Eclogite xenoliths from the Lace kimberlite, Kaapvaal craton: From convecting mantle source to palaeo-ocean floor and back

S. Aulbach, K. S. Viljoen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

62 Citations (Scopus)


Major- and trace-element compositions of eclogite and pyroxenite xenoliths of ≥2.5 Ga age (. in situ Pb-Pb data on clinopyroxene) from the Lace kimberlite on the Kaapvaal craton were investigated in order to constrain: (1) the nature and evolution of their protoliths; (2) the extent to which they preserve information on the state of the asthenospheric mantle source that gave rise to their low-pressure protoliths; and (3) the effect of their deep recycling on the radiogenic isotope evolution of the convecting mantle. Their elemental relationships are consistent with low-pressure fractionation of olivine ± plagioclase and clinopyroxene during oceanic crust formation, whereby the residual melt was enriched in rare-earth elements (REE), high field-strength elements and Y, producing inverse correlations of σREE with the size of Eu- and Sr-anomalies. LREE-depletion may indicate loss of on average 20% of a partial melt upon subduction and metamorphism (eclogitisation) of oceanic crust, which did not, however, contribute to juvenile growth of continental crust. The eclogites have median Sm/Nd (0.40) and Lu/Hf (0.27) similar to Depleted Mantle, and lower U/Pb (0.02) and Th/Pb (0.02). If deeply subducted, these rocks cannot explain unradiogenic Nd and Hf, and radiogenic Pb isotope compositions in the sources of some modern ocean island basalts. Low incompatible trace-element contents similar to picrites, and Yb concentrations at a given TiO2 content similar to modern MORB, indicate derivation of the protoliths by average melt fractions of ~0.20-0.25 that left a spinel peridotite residue at pressures ≤2.5 to 3.0 GPa. This shallow intersection of the peridotite solidus suggests moderate Archaean ambient mantle potential temperatures of ≤1420 to 1470 °C. Samples filtered for clinopyroxene fractionation and metasomatism have V/Sc (4.7±1.2; n=11) indicating lower fO2 (-1.9 relative to the fayalite-magnetite-quartz buffer=δFMQ) than modern MORB. This is in part due to the higher average melt extraction pressure (~1.5 GPa) during formation of their crustal protoliths. Extrapolation to 1 GPa, similar to the average pressure of present-day MORB generation, yields δFMQ of -1.7±1.1, corresponding to Fe3+# of 0.07±0.04. If these results are correct, they suggest an Archaean ambient mantle more reducing than at present, with implications for the speciation of volatiles, which affects the mantle solidus and the composition of volcanic gases. This has implications for the Archaean atmospheric redox evolution and the recycling of carbon and other volatiles.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)274-286
Number of pages13
JournalEarth and Planetary Science Letters
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2015


  • Archaean oceanic crust recycling
  • Atmosphere oxygenation
  • Kimberlite-borne eclogite xenoliths
  • Mantle potential temperature
  • Mantle redox
  • Oxygen fugacity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geophysics
  • Geochemistry and Petrology
  • Earth and Planetary Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Space and Planetary Science


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