The ~16 Ma Rangwa Caldera Complex, part of the large Kisingiri nephelinite-carbonatite volcano, Homa Bay District, western Kenya (0°34′S; 34°09′E) contains carbonatitic lapilli and ash tuffs, agglomerate and tuffisite, and a number of intrusive calcite carbonatites. A detailed petrographic and electron microprobe study has been performed on 20 fresh samples from the collection at The Natural History Museum, London.
Most of the juvenile lapilli and ash particles are either predominantly composed of devitrified silicate glass (now biotite/phlogopite but probably also originally potassic silicate) or calcite carbonatite, which suggests that two molten liquids were erupted simultaneously. Some 10 mm-diameter lapilli contain quench-textured calcite crystals set in devitrified glass. They are interpreted as having crystallized from a molten silicate-carbonate melt at, or very near, the surface.
The extrusive carbonate is mostly composed of calcite, consistent with intrusive calcite compositions at Rangwa. Other key minerals are magnetite, two types of mica (magnesian-biotite phenocrysts and phlogopite xenocrysts) and fluorapatite.
The pyroclastic rocks contain many calcite carbonatite clasts, and fragments of calcite, aegirine and diopside, fluorapatite, magnetite, plus some phlogopite, titanite, K-feldspar, fenite and glimmerite; ijolite lithics are rare. Thus, there is no evidence for a cognate nephelinitic (ijolitic) or melilitic magma nor evidence for a direct relationship with the nephelinites of the Kisingiri volcano.
Two hypotheses are discussed. A rising silicate and K-rich carbonatite liquid may have evolved towards a carbonate-rich K-silicate liquid after crystallization of calcite, phlogopite, apatite and magnetite. Preservation of the the potassic component may be rare, with a more usual scenario being that potassic component separates as fenitizing fluids. The alternative is that the silicate component is remobilized fenite, formed from country rock that was mobilized by supercritical K-rich, fenitizing fluids associated with the carbonatite. Both scenarios require generation of a K-rich carbonatite magma, probably from a carbonated phlogopite-rich metasomatized mantle.