The active volcano Oldoinyo Lengai, Tanzania, is well known for its extrusions of alkalic carbonatite lava, first witnessed in 1960. An older carbonatite flow from the volcano was originally also rich in Na and K, but replacement of nyerereite by pirssonite as a result of leaching of these elements (together with soluble components such as SO3, Cl, and Rb) and addition of Ca has resulted in a rock intermediate in bulk composition between the unique 1960 Lengai lavas and calcite-rich carbonatite flows reported from other localities. Further replacement of Na by Ca could theoretically result in a pure calcite rock, and we suggest that the partially altered alkalic lava described here is the “missing link” between lavas that are now calcitic but which had a high alkali content when originally extruded. The suggested link between alkali carbonate precursors and present-day calcium carbonate “lavas” explains the apparent paradox between the existence of calcite-rich “flows” and the experimental evidence that denies the possibility of hot, liquid calcium carbonate.

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