BASE (Barberton Archean Surface Environments) - drilling Paleoarchean coastal strata of the Barberton Greenstone Belt

Christoph Heubeck*, Nic Beukes, Michiel De Kock, Martin Homann, Emmanuelle J. Javaux, Takeshi Kakegawa, Stefan Lalonde, Paul Mason, Phumelele Mashele, Dora Paprika, Chris Rippon, Mike Tice, Rodney Tucker, Ryan Tucker, Victor Ndazamo, Astrid Christianson, Cindy Kunkel

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


The BASE (Barberton Archean Surface Environments) scientific drilling project aimed at recovering an unweathered continuous core from the Paleoarchean Moodies Group (ca. 3.2Ga), central Barberton Greenstone Belt (BGB), South Africa. These strata comprise some of the oldest well-preserved sedimentary strata on Earth, deposited within only a few million years in alluvial, fluvial, coastal-deltaic, tidal, and prodeltaic settings. They represent a very-high-resolution record of Paleoarchean surface conditions and processes. Moodies Group strata consist of polymict conglomerates, widespread quartzose, lithic and arkosic sandstones, siltstones, shales, and rare banded-iron formations (BIFs) and jaspilites, interbedded with tuffs and several thin lavas. This report describes objectives, drilling, and data sets; it supplements the operational report. Eight inclined boreholes between 280 and 495m length, drilled from November 2021 through July 2022, obtained a total of 2903m of curated core of variable quality through steeply to subvertically dipping, in part overturned stratigraphic sections. All drilling objectives were reached. Boreholes encountered a variety of conglomerates, diverse and abundant, mostly tuffaceous sandstones, rhythmically laminated shale-siltstone and banded-iron formations, and several horizons of early-diagenetic silicified sulfate concretions. Oxidative weathering reached far deeper than expected. Fracturing was more intense, and BIFs and jaspilites were thicker than anticipated. Two ca. 1km long mine adits and a water tunnel, traversing four thick stratigraphic sections within the upper Moodies Group in the central BGB, were also sampled. All boreholes were logged by downhole wireline geophysical instruments. The core was processed (oriented, slabbed, photographed, described, and archived) in a large, publicly accessible hall in downtown Barberton. A geological exhibition provided background explanations for visitors and related the drilling objectives to the recently established Barberton Makhonjwa Mountains World Heritage Site. A substantial education, outreach, and publicity program addressed the information needs of the local population and of local and regional stakeholders.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)129-172
Number of pages44
JournalScientific Drilling
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 18 Jun 2024


Dive into the research topics of 'BASE (Barberton Archean Surface Environments) - drilling Paleoarchean coastal strata of the Barberton Greenstone Belt'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this