Abstract

The Upper Critical Zone of the Rustenburg Layered Suite (RLS) in the Swartklip Sector, north-western Bushveld Complex, is considerably attenuated relative to other parts of the Complex. The interval between the UG2 chromitite and the Merensky Reef amounts to as little as 25 m in places. Within this interval, the aggregate thickness of orthopyroxenite-dominated ultramafic layers hosting the UG1 and UG2 chromitites and the Merensky and Bastard reefs does not differ significantly from the area around Rustenburg, to the south. The total thickness of ultramafic lithologies is, in fact, increased by the presence of the 3 to 5 m thick olivine-rich Pseudo Reef Unit, which is developed between the UG2 and Merensky Reef units in the Swartklip Sector, but does not occur in any significant form elsewhere in the Bushveld intrusion. The substantial thinning of the succession is due almost entirely to the fact that plagioclase-rich rocks (norite and anorthosite) between the ultramafic layers are radically thinned in the Swartklip Sector relative to virtually all other parts of the Bushveld Complex. The ultramafic layers, although dominated by orthopyroxenite, are characterized by higher proportions of olivine than in other parts of the Bushveld Complex. In our logging of the substantial number of exploration drill cores that form the basis of this study, we have found it expedient to define stratigraphic units that are either exclusively plagioclase-rich (norite and anorthosite) or plagioclase-poor (consisting of varying proportions of orthopyroxenite, harzburgite and chromitite). This effectively binary system of lithological classification has no overt genetic connotations.

Our nomenclature has, in fact, enabled us to rigorously document the nature of contacts between ultramafic and plagioclase-rich units, and thus to identify unconformities between the ultramafic units (orthopyroxenite and harzburgite) and intervening noritic and anorthositic units, which have in the past been ascribed to localized thermo-chemical erosion of pre-existing plagioclase-rich cumulates. Apart from the well-documented evidence of erosional unconformities at the basal contacts of ultramafic units, we also provide evidence for unconformities at the tops of these units.

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