Abstract

The Quaternary carbonatite–nephelinite Kerimasi volcano is located within the Gregory rift in northern Tanzania. It is composed of nephelinitic and carbonatitic pyroclastic rocks, tuffs, tuff breccias and pyroclastic breccias, which contain blocks of different plutonic (predominantly ijolite) and volcanic (predominantly nephelinite) rocks including carbonatites. The plutonic and volcanic carbonatites both contain calcite as the major mineral with variable amounts of magnetite or magnesioferrite, apatite and forsterite. Carbonatites also contain accessory baddeleyite, kerimasite, pyrochlore and calzirtite. Zr and Nb minerals are rarely observed in rock samples, though they are abundant in eluvial deposits of carbonatite tuff/pyroclastic breccias in the Loluni and Kisete craters. Pyrochlore, ideally (CaNa)Nb2O6F, occurs as octahedral and cubo-octahedral crystals up to 300 μm in size. Compositionally, pyrochlore from Loluni and Kisete differs. The former is enriched in U (up to 19.4 wt.% UO2), light rare earth elements (up to 8.3 wt.% LREE2O3) and Zr (up to 14.4 wt.% ZrO2), and the latter contains elevated Ti (up to 7.3 wt.% TiO2). All the crystals investigated were crystalline, including those with high U content (a = 10.4152(1) Å for Loluni and a = 10.3763(1) Å for Kisete crystals). They have little or no subsolidus alteration nor low-temperature cation exchange (A-site vacancy up to 1.5% of the site), and are suitable for single-crystal X-ray diffraction analysis (R1 = 0.0206 and 0.0290; for all independent reflections for Loluni and Kisete crystals, respectively). Observed variations in the pyrochlore composition, particularly Zr content, from the Loluni and Kisete craters suggest crystallisation from compositionally different carbonatitic melts. The majority of pyrochlore crystals studied exhibit exceptionally well-preserved oscillatory- and sometimes sector-type zoning. The preferential incorporation of smaller and higher charged elements into more geometrically constrained sites on the growing surfaces explains the formation of the sector zoning. The oscillatory zoning can be rationalised by considering convectional instabilities of carbonatite magmas during their emplacement.

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