Abstract

Prospecting carried out to the south of the Zambezi-Limpopo drainage divide in the vicinity of Bulawayo, Zimbabwe, led to the recovery of a suite of ilmenites with a chemical “fingerprint” that can be closely matched with the population found in the early Palaeozoic Colossus kimberlite, which is located to the north of the modern watershed. The ilmenite geochemistry eliminates other Zimbabwe Kimberlites as potential sources of these pathfinder minerals. Geophysical modelling has been used to ascribe the elevation of southern Africa to dynamic topography sustained by a mantle plume; however, the evolution of the modern divide between the Zambezi and Limpopo drainage basins is not readily explained in terms of this model. Rather, it can be interpreted to represent a late Palaeogene continental flexure, which formed in response to crustal shortening, linked to intra-plate transmission of stresses associated with an episode of spreading reorganization at the ocean ridges surrounding southern Africa. It is proposed that the formation of the flexure was a dynamic process, with the initial locus of flexure located to the north of the Colossus, resulting in the dispersal of ilmenites to the south of this kimberlite. Subsequently, the axis of flexure migrated to its present position, to the south of Colossus.

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