ultramaficmantle-derived volcanic rocks. They have low SiO2, low K2O, low Al2O3, and high to extremely high MgO. They were named for their type locality along the Komati Riverin South Africa.
True komatiites are very rare and essentially restricted to
rocksof Archaeanage, with few Proterozoicor Phanerozoickomatiites known (although high-magnesian lamprophyres are known from the Mesozoic). This restriction in age is thought to be due to secular cooling of the mantle, which may have been up to 500 °C hotter during the early to middle Archaean (4.5 to 2.6 Ga). The early Earthhad much higher heat production, due to the greater abundance of radioactiveelements.
Geographically, komatiites are restricted in distribution to the Archaean shield areas. Komatiites occur with other ultramafic and high-magnesian
mafic volcanicrocks in Archaean greenstone belts. The youngest komatiites are from the island of Gorgonaon the Caribbean oceanic plateau.
Magmasof komatiite compositions have a very high melting pointwith calculated eruption temperatures in excess of 1600 °C. Basaltic lavas normally have eruption temperatures of about 1100 °C to 1250°C. The higher melting temperatures required to produce komatiite have been attributed to the presumed higher geothermal gradients in the Archean Earth.
Komatiitic lava would have behaved as a
superfluidwhen erupted; it would have behaved as fluidly as water. Compared to the basaltic lava of the Hawaiianplume basalts at ~1200 °C which behaves as treacleor honey, the komatiitic lava would have flowed swiftly across the surface, leaving extremely thin lava flows (down to 10 mm thick). The major komatiite sequences preserved in Archaean rocks are thus considered to be lava tubes, ponds of lava or other conduits, where the komatiitic lava accumulated.
Komatiite chemistry is thought to be different from that of basaltic and other common mantle-produced magmas, because of differences in degrees of
partial melting. Komatiites are considered to have been formed by high degrees of partial melting, usually greater than 50%, and hence have high MgO with low K2O and other incompatible elements. Kimberlite, another magnesium-rich igneous rock, is relatively rich in potassium and in other incompatible elements, and is thought to form as a result of less than a percent or so of partial melting fluxed by water and carbon dioxide.
There are two geochemical classes of komatiite; aluminium undepleted komatiite (AUDK) (also known as Group I komatiites) and aluminium depleted komatiite (ADK) (also known as Group II komatiites). These two classes of komatiite represent a real petrological source difference between the two types related to depth of melt generation. Al-depleted komatiites have been modeled by melting experiments as being produced by high degrees of partial melting of hydrous mantle at low pressure where Al-bearing pyroxenes in the source are not melted, whereas Al-undepleted komatiites are produced by high degree partial melts at greater depth, allowing melting of Al-rich pyroxene.
Boninitemagmatism is similar to komatiite magmatism but is driven more by melting induced by volatile flows above a subduction zone than by decompression melting. Boninites with 10-18% MgO tend to have higher LILE (Ba, Rb, Sr) than komatiites.
magmas are considered to be a source for spatially associated tholeiite basalts based on a study linking the two rock types in the Karelian greenstonebelt of northwest Russia.
At present Io is believed to be producing komatiite lavas with temperatures of up to 1700 °C.
A considerable population of komatiite examples show a cumulate texture and
morphology. The usual cumulate mineralogyis highly magnesiumrich forsteriteolivine, though chromian pyroxene cumulates are also possible (though rarer).
Volcanic rocks rich in magnesium may be produced by accumulation of olivine
phenocrystsin basalt melts of normal chemistry: an example is picrite. Part of the evidence that komatiites are not magnesium-rich simply because of cumulate olivine is textural: some contain spinifex, a texture attributable to rapid crystallizationof the olivine from a magnesium-rich melt.
Another line of evidence is that the MgO content of olivines formed in komatiites is toward the nearly pure MgO forsterite composition, which can only be achieved in bulk by crystallisation of olivine from a highly magnesian melt.
The often rarely preserved flow top
brecciaand pillow margin zones in some komatiite flows are essentially volcanic glass, quenchedin contact with overlying water or air. Because they are quenched, they represent the liquid composition of the komatiites, and thus record an anhydrousMgO content of up to 32% MgO. Some of the highest magnesian komatiites with clear textural preservation are those of the Weltevreden Formationof the Barberton beltin South Africa, where liquids with up to 34% MgO can inferred using bulk rock and olivine compositions.
The mineralogy of a komatiite varies systematically through the typical
stratigraphicsection of a komatiite flow and reflects magmatic processes which komatiites are susceptible to during their eruption and cooling. The typical mineralogical variation is from a flow base composed of olivine cumulate, to a spinifextextured zone composed of bladed olivine and ideally a pyroxene spinifex zone and olivine-rich chill zone on the upper eruptive rind of the flow unit. The "spinifex" texture is named after an Australian grassthat grows in clumps with similar shapes.
Primary (magmatic) mineral species also encountered in komatiites include olivine, the pyroxenes
augite, pigeoniteand bronzite, plagioclase, chromite, ilmeniteand rarely pargasitic amphibole. Secondary (metamorphic) minerals include serpentine, chlorite, amphibole, sodic plagioclase, quartz, iron oxides and rarely phlogopite, baddeleyite, and pyropeor hydrogrossular garnet.
There are virtually no known unmetamorphosed komatiites within the Earth's crust at the present time, therefore 'komatiites' should technically be termed 'metakomatiite' though the prefix meta is inevitably assumed. Because of this ubiquitous
metamorphism, the mineralogy of a komatiite reflects primary magmatic chemistry, and the metamorphic fluids which have affected the rocks. Komatiites are usually highly altered and serpentinized or carbonatedfrom metamorphism and metasomatism. This results in significant changes to the mineralogy of the komatiites and the texture is rarely preserved.
Hydration vs Carbonation
The metamorphic mineralogy of ultramafic rocks, particularly komatiites, is only partially controlled by composition. The character of the
connatefluids which are present during low temperature metamorphism whether progradeor retrogradecontrol the metamorphic assemblage of a metakomatiite ("hereafter the prefix meta- is assumed").
The factor controlling the mineral assemblage is the
partial pressureof carbon dioxidewithin the metamorphic fluid, called the XCO2. If XCO2 is above 0.5, the metamorphic reactions favor formation of talc, magnesite(magnesium carbonate), and tremoliteamphibole. These are classed as talc-carbonation reactions. Below XCO2 of 0.5, metamorphic reactions in the presence of water favor production of serpentinite.
There are thus two main classes of metamorphic komatiite; carbonated and hydrated. Carbonated komatiites and peridotites form a series of rocks dominated by the minerals chlorite,
talc, magnesiteor dolomiteand tremolite. Hydrated metamorphic rock assemblages are dominated by the minerals chlorite, serpentine- antigorite, brucite. Traces of talc, tremolite and dolomite may be present, as it is very rare that no carbon dioxide is present in metamorphic fluids. At higher metamorphic grades, anthophyllite, enstatite, olivineand diopsidedominate as the rock mass dehydrates.
Mineralogic variations in komatiite flow facies
Komatiite tends to fractionate from high-magnesium compositions in the flow bases where olivine cumulates dominate, to lower magnesium compositions higher up in the flow. Thus, the current metamorphic mineralogy of a komatiite will reflect the chemistry, which in turn represents an inference as to its volcanological
faciesand stratigraphic position.
Typical metamorphic mineralogy is
tremolite- chlorite, or talc-chlorite mineralogy in the upper spinifex zones. The more magnesian-rich olivine-rich flow base facies tend to be free from tremolite and chlorite mineralogy and are dominated by either serpentine- brucite+/- anthophylliteif hydrated, or talc- magnesiteif carbonated. The upper flow facies tend to be dominated by talc, chlorite, tremolite, and other magnesian amphiboles ( anthophyllite, cummingtonite, gedrite, etc).
For example, the typical flow facies (see below) may have the following mineralogy;
Komatiite can be classified according to the following geochemical criteria;
* SiO2; typically 40 - 45%
* MgO greater than 18%
* Low K2O (<0.5%)
* Low CaO and Na2O (<2% combined)
* Low Ba, Cs, Rb (
incompatible element) enrichment; ΣLILE <1,000ppm
Ni(>400ppm), Cr(>800ppm), Co(>150ppm)
The above geochemical classification must be the essentially unaltered magma chemistry and not the result of crystal accumulation (as in
peridotite). Through a typical komatiite flow sequence the chemistry of the rock will change according to the internal fractionation which occurs during eruption. This tends to lower MgO, Cr, Ni towards the top, and increases Al, K2O, Na and CaO and SiO2 toward the top of the flow.
Rocks with high MgO, high K2O and Ba, Cs, Rb etc. may be
lamprophyres, kimberlites or other rare ultramafic, potassic or ultrapotassic rocks.
Morphology and occurrence
Komatiites often show
pillow lavastructure, autobrecciated upper margins consistent with underwater eruption forming a rigid upper skin to the lava flows, under which considerable lava tubes and pools accumulate. Proximal volcanic facies are thinner and interleaved with sulfidic sediments, black shales, cherts and tholeiitic basalts. Komatiites were produced from a relatively wet mantle. Evidence of this is from their association with felsics, occurrences of komatiitic tuffs, Niobiumanomalies and by S- and H2O-borne rich mineralizations.
A common and distinctive texture is known as "spinifex texture" and consists of long
acicularphenocrysts of olivine (or pseudomorphs of alteration minerals after olivine) which give the rock a bladed appearance especially on a weathered surface. The spinifex texture is the result of rapid crystallization of a supercooled liquid.
Crystal growth is retarded due to the superfluid nature of the komatiite, and proceeds in a 'flash freeze' to form the spinifex texture.
"Harrisite texture", first described from the locality of
Harris, Scotland, is formed by nucleation of crystals on the floor of the lava flow chamber. Harrisites are known to form megacrystal aggregates of pyroxene and olivine up to 1 metre in length.
volcanomorphology is interpreted to have the general form and structure of a shield volcano, typical of most large basaltedifices, as the magmatic event which forms komatiites erupts less magnesian materials.
However, the initial flux of the most magnesian magmas is interpreted to form a channelised flow facie, which is envisioned as a fissure vent releasing highly fluid komatiitic lava onto the surface. This then flows outwards from the vent fissure, concentrating into topographical lows, and forming channel environments composed of high MgO olivine adcumulate flanked by a 'sheeted flow facies' aprons of lower MgO olivine and pyroxene thin-flow spinifex sheets.
The typical komatiite lava flow has six stratigraphically related elements;
* A1 - pillowed and variolitic chilled flow top, often grading and transitional with sediment
* A2 - Zone of quickly chilled, feathery acicular olivine-clinopyroxene-glass representing a chilled margin on the top of the flow unit
* A3 - Olivine spinifex sequence composed of sheaf and book-like olivine spinifex, representing a downward-growing crystal accumulation on the flow top
* B1 - Olivine mesocumulate to orthocumulate, representing a harrisite grown in flowing liquid melt
* B2 - Olivine adcumulate composed of >93% interlocking equant olivine crystals
* B3 - Lower chill margin composed of olivine adcumulate to mesocumulate, with finer grain size. Individual flow units may not be entirely preserved, as subsequent flow units may thermally erode the A zone spinifex flows. In the distal thin flow facies, B zones are poorly developed to absent, as not enough through-flowing liquid existed to grow the adcumulate.
The channel and sheeted flows are then covered by high-magnesian basalts and tholeiitic basalts as the volcanic event evolves to less magnesian compositions. The subsequent magmatism, being higher silica melts, tends to form a more typical shield volcano architecture.
Komatiite magma is extremely dense and unlikely to reach the surface, being more likely to pool lower within the crust. Modern (post-2004) interpretations of some of the larger olivine adcumulate bodies in the
Yilgarn cratonhas revealed that the majority of komatiite olivine adcumulate occurrences are likely to be subvolcanicto intrusivein nature.
This is recognised at the Mt Keith
nickeldeposit where wall-rock intrusive textures and xenoliths of felsiccountry rocks have been recognised within the low- straincontacts. The previous interpretations of these large komatiite bodies was that they were "super channels" or reactivated channels, which grew to over 500 m in stratigraphic thickness during prolonged volcanism.
These intrusions are considered to be channelised sills, formed by injection of komatiitic magma into the stratigraphy, and inflation of the magma chamber. Economic nickel-mineralised olivine adcumulate bodies may represent a form of sill-like conduit, where magma pools in a staging chamber before erupting onto the surface.
The economic importance of komatiite was first widely recognised in the early 1960's with the discovery of massive nickel sulfide mineralisation at
Kambalda, Western Australia. Komatiite-hosted nickel-copper sulfide mineralisation today accounts for about 14% of the world's nickel production, mostly from Australia, Canada and South Africa.
Komatiites are associated with
nickeland golddeposits in Australia, Canada, South Africaand most recently in the Guiana shield of South America.
* Komatiitic Ni-Cu-PGE mineralisation
List of rock textures
List of rock types
* Definition of ultramafic rocks
* Hess, P. C. (1989), "Origins of Igneous Rocks", President and Fellows of Harvard College (pp. 276-285), ISBN 0-674-64481-6.
* Hill R.E.T, Barnes S.J., Gole M.J., and Dowling S.E., 1990. "Physical volcanology of komatiites; A field guide to the komatiites of the Norseman-Wiluna Greenstone Belt, Eastern Goldfields Province, Yilgarn Block, Western Australia.", Geological Society of Australia. ISBN 0-909869-55-3
* Blatt, Harvey and Robert Tracy (1996), "Petrology", 2nd ed., Freeman (pp. 196-7), ISBN 0-7167-2438-3.
* S. A. Svetov, A. I. Svetova, and H. Huhma, 1999, "Geochemistry of the Komatiite–Tholeiite Rock Association in the Vedlozero–Segozero Archean Greenstone Belt, Central Karelia", Geochemistry International, Vol. 39, Suppl. 1, 2001, pp. S24–S38. [http://geoserv.karelia.ru/rus/htm_files/Personal/Svetov%20S_A/GeoChemS1_01SvetovLO.pdf PDF] accessed 7-25-2005
* Vernon R.H., 2004, "A Practical Guide to Rock Microstructure", (pp. 43-69, 150-152) Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-81443-X
*Komatiitesby N. T. Arndt (Author), E. G. Nisbet (Author)Publisher: Unwin Hyman (June 1982) ISBN 0045520194 ,Hardcover: 543 pages .
* [http://www.geology.sdsu.edu/how_volcanoes_work/Unusual%20lava.html Unusual lava types] accessed 7-25-2005
* [http://arxiv.org/abs/physics/0512118 Komatiites and astrobiology]
* [http://www.mantleplumes.org/Komatiites.html Komatiites and the Plume Debate]
* [http://www.xs4all.nl/~carlkop/iofire.html Volcanic fireworks on Io]
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