Geochemical and petrological trends in the UG2-Merensky unit interval of the upper critical zone in the Western Bushveld Complex

Maier, Wolfgang Derek (1992) Geochemical and petrological trends in the UG2-Merensky unit interval of the upper critical zone in the Western Bushveld Complex. PhD thesis, Rhodes University.

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One of the most remarkable features of the layered sequence of the Bushveld Complex is its lateral consistency in lithology. This work has established a geochemical and lithological correlation along 170 km of strike of the interval between the UG2 chromitite and the Merensky Reef within the Upper Critical zone of the western limb of the Bushveld Complex. The correlation is based on geochemical investigations of 10 borehole intersections and lithological comparisons of more than 20 borehole intersections around the western lobe of the complex. The basic data presented include 123 whole-rock analyses for major and 12 trace elements, 97 analyses for ' 12 trace elements, and ca. 5500 microprobe analyses of all major phases. Patterns of cryptic variation are established. Some layers (the UG2 chromitite and pyroxenite) show considerable consistency with regard to geochemistry and lithology. Others can be traced along most of the investigated strike length, such as the Lone Chrome Seam, the Footwall Marker anorthosite and the immediate anorthosite footwall to the Merensky Unit. Most of the distinguishable members within the study section, however, show great variation along strike (i.e., the Lower and Upper Pseudoreef Markers, the central noritic sequence in the southern arm of the western limb and parts of the immediate Merensky Reef footwall succession). Several models have been evaluated to interpret the geochemical and lithological data. The author comes to the conclusion that the degree of lithological consistency depends on the variability of magmatic parameters within different parts of the chamber. The most important of these parameters are: (i) the size of fresh primitive influxes and consequently the heat flux, (ii) the composition of the residual liquid, and (iii) the frequency of the influxes. Fresh influxes of more or less similar composition thus spread out along the floor if the residual liquid was less dense than the fresh primitive liquid, but intruded the chamber as a plume where plagioclase had crystallized for some time and the residual liquid had become relatively dense. The size of the influx may be regarded as a measure of the amount of heat flux from the feeder into the chamber. A large influx created uniform physicochemical conditions in the chamber whereas a smaller influx created a strong lateral gradient of physicochemical parameters in the chamber, with subsequent differences in viscosity, density, convection currents, yield strength and thus different mixing behaviour of different liquids. Furthermore, a persistent heat flux from the feeder may have delayed crystallization of successive phases in those parts of the chamber proximal to the feeder . Therefore, new influxes would have been deposited on a footwall of varying thickness and lithology in response to different degrees of crystallization and accumulation along strike. The development of a normal cyclic unit (chromititeharzburgite-pyroxenite-norite (+anorthosite?)) may thus have been interrupted at various stages in different parts of the chamber. The ability to correlate anorthosites over great strike distances implies that their formation did not follow entirely random processes but was dependent on specific magmatic conditions which prevailed over laterally extensive portions of the chamber at certain stages during the evolution of the crystallizing liquid.

Item Type:Thesis (PhD)
Uncontrolled Keywords:Petrology, Geochemistry, South Africa
Subjects:Q Science > QE Geology
Divisions:Faculty > Faculty of Science > Geology
Supervisors:Eales, H. E.
ID Code:4202
Deposited By: Mrs Judith Cornwell
Deposited On:07 Dec 2012 06:12
Last Modified:07 Dec 2012 06:12
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