Rhyolitic volcanism in the Onverwacht Group, Barberton Greenstone Belt

Diergaardt, Byron Nico (2013-03)

Thesis (MSc)--Stellenbosch University, 2013.

Thesis

ENGLISH ABSTRACT: The source of the K2O in the K2O-rich ~3.45 Ga felsic intrusive rocks of the H6 unit in the Hooggenoeg Formation of the Onverwacht Group in the Barberton Granite Greenstone Terrain (BGGT) is examined in this study. This is of particular research interest because the Paleoarchaean rock record is considered to lack K2O-rich magmatic rocks. Previous studies on the felsic igneous rocks of the H6 unit have proposed that these rhyolites are K-metasomatised eruptive equivalents of the sodium-rich ~3.45 Ga TTGs of the BGGT and that the K-feldspar crystals in the rocks formed as a consequence of subsolidus replacement of plagioclase by K-feldspar. Furthermore, the timing of K-metasomatism has previously been related to the formation of the Buck Ridge Chert (BRC), which overlies the H6 unit. However, it has recently been demonstrated from granitic clasts in the conglomerate layer at the base of the Moodies sucession that K2O-rich magmatic rocks formed concurrently with TTG magmas during each of three episodes of TTG magmatism observed in the BGGT. Consequently, the hypothesis of a metasomatic origin for the K2O-rich character of the felsic rocks of the H6 unit requires further examination. Previous studies of the chemistsry of felsic volcanic rocks within the H6 unit were based on relatively low numbers of samples. This study has examined a substantial set of the freshest material available. Two varieties of felsic volcanic rocks were identified; K2O-rich, CaO-poor, Na2O-poor rhyolites and Na2O-rich, CaO-poor, K2O-poor Na-rhyolites. The K2O- rich rhyolite variety is dominant. Consequently, it is possible that the K2O-rich character of these rocks represents a primary magmatic signature. However, this judgment is complicated by the presence of a greenschist-facies metamorphic overprint at 3.2 Ga, which has resulted in complete replacement of micrystalline groundmass and partial replacement of the phenocryst assemblages by greenschist- and sub-greenschist-facies mineral assemblages, which undoubtedly allowed possible shifts in chemical compositions In this thesis, I test the source of K2O in these rocks by using the porphyritic textures of the rocks as an indication of the primary composition of the magmas they were formed from. These textures are typically defined by K-feldspar or albite and quartz phenocrysts within a microcrystalline groundmass. The rocks containing albite are Na-rich (Na-rhyolites) whereas the rocks defined by K-feldspar phenocrysts are rhyolites. XRD study of the structural state of the K-feldspar phenocrysts in the rhyolites indicates that these crystals are orthoclase and intermediate microcline, i.e. medium temperature K-feldspar polymorphs. The modal proportions of K-feldspar, quartz and microcrystalline groundmass in the rhyolites were calculated by using image analysis software. The compositions of the feldspar minerals were determined by electron beam analysis. Minimum bulk rock K2O content of the rhyolites were calculated from the proportions of K-feldspar crystals and their compositions. Even where the proportion of K-feldspar phenocrysts is relatively low (~ 30%), the calculated minimum bulk-rock K2O content is still above 5 wt%. The HREE slope (GdN/LuN) of the felsic porphyritic rocks of the H6 rhyolites is similar to that of ~3.45 Ga TTG plutons and steeper than that of granitic clasts of identical age contained in the basal conglomerate of the Moodies Group. Hence this study has illustrated that the rhyolites of the H6 unit were primary K-feldspar-rich, K2O-rich magmas that formed contemporarily with the ~3.45 Ga TTGs. This implicitly means that rhyolitic volcanism was more wide spread than previously thought in the Paleoarchaean and that it occurred together with the intrusion of the ~3.45 Ga TTGs in the BGGT.

AFRIKAANSE OPSOMMING: Die bron van die K2O in die K2O-ryk ~ 3,45 Ga felsiese vulkaniese rotse van die H6-eenheid in die Hooggenoeg formasie van die Onverwacht Groep in die Barberton Graniet Groensteen Terrein (BGGT) is in hierdie studie ondersoek. Dit is van besondere navorsingsbelang omdat die Paleoargeïse gesteenterekord beskou word as vry van magmatiese K2O ryke gesteentes. Vorige studies oor die felsiese vulkaniese rotse van die H6 eenheid het voorgestel dat hierdie rioliete K-gemetasomatiese eruptiewe ekwivalente van die natrium-ryke ~ 3,45 Ga TTGs van die BGGT is en dat die K-veldspaat kristalle in die gesteentes gevorm is as gevolg van subsolidus vervanging van plagioklaas deur K-veldspaat. Verder is die tydsberekening van K-metasomatisme voorheen gekoppel aan die vorming van die Buck Ridge Chert (BRC) wat die felsiese H6 eenheid bedek. Dit is egter onlangs aangetoon dat K2O-ryke magmatiese rotse gelyktydig met TTG magmas gevorm is tydens elk van drie episodes van TTG magmatisme waargeneem in die BGGT. Gevolglik vereis die hipotese van 'n metasomatiese oorsprong vir die K2O-ryke karakter van die felsiese gesteentes van die H6 eenheid verdere ondersoek. Vorige studies van die felsiese vulkaniese gesteentechemie in die H6 eenheid is gebaseer op 'n relatief klein getal monsters. Hierdie studie het 'n aansienlike stel van die varsste materiaal beskikbaar vir analise ondersoek. Twee variëteite van peralumineuse felsiese vulkaniese gesteentes naamlik 'n K2O-ryk, CaO-arm, Na2O-arm rioliet en Na2O-ryk, CaO-arm, K2O-arm Na-rioliet. Die K2O-ryke rioliet variëteit is meer oorheersend as die Na-rioliete. Dit is dus moontlik dat die K2O-ryk karakter van hierdie rotse 'n primêre magmatiese kenmerke verteenwoordig. Hierdie uitspraak is egter bemoeilik deur die teenwoordigheid van 'n groenskisfasies metamorfe oorprint op 3,2 Ga, wat gelei het tot die volledige vervanging van mikrokrisstalyne grondmassa en gedeeltelike vervanging van fenokrist samestellings deur groenskis en sub-groenskisfasies minerale samestellings en wat ongetwyfeld toegelaat het vir 'n moontlike verskuiwing in chemiese samestelling. In hierdie tesis toets ek die bron van K2O in hierdie gesteentes deur gebruik te maak van die vulkaniese teksture van die gesteentes as 'n aanduiding van die primêre samestelling van die magmas waaruit hulle gevorm het. Hierdie teksture word gewoonlik gedefinieer deur K-veldspaat of albiet en kwarts fenokriste binne 'n grondmassa van wat vroeërglasoorblyfsels was. Die rotse wat albiet bevat is Na-ryk (Na-rioliete) terwyl die rotse gedefinieer deur K-veldspaat fenokriste rioliete is. XRD studie van die strukturele toestand van die K-veldspaat fenokriste in die rioliete dui aan dat hierdie kristalle ortoklaas en intermediêre mikroklien is, dit wil sê die hoër temperatuur K-veldspaat polimorfe. Die modale proporsies van K-veldspaat, kwarts en glasoorblyfsels in die rioliete is akkuraat bereken deur gebruik te maak van beeld analise sagteware. Verder is die samestellings van die veldspaat minerale bepaal deur die elektronstraal analise. Minimum grootmaat rots K2O inhoud van die rioliet is berekén vanaf die fase verhouding van K-veldspaat en hul komposisies. Resultate dui daarop dat selfs waar die verhouding van K-veldspaat phenocrysts is relatief laag (~ 30%), die berekende minimum K2O grootmaat rots samestelling is nog steeds bo 5 wt%. Die REE-helling (GDN / Lun) van felsiese porphyritic rotse van die H6 is soortgelyke relatief tot die REE helling van ~ 3,45 Ga TTGs en steiler REE helling relatief tot granitiese klaste vervat in die basale konglomeraat van die Moodies-groep. Dus het hierdie studie getoon dat die rioliete van die H6-eenheid primêre K-veldspaat-ryke, K2O-ryke en peralumineuse magmas was wat gevorm is terselfdertyd met die ~3,45 Ga TTGs. Dit beteken implisiet dat riolitiese vulkanisme meer wyd verspreid was as wat voorheen gedink is in die Paleoargeïkum en dat dit tesame met die indringing van die ~ 3,45 Ga TTGs in die BGGT plaasgevind het.

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