Geodynamic implications of ophiolitic chromitites in the la Cabaña ultramafic bodies, Central Chile

José María González-Jiménez*, Fernando Barra, Richard J. Walker, Martin Reich, Fernando Gervilla

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Citations (Scopus)


Chromitites (>80% volume chromite) hosted in two ultramafic bodies (Lavanderos and Centinela Bajo) from the Palaeozoic metamorphic basement of the Chilean Coastal Cordillera were studied in terms of their chromite composition, platinum-group element (PGE) abundances, and Re-Os isotopic systematics. Primary chromite (Cr# = 0.64-0.66; Mg# = 48.71-51.81) is only preserved in some massive chromitites from the Centinela Bajo ultramafic body. This chemical fingerprint is similar to other high-Cr chromitites from ophiolite complexes, suggesting that they crystallized from arc-type melt similar to high-Mg island-arc tholeiites (IAT) and boninites in supra-subduction mantle. The chromitites display enrichment in IPGE (Os, Ir, Ru) over PPGE (Rh, Pt, Pd), with PGE concentrations between 180 and 347 ppb, as is typical of chromitites hosted in the mantle of supra-subduction zone (SSZ) ophiolites. Laurite (RuS 2)-erlichmanite (OsS2) phases are the most abundant inclusions of platinum-group minerals (PGM) in chromite, indicating crystallization from S-undersaturated melts in the sub-arc mantle. The metamorphism associated with the emplacement of the ultramafic bodies in the La Cabaña has been determined to be ca. 300 Ma, based on K-Ar dating of fuchsite. Initial 187Os/188Os ratios for four chromitite samples, calculated for this age, range from 0.1248 to 0.1271. These isotopic compositions are well within the range of chromitites hosted in the mantle section of other Phanaerozoic ophiolites. Collectively, these mineralogical and geochemical features are interpreted in terms of chromite crystallization in dunite channels beneath a spreading centre that opened a marginal basin above a supra-subduction zone. This implies that chromitite-bearing serpentinites in the metamorphic basement of the Coastal Cordillera are of oceanic-mantle origin and not oceanic crust as previously suggested. We suggest that old subcontinental mantle underlying the hypothetical Chilenia micro-continent was unroofed and later altered during the opening of the marginal basin. This defined the compositional and structural framework in which the protoliths of the meta-igneous and meta-sedimentary rocks of the Eastern and Western Series of the Chilean Coastal Cordillera basement were formed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1466-1483
Number of pages18
JournalInternational Geology Review
Issue number12
Publication statusPublished - 10 Sep 2014
Externally publishedYes


  • Chile
  • Chilenia
  • chromite
  • marginal basin
  • ophiolite


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