Abstract

Cratonic lithospheric mantle plays an integral role in defining the physical behaviour of ancient continents and their mineral potential. Bulk compositional data show that modern-day melting residues from a variety of tectonic settings can be as depleted in Al and Ca as cratonic peridotites. Cratonic peridotites are strongly affected by secondary introduction of pyroxenes and garnet such that the extent and depth of melting cannot be reliably determined. Olivine compositions are probably the most reliable tracer of the original melting process and indicate that typical cratonic peridotites have experienced 40% or more melt extraction. Homogeneous levels of depletion indicated by olivine compositions, combined with mildly incompatible trace element evidence, indicate that melting took place at shallow depths, dominantly in the spinel stability field. Consideration of melt production models shows that shallow (<3 GPa) anhydrous melting is not capable of producing residues dominated by large degrees of melt extraction. Instead, a critical role for water is indicated, implicating the formation of cratonic peridotites within Archaean subduction zones. This melting occurred in the Neoarchaean in some cratonic blocks, initially forming dunitic residues that are still evident in the xenolith inventory of some cratons. Release and migration up-section of siliceous melt produced during orthopyroxene breakdown metasomatizes the proto-lithospheric via re-enrichment in orthopyroxene crystallizing from this hydrous Si-rich melt, forming the variably orthopyroxene-rich refractory harzburgites typical of most cratonic roots. Melting in Archaean subduction zones is followed by subduction stacking to form the cratonic root. Gravitational forces may then be responsible for the loss of imbricated mafic crust during periods of transient thermal and physical disturbances prior to final long-term tectonic stability. Most diamonds form in the base of these cratonic roots during pulses of thermal or tectonic activity, initially during root construction and subsequently associated with large-scale regional lithospheric events that may be correlated to pulses in global mantle dynamic evolution.

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