Carbonatite magmas are considered to be ultimately derived from mantle sources, which may include lithospheric and asthenospheric reservoirs. Isotopic studies of carbonatite magmatism around the globe have typically suggested that more than one source needs to be invoked for generation of the parental melts to carbonatites, often involving the interaction of asthenosphere and lithosphere.
In the rift-related, Proterozoic Gardar Igneous Province of SW Greenland, carbonatite occurs as dykes within the Igaliko Nepheline Syenite Complex, as eruptive rocks and diatremes at Qassiarsuk, as a late plug associated with nepheline syenite at Grønnedal-Íka, and as small bodies associated with ultramafic lamprophyre dykes. The well-known cryolite deposit at Ivittuut was also rich in magmatic carbonate. The carbonatites are derived from the mantle with relatively little crustal contamination, and therefore should provide important information about the mantle sources of Gardar magmas. In particular, they are found intruded both into Archaean and Proterozoic crust, and hence provide a test for the involvement of lithospheric mantle.
A synthesis of new and previously published major and trace element, Sr, Nd, C and O isotope data for carbonatites and associated lamprophyres from the Gardar Province is presented. The majority of Gardar carbonatites and lamprophyres have consistent geochemical and isotopic signatures that are similar to those typically found in ocean island basalts. The geochemical characteristics of the two suites of magmas are similar enough to suggest that they were derived from the same mantle source. C and O isotope data are also consistent with a mantle derivation for the carbonatite magmas, and support the theory of a cogenetic origin for the carbonatites and the lamprophyres. The differences between the carbonatites and lamprophyres are considered to represent differing degrees of partial melting of a similar source. We suggest that the ultimate source of these magmas is the asthenospheric mantle, since there is no geochemical or isotopic evidence for their having been derived directly from ancient, enriched sub-continental lithospheric mantle. However, it is likely that the magmas actually formed through a two-stage process, with small-degree volatile-rich partial melts rising from the asthenospheric mantle and being ‘frozen in’ as metasomites, which were then rapidly remobilized during Gardar rifting.