ABSTRACT

Compositional zoning is observed rarely in chrome-spinel grains from slowly-cooled layered intrusions because diffusion of cations continues within the spinel to low temperatures. However, in certain circumstances, such gradational zoning of both divalent and trivalent cations is observed and may be useful in deciphering the thermal history of the host intrusions. The accessory chrome-spinels of the Kabanga mafic-ultramafic chonolith intrusions of the Kibaran igneous event in north western Tanzania are notable because they have preserved gradational compositional zoning. This zoning is demonstrated to predate and be independent of later hydrous alteration of the silicate assemblage. At Kabanga, most chrome-spinel grains within olivine-rich cumulate rocks are gradationally and cryptically zoned from Fe2+-Cr3+ rich cores to more Mg2+-Al3+ rich rims (normal zoning). A few grains are zoned from Mg2+-Al3+ rich cores to more Fe2+-Cr3+ rich rims (reverse zoned). The zoning of divalent cations is proportional to that of trivalent cations with Mg2+ following Al3+ and Fe2+ following Cr3+ from core to rim. The zoning of trivalent and tetravalent cations is interpreted to be caused by either new growth from an evolving melt or peritectic reactions between evolved or contaminated melt and adjacent Al-Cr-bearing ferromagnesian minerals, which is preserved by relatively rapid initial cooling in the small chonolith intrusions. Divalent cation zoning is controlled by sub-solidus exchange of Fe2+ and Mg with adjacent ferromagnesian minerals and continues to lower temperatures, indicated to be 580 to 630°C by the spinel-olivine geothermometer. Preservation of such zoning is more likely in the smaller chonolith intrusions that typically host magmatic nickel-copper sulfide deposits and can be used as an exploration indicator when interpreting chromite compositions in regional heavy indicator mineral surveys.

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