Crystallization of Cr-poor and Cr-rich megacryst suites from the host kimberlite magma: implications for mantle structure and the generation of kimberlite magmas

Research paper by Andy Moore, Elena Belousova

Indexed on: 23 Apr '05Published on: 23 Apr '05Published in: Contributions to mineralogy and petrology. Beitrage zur Mineralogie und Petrologie


Cr-poor and Cr-rich megacryst suites, both comprising of varying proportions of megacrysts of orthopyroxene, clinopyroxene, garnet, olivine, ilmenite and a number of subordinate phases, coexist in many kimberlites, with wide geographic distribution. In rare instances, the two suites occur together on the scale of individual megacryst hand specimens. Deformation textures are common to both suites, suggesting an origin related to the formation of the sheared peridotites that also occur in kimberlites. Textures and compositions of the latter are interpreted to reflect deformation and metasomatism within the thermal aureole surrounding the kimberlite magma in the mantle. The megacrysts crystallized in this thermal aureole in pegmatitic veins representing small volumes of liquids derived from the host kimberlite magma, which were injected into a surrounding fracture network prior to kimberlite eruption. Close similarities between compositions of Cr-rich megacryst phases and those in granular lherzolites are consistent with early crystallization from a primitive kimberlite liquid. The low-Cr megacryst suite subsequently crystallized from residual Cr-depleted liquids. However, the Cr-poor suite also reflects the imprint of contamination by liquids formed by melting of inhomogeneously distributed mantle phases with low melting temperatures, such as calcite and phlogopite, present within the thermal aureole surrounding the kimberlite magma reservoir. Such carbonate-rich melts migrated into, and mixed with some, but not all, of the kimberlite liquids injected into the mantle fracture network. Contamination by the carbonate-rich melts changed the Ca–Mg and Mg–Fe crystal–liquid distribution coefficient, resulting in the crystallization of relatively Fe-rich and Ca-poor phases. The implied higher crystal-melt Mg–Fe distribution coefficient for carbonate-rich magmas accounts for the generation of small volumes of Mg-rich liquids that are highly enriched in incompatible elements (i.e. primary kimberlite magmas). The inferred metasomatic origin for the sheared peridotites implies that this suite provides little or no information regarding vertical changes in the thermal, chemical and mechanical characteristics of the mantle.