Summary: Classical clay mineralogy determinations and electron microprobe analyses of weathering minerals developed in altered two-mica granites indicate that the chemical forces that produce new minerals are often constrained to small volumes, frequently on the scale of a mineral grain or contact between two grains in the granite.
Chemical potentials such as pH, alkali and alkaline earth and silica activity in the altering aqueous solutions provoke a destabilization of pre-existing minerals, which recrystallize locally to give a new multimineral product. The chemical composition of the new phases is largely governed by the relative concentrations of the elements present in the former minerals.
Three mineral facies were observed in the weathered granites: initially a sericite-beidellitic type, then a beidellite-kaolinitic type, and finally a last stage kaolinite-oxide facies assemblage. The position of each facies is not restricted to a given depth in the profile but the relative proportions of each facies found in a thin-section size sample change towards the kaolinite-oxide facies.
The global rock chemistry reflects the type facies predominant in each sample. The first two facies are roughly silica conservative while the kaolinite-oxide facies loses silica as well as alkali and alkaline earths.
Geochemical and clay mineral studies of rock alteration should consider problems of mineral genesis at very localized sites.