Properties of ‘Swelling’ Chlorite in Some Mesozoic Formations of California

J. L. Post and N. C. Janke
Department of Civil Engineering and Department of Geology, 6000 J Street, California State University, Sacramento, California 95819, U.S.A.

Abstract: Slaty strata and their weathering products comprise a large portion of the geologic formations of the western foothills in the Sierra Nevada, Mid-Northern California. The weathering products of Mesozoic slates in particular, locally known as ‘swelling’ chlorites, have caused numerous problems in road construction.

A typical stratigraphic section of slates, which includes ‘swelling’ chlorites, is given for the area of Chili Bar, California, as part of the general geology of the western foothill formations. Remolded slate densities were observed to decrease while measured swelling pressures increased with increasing slate alteration. Swelling pressures in excess of 12·5 psi were observed. Curves are presented in comparison with DTA results showing the effect of alteration on the slate.

The results of X-ray diffraction analyses, in correlation with i.r. data, show a typical slate mineral composition for unaltered material of about one-half chlorite with the remainder being about equal portions of muscovite and quartz. The entire chlorite content of the altered slate becomes a regular mixed-layer clay mineral, corrensite, which has been observed to alter to sedimentary vermiculite and Mg saponite in residual soil. An i.r. absorption peak at 3690 cm−1 characterizes the mixed-layer clay mineral. Heat treatment of the mixed-layer clay mineral structure reduces the 14·3 Å basal spacing to 11·8 Å at 540°C, which decreases to 10·6 Å at 850°C, disappearing by 1050°C. Procedures are given for direct quantitative analysis of these three-phase mineral systems using simultaneous linear equations.

Evidence is presented for the alteration minerals formed during weathering of the slate, including Fourier analysis of the mixed-layer clay structure.

Clays and Clay Minerals; February 1974 v. 22; no. 1; p. 67-77; DOI: 10.1346/CCMN.1974.0220110
© 1974, The Clay Minerals Society
Clay Minerals Society (www.clays.org)