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Spheroidal pyroxenite aggregates in the Bushveld Complex — a special case of silicate liquid immiscibility

Earth and Planetary Science Letters
Publication Date
DOI: 10.1016/0012-821x(79)90178-x
  • Chemistry
  • Earth Science


Abstract Spherical aggregates of orthopyroxene are reported from some parts of the Bushveld Complex in a variety of host rocks. Detailed mapping has shown that these spherical aggregates, comprising pyroxenite spheroids in a quartz-norite matrix, are contact phenomena and not stratigraphic markers. Orthopyroxene, biotite and amphibole are enriched in spheroids relative to matrix; their mineral chemistry showing a fairly constant orthopyroxene and plagioclase composition through the spheroids and into the matrix, indicating in-situ formation. Bulk chemistry shows spheroid to matrix tie-lines orthogonal to those generally accepted for silicate liquid immiscibility, but other chemical information is consistent with the occurrence of immiscibility. The formation of the aggregates may be related to the industrial process of spherical agglomeration, by which spheroids are formed by the introduction of an immiscible “bridging liquid” to the melt — probably derived from the floor rocks in this case. The mechanism accounts for the field relationships, petrography and chemistry of the aggregate-matrix system. The petrology of the process equates with a special case of silicate liquid immiscibility induced by local contamination and ageing of the original magma. A similar “bridging liquid” mechanism could also account for the formation of the so-called “boulder bed” beneath the Merensky Reef.

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