene andesites of the Taranaki volcanoes that was transported northwards along the coast by the prevailing longshore drift; (2) concentration of titanomagnetite by wave action on beach faces and collection in a coastal embayment on the northern side of a headland of basement rocks at Port Waikato; (3) further concentration by wind action into dune sands during interglacial low sea levels; and (4) preservation by coeval subsidence in a fault-angle depression on the down-thrown north side of the Waikato Fault