Petrogenesis of ultramafic rocks of komatiitic composition from the Central Zone of the Limpopo Belt, South Africa: Evidence from O and H isotopes

Tapabrato Sarkar, Elena O. Dubinina, Chris Harris, Wolfgang D. Maier, Hassina Mouri

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Komatiites are MgO-rich ultramafic volcanic rocks, mostly interpreted to be essentially anhydrous at the time of extrusion, and are often characterized by spinifex texture. They mainly occur in Archean or Proterozoic greenstone belts within cratons. However, in the Central Zone of the Limpopo Belt in South Africa, ultramafic rocks of komatiitic composition occur within a high-grade metamorphic terrane. Their chemical composition overlaps with that of Al-undepleted (Munro-type) komatiites from elsewhere, but unlike komatiites, they are mainly composed of pargasitic amphibole, along with olivine, orthopyroxene, Cr-rich spinel and magnetite. The studied rocks have a narrow range of whole rock δ18O values (+5.4 to +6.3‰), unlike δ18O values from komatiites, which are generally altered and have δ18O values from ∼+2 to +9‰. However, they are within the range estimated for unaltered komatiites (+5.4 to +6.0‰). Amphibole separates from the studied rocks have δ18O values between +5.5 and + 6.1‰, similar to that of the bulk rock. The δD values of amphiboles range between −78 and −83‰, similar to primary amphiboles from other komatiites and many other mantle-derived mafic igneous rocks. The δ18O values, along with textural and mineralogical evidence, are consistent with the ultramafic rocks of komatiitic composition from the Limpopo Belt being intrusive and unaffected by low-temperature alteration. The O and H isotope composition of the amphiboles are consistent with them being primary magmatic in origin. It cannot be distinguished with certainty whether the water was introduced to the magma through partial melting of hydrated mantle or during ascent through hydrous mantle subsequent to their formation. The minerals observed at present most likely crystallized from komatiite magma that intruded into the lower crust and subsequently re-equilibrated at the ambient P-T conditions.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)68-77
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of African Earth Sciences
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2018


  • Central zone
  • Komatiite
  • Limpopo belt
  • Magmatic amphiboles
  • O and H isotopes
  • Ultramafic rocks

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geology
  • Earth-Surface Processes


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