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    The platinum-group element geochemistry and petrogenesis of the Heazlewood River mafic-ultramafic complex, Tasmania
    Peck, David C. ( 1990)
    The Heazlewood River mafic-ultramafic complex (HRC) comprises well-layered olivine- and orthopyroxene-rich cumulates, gabbronorite dykes, tonalites and low-Ti tholeiitic basalt and boninite lavas. The complex was emplaced as part of a large, low-angle thrust sheet during the middle Cambrian and subsequently deformed during the Devonian, so that the original stratigraphical relationships are obscured. The cumulate succession incorporates two distinct blocks, viz. the western HRC, comprising primitive adcumulates, and the eastern HRC, consisting of more evolved orthocumulates and mesocumulates. These two cumulate blocks are interpreted to represent stratigraphically equivalent parts of a single magma chamber. In this scenario, the western HRC represents an axial part of the intrusion where high heat flows, due to repeated injections of primitive magma, promoted the development of a compositionally zoned magma chamber. In contrast, the eastern HRC is believed to constitute a marginal facies of the intrusion, where sidewall cooling caused rapid crystallisation of successive magma additions and inhibited adcumulate growth and the formation of a compositionally stratified liquid column. Results from a detailed study of the mineral compositions and whole-rock geochemistry of the HRC suggest that all of the cumulates and most of the dykes and tonalites were derived from boninitic parental magmas. This hypothesis is substantiated by empirical models which were calculated using both major and trace element approaches. The models also show that the low-Ti basalts (second-stage melts) and boninites (third-stage melts) were probably derived from component-induced progressive partial melting of a MORB-depleted spinel lherzolite source. Partial melting of the refractory mantle source was initiated and sustained by the continued influx of slab-derived Si02-, LREE-, Zr-enriched hydrous fluids. The proposed petrogenetic model for the HRC is most consistent with an island arc setting for the complex, with melting occurring in MORB-depleted forearc lithosphere overlying a subduction zone. The HRC is not an ophiolite sensu stricto, despite the fact that it is more similar to the upper portions of the so-called 'island-arc ophiolites' (eg. Troodos) than to any other type of ultramafic intrusion. It is best perceived as a high-level boninitic magma chamber which developed immediately beneath a platform of genetically-related submarine lavas. The composition of the boninitic parental magmas was the principal control on the PGE geochemistry of the cumulate sequences. Despite representing PGE-enriched, S-undersaturated second-stage melts similar to the parental (U-type) magmas for the ultramafic portions of the Bushveld complex, the boninites were unable to form a Merensky-reef type PGE deposit because they did not come into contact with S-saturated (A-type) magmas. In the absence of cumulus sulphides, the PPGE (Pt, Pd, Rh) were partitioned into the residual liquids, whereas the IPGE (Os, Ir, Ru) were strongly fractionated into early-formed olivine-chromite cumulates. These features are highlighted by the extremely low IPGE tenor of the boninites, and the relatively high IPGE tenor of the dunites in comparison to the more evolved cumulates. Three types of chromitites are recognised in the HRC. Type I and type II chromitites occur as magmatic schlieren which probably formed during replenishment events. Type III chromitites occur as layers, pods and irregular patches developed in an unusual xenolith-bearing plagioclase peridotite. It is interpreted to have formed due to mixing between ascending xenolith-bearing, hydrous intercumulus liquids and resident ultramafic magma along the floor of the magma chamber. Chromitite occurrences in the HRC are enriched in PGE by up to two orders of magnitude relative to their ultramafic host rocks, and most strongly-enriched in Ru and/or Pt and Rh. Their PGE tenor reflects the early crystallisation of laurite, followed by Pt and Rh sulpharsenides, in response to increasing S and As activities which developed primarily due to magma mixing. The low Os and Ir abundances in the chromitites is believed to reflect their formation from Os- and Ir-depleted boninitic magmas. The HRC and the Adamsfield complex were the world's major suppliers of Os-Ir-Ru alloys during the early part of this century. The alloys occur in alluvial deposits that are spatially associated with primitive olivine-rich cumulate sequences. The latter are commonly suspected to represent the source for the alloys, but recent exploration programs have yet to define a bedrock occurrence of Os-Ir-Ru alloys in Tasmania. The results from the present study provide important constraints on the genesis of these alloys. Silicate inclusions found in the alloys suggest that they formed at mantle temperatures and pressures and were transported to crustal magma chambers by boninitic magmas. The alloys may have crystallised during ascent, or alternatively, represent residual mantle phases which became incorporated into the boninites during partial melting. Most of the observations pertaining to the Os and Ir geochemistry of the HRC suggest that the alloys probably occur in thin magmatic concentrations that were deposited along the base of the intrusion from the most primitive of the boninitic magmas involved in the generation of the cumulate sequences. Future exploration should focus on delineating the cumulate products of these primitive magmas and specifically, in defining the horizons which demarcate fresh influxes of these liquids.