Paradoxical co-existing base metal sulphides in the mantle: The multi-event record preserved in Loch Roag peridotite xenoliths, North Atlantic Craton

Hannah S.r. Hughes, Iain Mcdonald, Matthew Loocke, Ian B. Butler, Brian Upton, John W. Faithfull

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The role of the subcontinental lithospheric mantle as a source of precious metals for mafic magmas is contentious and, given the chalcophile (and siderophile) character of metals such as the platinum-group elements (PGE), Se, Te, Re, Cu and Au, the mobility of these metals is intimately linked with that of sulphur. Hence the nature of the host phase(s), and their age and stability in the subcontinental lithospheric mantle may be of critical importance. We investigate the sulphide mineralogy and sulphide in situ trace element compositions in base metal sulphides (BMS) in a suite of spinel lherzolite mantle xenoliths from northwest Scotland (Loch Roag, Isle of Lewis). This area is situated on the margin of the North Atlantic Craton which has been overprinted by a Palaeoproterozoic orogenic belt, and occurs in a region which has undergone magmatic events from the Palaeoproterozoic to the Eocene. We identify two populations of co-existing BMS within a single spinel lherzolite xenolith (LR80) and which can also be recognised in the peridotite xenolith suite as a whole. Both populations consist of a mixture of Fe-Ni-Cu sulphide minerals, and we distinguished between these according to BMS texture, petrographic setting (i.e., location within the xenolith in terms of ‘interstitial’ or within feldspar-spinel symplectites, as demonstrated by X-ray Computed Microtomography) and in situ trace element composition. Group A BMS are coarse, metasomatic, have low concentrations of total PGE (< 40 ppm) and high (Re/Os)N (ranging 1 to 400). Group B BMS strictly occur within symplectites of spinel and feldspar, are finer-grained rounded droplets, with micron-scale PtS (cooperite), high overall total PGE concentrations (15–800 ppm) and low (Re/Os)N ranging 0.04 to 2. Group B BMS sometimes coexist with apatite, and both the Group B BMS and apatite can preserve rounded micron-scale Ca-carbonate inclusions indicative of sulphide-carbonate-phosphate immiscibility. This carbonate-phosphate metasomatic association appears to be important in forming PGE-rich sulphide liquids, although the precise mechanism for this remains obscure. As a consequence of their position within the symplectites, Group B BMS are particularly vulnerable to being incorporated in ascending mantle-derived magmas (either by melting or physical entrainment). Based on the cross-cutting relationships of the symplectites, it is possible to infer the relative ages of each metasomatic BMS population. We tally these with major tectono-magmatic events for the North Atlantic region by making comparisons to carbonatite events recorded in crustal and mantle rocks, and we suggest that the Pt-enrichment was associated with a pre-Carboniferous carbonatite episode. This method of mantle xenolith base metal sulphide documentation may ultimately permit the temporal and spatial mapping of the chalcophile metallogenic budget of the lithospheric mantle, providing a blueprint for assessing regional metallogenic potential.
Original languageEnglish
Early online date11 Oct 2016
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 11 Oct 2016


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