Metasomatic control of hydrogen contents in the layered cratonic mantle lithosphere sampled by Lac de Gras xenoliths in the central Slave craton, Canada

McKensie L. Kilgore*, Anne H. Peslier, Alan D. Brandon, Lillian A. Schaffer, Richard V. Morris, Trevor G. Graff, David G. Agresti, Suzanne Y. O'Reilly, William L. Griffin, D. Graham Pearson, Kelsey Gangi, Barry J. Shaulis

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)


Whether hydrogen incorporated in nominally anhydrous mantle minerals plays a role in the strength and longevity of the thick cratonic lithosphere is a matter of debate. In particular, the percolation of hydrogen-bearing melts and fluids could potentially add hydrogen to the mantle lithosphere, weaken its olivines (the dominant mineral in mantle peridotite), and cause delamination of the lithosphere's base. The influence of metasomatism on hydrogen contents of cratonic mantle minerals can be tested in mantle xenoliths from the Slave Craton (Canada) because they show extensive evidence for metasomatism of a layered cratonic mantle. Minerals from mantle xenoliths from the Diavik mine in the Lac de Gras kimberlite area located at the center of the Archean Slave craton were analyzed by FTIR for hydrogen contents. The 18 peridotites, two pyroxenites, one websterite and one wehrlite span an equilibration pressure range from 3.1 to 6.6 GPa and include samples from the shallow (≤145 km), oxidized ultra-depleted layer; the deeper (∼145–180 km), reduced less depleted layer; and an ultra-deep (≥180 km) layer near the base of the lithosphere. Olivine, orthopyroxene, clinopyroxene and garnet from peridotites contain 30–145, 110–225, 105–285, 2–105 ppm H 2O, respectively. Within each deep and ultra-deep layer, correlations of hydrogen contents in minerals and tracers of metasomatism (for example light over heavy rare-earth-element ratio (LREE/HREE), high-field-strength-element (HFSE) content with equilibration pressure) can be explained by a chromatographic process occurring during the percolation of kimberlite-like melts through garnet peridotite. The hydrogen content of peridotite minerals is controlled by the compositions of the evolving melt and of the minerals and by mineral/melt partition coefficients. At the beginning of the process, clinopyroxene scavenges most of the hydrogen and garnet most of the HFSE. As the melt evolves and becomes enriched in hydrogen and LREE, olivine and garnet start to incorporate hydrogen and pyroxenes become enriched in LREE. The hydrogen content of peridotite increases with decreasing depth, overall (e.g., from 75 to 138 ppm H 2O in the deep peridotites). Effective viscosity calculated using olivine hydrogen content for the deepest xenoliths near the lithosphere-asthenosphere boundary overlaps with estimates of asthenospheric viscosities. These xenoliths cannot be representative of the overall cratonic root because the lack of viscosity contrast would have caused basal erosion of lithosphere. Instead, metasomatism must be confined in narrow zones channeling kimberlite melts through the lithosphere and from where xenoliths are preferentially sampled. Such localized metasomatism by hydrogen-bearing melts therefore does not necessarily result in delamination of the cratonic root.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)29-53
Number of pages25
JournalGeochimica et Cosmochimica Acta
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2020


  • Mantle Xenoliths
  • Lithosphere
  • Water in the Mantle
  • Mantle
  • Hydrogen
  • Slave Craton
  • Diavik
  • Lac de Gras
  • Xenolith Trace Elements
  • FTIR
  • Kimberlite Metasomatism
  • Mantle Viscosity
  • Craton Longevity


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