Compositional variations in the Mesoarchean chromites of the Nuggihalli schist belt, Western Dharwar Craton (India): potential parental melts and implications for tectonic setting

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The chromite deposits in the Archean Nuggihalli schist belt are part of a layered ultramafic-mafic sequence within the Western Dharwar Craton of the Indian shield. The 3.1-Ga ultramatic-mafic units occur as sill-like intrusions within the volcano-sedimentary sequences of the Nuggihalli greenstone bell: that are surrounded by the tonalite-trondhjemite-granodiorite (TTG) suite of rocks. The entire succession is exposed in the Tagdur mining district. The succession has been divided into the lower and the upper ultramafic units, separated by a middle gabbro unit. The ultramafic units comprise of deformed massive chromitite bodies that are hosted within chromite-bearing serpentinites. The chromitite bodies occur in the form of pods and elongated lenses (similar to 60-500 m by similar to 15 m). Detailed electron microprobe studies reveal intense compositional variability of the chromite grains in silicate-rich chromitite (similar to 50% modal chromite) and serpentinite (similar to 2% modal chromite) throughout the entire ultramafic sequence. However, the primary composition of chromite is preserved in the massive chromitites (similar to 60-75% modal chromite) from the Byrapur and the Bhaktarhalli mining district of the Nuggihalli schist belt. These are characterized by high Cr-ratios (Cr/(Cr + Al) = 0.78-0.86) and moderate Mg-ratios (Mg/(Mg + Fe2+) = 0.38-0.58). The compositional variability occurs due to sub-solidus re-equilibration in the accessory chromite in the serpentinite (Mg-ratio = 0.01-0.38; Cr-ratio = 0.02-0.99) and in silicate-rich chromitite (Mg-ratio = 0.06-0.48; Cr-ratio = 0.60-0.99). In the massive chromitites, the sub-solidus re-equilibration for chromite is less or absent. However, the re-equilibration is prominent in the co-existing interstitial and included olivine (Fo(96-98)) and pyroxene grains (Mg-numbers = 97-99). Compositional variability on the scale of a single chromite grain occurs in the form of zoning, and it is common in the accessory chromite grains in serpentinite and in the altered grains in chromitite. In the zoned grains, the composition of the core is modified and the rim is ferritchromit. In general, ferritchromit occurs as irregular patches along the grain boundaries and fractures of the zoned grains. In this case, ferritchromit formation is not very extensive. This indicates a secondary low temperature hydrothermal origin of ferritchromit during serpentinization. In some occurrences, the ferritchromit rim is very well developed, and only a small relict core appears to remain in the chromite grain. However, complete alteration of the chromite grains to ferritchromit without any remnant core is also present. The regular, well-developed and continuous occurrence of ferritchromit rims around the chromite grain boundaries, the complete alteration of the chromite grains and the modification of the core composition indicate the alteration in the Nuggihalli schist belt to be intense, pervasive and affected by later low-grade metamorphism. The primary composition of chromite has been used to compute the nature of the parental melt. The parental melt calculations indicate derivation from a high-Mg komatiitic basalt that is similar to the composition of the komatiitic rocks reported from the greenstone sequences of the Western Dharwar Craton. Tectonic discrimination diagrams using the primary composition of chromites indicate a supra-subduction zone setting (SSZ) for the Archean chromitites of Nuggihalli and derivation from a boninitic magma. The composition of the komatiitic basalts resembles those of boninites thatoccur in subduction zones and back-arc rift settings. Formation of the massive chromitites in Nuggihalli may be due to magma mixing process involving hydrous high-Mg magmas or may be related to intrusions of chromite crystal laden magma; however, there is little scope to test these models because the host rocks are highly altered, serpentinized and deformed. The present configurations of the chromitite bodies are related to the multistage deformation processes that are common in Archean greenstone belts
Translated title of the contributionCompositional variations in the Mesoarchean chromites of the Nuggihalli schist belt, Western Dharwar Craton (India): potential parental melts and implications for tectonic setting
Original languageEnglish
JournalContributions to Mineralogy and Petrology
Issue number6
Pages (from-to)865-885
Number of pages21
Publication statusPublished - 2010

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