Abstract: Use of a discriminant analysis has verified and grouped three suspected varieties of kaolinite found in kaolin-rich clay strata of late Paleocene to early Eocene age across north-central Mississippi. Initial identification of each type of kaolinite was based on clay-texture characteristics observed on scanning electron micrographs and the differences in pattern configurations of X-ray diffractograms. The discriminant function used for data treatment clearly segregated and grouped each variety. The discrimination variables were found to be the Hinckley index and, to a lesser extent, the Si4+ content relative to the Al3+ content.
The oldest variety is the Blue Mountain clay, composed of preserved hexagonal plates usually clustered into booklets with a vermiform texture. The Ashland variety, stratigraphically younger than the Blue Mountain clay, appears to have been derived from the erosion of the Blue Mountain clay. The Ashland cannot be recognized by any type of diagnostic texture, as it is made up of individual plates that have been corroded and abraded to the point where a hexagonal outline can no longer be recognized. The Sardis variety is the stratigraphically youngest of the three varieties and is at least a second, or possibly a third generation detrital product. The Sardis clay can be recognized by a distinct “ribbon” or “swirl” texture commonly found in ball clays.
Data from this study are not sufficient for complete petrogenetic interpretation. However, speculation on possible differences in depositional environments and modes of deposition can be based on the data at hand. The Blue Mountain variety is considered from previous studies to be primary. The Ashland variety is probably a first generation alluvial clay. The Sardis variety appears to be a multiple generation, detrital product that accumulated as part of overbank swamp deposits.