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• Carbonatites are found in alkaline provinces, restricted

largely to continental regions

• Most silica-undersaturated rocks found in alkaline

• Karbonatite - Brogger in 1921 to denote carbonate
rocks from the Fen district of southern Norway

• Bowen - replacement origin

• Experimental evidence - primary magmas possible

• Carbonate lavas - Oldoinyo Lengai volcano in Tanzania

• Closely associated with rift valleys, ages from

Proterozoic to modern
• Carbonatites occur in small ring complexes
associated with silica poor rocks composed of
nepheline and cpx (I.e. ijolites)

• Carbonatite complexes are concentrically arranged

• rock types become progressively poorer in silica
toward the core which is commonly occupied by

• Typical succession of rocks from the rim to the core

would consist of:
nepheline syenite
carbonatite with all rocks being cut by lamprophyric

Guilbert and
Park, 1985

122 m level

• Carbonatite may also be concentrically zoned from an
older, outer zone of calcite carbonatite (sovite),
followed by a zone of dolomite carbonatite (beforsite)
and a younger core of ankerite or siderite carbonatite

• Consistent with fractional crystallization of a carbonate


• Typical carbonatite is composed of 75% carbonate with

lesser amounts of cpx, phlogopite, alkali amphibole,
apatite, magnetite, olivine etc.

• Carbonatites are highly variable in composition

• Rocks surrounding carbonatites have undergone

intense sodium metasomatism (fenitization)

Best, 1982
• Belong to alkaline igneous provinces and generally found
in stable cratonic regions sometimes with major rift
faulting such as the East African Rift Valley

• Not all alkalic rock provinces and complexes have

associated carbonatites

• Carbonatitic activity is episodic and seems to have been

related temporally and spatially to orogenic events

• Carbonatites often form clusters or provinces within

which there may have been several episodes of activity

Best, 1982
• Siliceous country rocks may be converted to aegirine-
bearing syenites that are termed fenites.

• Zones of fenitization are typically hundreds of meters


• Large volumes of alkali-bearing solutions are given off

during cooling.

• Experimental data show that sodium carbonate melts

could separate as immiscible liquids from silicate

• Kjarsgaard and Hamilton 1988 - immiscibility field

extends to low alkali compositions form directly as
calcite carbonatites

Philpotts, 1980
Best, 1982

• Strontium isotopes demonstrate that carbonatites are
derived from the same mantle source as the
associated alkaline rocks.

• Low initial 87Sr/86Sr ratios (0.701 to 0.704)

• Not the product of limestone assimilation

• Derived from a variety of alkaline magmas

Best, 1982

Palabora Igneous Complex

Proterozoic complex lies in the Archean of the north-
eastern Transvaal. Alkaline intrusive activity in which there
were emplaced in successive stages pyroxenite, syenite
and ultrabasic pegmatoids

First intrusion was that apatite-rich, phlogopite pyroxenite,

about 6x2.5 km

Then ultrabasic pegmatoids within the pyroxenite

In the central part phoskorite (magnetite-olivine-apatite

rock) and banded carbonatite were emplaced to form the
Loolekop carbonatite-phoskorite pipe, which is about
1.4x0.8 km
Fracturing of this pipe led to the intrusion of a dike-like
body of transgressive carbonatite and the development of
of a stockwork of carbonatite veinlets

Chalcopyrite with minor cuprite is the principal ore

mineral especially in the transgressive carbonatite

Bornite dominant in the lower grade banded carbonatite

and phoskorite
Guilbert and Park,

1 = Foskor open pit

2 = vermiculite
3 = Palabora open
pit - copper,
Guilbert and
Park, 1985

122 m level

Guilbert and Park,

Economic aspects
Ore body continues beyond 1000m below surface. Ore
reserves are about 300Mt grading 0.69% Cu

Other extractable metals are: Th, Al, K, and REE

By-products: magnetite, apatite, gold, silver, PGM,

baddeleyite (ZrO2), uranium, nickel sulfate and sulfuric

Foskor open pit: worlds largest igneous phosphate


Vermiculite open pit: second largest vermiculite

(weathering-product of phlogopite) mine in the world

and Park,
Phosphorus Guilbert and Park, 1985

Magnetite Guilbert and Park, 1985

Titanium Guilbert and Park, 1985

Guilbert and Park,