Abstract

The largest field of Alpine Oligocene pegmatite dikes is in the Central Alps within the Southern Steep Belt (SSB) of the Alpine nappes; it extends for about 100 km in an E–W direction and 15 km in a N–S direction north of the Periadriatic Fault, from the Bergell pluton (to the east) to the Ossola valley (to the west). The pegmatite field geographically overlaps (1) the highest temperature domain of the Lepontine Barrovian metamorphic dome and (2) the zone of Alpine migmatization. We have studied pegmatites in two areas: (1) the Codera area on the western border of the Bergell pluton and (2) the Bodengo area between the Mera and the Mesolcina valleys. Most pegmatites show a simple mineral assemblage consisting of K-feldspar, quartz, and muscovite ± biotite, and only a minor percentage of the dikes (< 5%) contains Sn-Nb-Ta-Y-REE-U oxide, Y-REE phosphate, Mn-Fe-phosphate, Ti-Zr-silicate, Be-Y-REE-U-silicate and oxide minerals (beryl, chrysoberyl, bertrandite, bavenite, and milarite), garnet (almandine-spessartine), tourmaline (schorl to rare elbaite), bismuthinite, magnetite, and rarely dumortierite and helvite. The mineral assemblages, geological context, and chemical compositions allow the distinction between LCT (lithium, cesium, tantalum) and mixed LCT-NYF (niobium, yttrium, fluorine) pegmatites (with only one exception of an NYF dike in the Bodengo area). The LCT pegmatites of the Central Alps did not reach a high degree of geochemical evolution. The most fractionated pegmatites are found in the Codera area and contain Mn-rich elbaite, triplite, pink-beryl, and Cs-Rb-rich feldspar. In the Bodengo area pegmatites locally contain miarolitic cavities and the most evolved pegmatites correspond to the beryl-columbite-phosphate type. From a structural point of view two main types of pegmatites can be distinguished: (1) pegmatites that were involved in ductile deformation and (2) pegmatites that postdated the main ductile deformation of the SSB. Many pegmatites of the Codera valley belong to the first structural type: they were emplaced at relatively high ambient temperature (ca. 500 °C) and locally show a pervasive recrystallization of quartz and a mylonitic structure. The Codera dikes trend about 70° and are steeply dipping. In the Bodengo area the main set of pegmatites (trending approximately N–S to NNE–SSW) crosscuts the ductile deformation structures of the SSB, but the area also includes an earlier generation of boudinaged and folded pegmatite dikes. The undeformed pegmatites from this area may contain miarolitic pockets. There is no systematic difference in the mineral assemblage between the two structural types of pegmatites. However, the chemistry of pegmatite minerals, especially of garnet, in addition to field data suggests that the dikes of the Codera and Bodengo areas represent two distinct generations of pegmatites. Structural data and the few existing radiometric ages suggest that pegmatites were emplaced over a time span between 29 and 25 Ma (and possibly as young as 20 Ma), with the youngest dikes postdating the ductile deformations of the Alpine nappes. The present work presents a first comprehensive field description and geochemical – mineralogical characterization of the Alpine pegmatite field of the Central Alps.

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