Abstract

The Upper Critical Zone of the Bushveld Complex consists of several cyclic units, each ranging from ultramafic to leucocratic. One view is that they were initiated by addition of, and crystallization from, relatively magnesian magma. Experimental studies on plausible parental magma compositions to this sequence show that plagioclase joins orthopyroxene in the crystallization sequence once the Mg# of the orthopyroxene has decreased below 83. Some norites from the Upper Critical Zone contain orthopyroxene with this Mg#, supporting the validity of the experimental studies. There are no orthopyroxene compositions with higher Mg# than 83 in the entire Upper Critical Zone in either the eastern or western limbs of the Bushveld Complex. This observation suggests that all these rocks formed from plagioclase-saturated magmas. If this interpretation is correct, pyroxenites in this succession are not the result of crystallization from a magnesian magma. Instead, they result from the mechanical separation of plagioclase and orthopyroxene, probably due to crystal sorting during settling, from a magma lying at the cotectic for these two minerals. Rocks exist in the Upper Critical Zone that contain non-cotectic proportions of cumulus plagioclase and orthopyroxene, again supporting models of crystal sorting during settling. In such a model, anorthosites result from the delayed accumulation of plagioclase relative to pyroxene, and not to formation from a magma saturated only in plagioclase.

When traced from northwest to southeast in the western limb, there is a change in the relative proportions of plagioclase to orthopyroxene in the Upper Group 2 chromitite cyclic unit. In the northwest the unit is dominated by ultramafic rocks. In the southeast the plagioclase to pyroxene ratio exceeds that of the cotectic proportion, relations that may result from the lateral transport of suspended plagioclase grains to the southeast.

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