Super-reducing conditions in ancient and modern volcanic systems: sources and behaviour of carbon-rich fluids in the lithospheric mantle

William L. Griffin*, Jin-Xiang Huang, Emilie Thomassot, Sarah E. M. Gain, Vered Toledo, Suzanne Y. O'Reilly

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalConference paperpeer-review

30 Citations (Scopus)


Oxygen fugacity (ƒO2) is a key parameter of Earth's mantle, because it controls the speciation of the fluids migrating at depth; a major question is whether the sublithospheric mantle is metal-saturated, keeping ƒO2 near the Iron-Wustite (IW) buffer reaction. Cretaceous basaltic pyroclastic rocks on Mt. Carmel, Israel erupted in an intraplate environment with a thin, hot lithosphere. They contain abundant aggregates of hopper-shaped crystals of Ti-rich corundum, which have trapped melts with phenocryst assemblages (Ti2O3, SiC, TiC, silicides, native V) requiring extremely low ƒO2. These assemblages are interpreted to reflect interaction between basaltic melts and mantle-derived fluids dominated by CH4 + H2. Similar highly reduced assemblages are found associated with volcanism in a range of tectonic situations including subduction zones, major continental collisions, intraplate settings, craton margins and the cratons sampled by kimberlites. This distribution, and the worldwide similarity of δ13C in mantle-derived SiC and associated diamonds, suggest a widespread process, involving similar sources and independent of tectonic setting. We suggest that the common factor is the ascent of abiotic (CH4 + H2) fluids from the sublithospheric mantle; this would imply that much of the mantle is metal-saturated, consistent with observations of metallic inclusions in sublithospheric diamonds (e.g. Smith et al. 2016). Such fluids, perhaps carried in rapidly ascending deep-seated magmas, could penetrate high up into a depleted cratonic root, establishing the observed trend of decreasing ƒO2 with depth (e.g. Yaxley et al. in Lithos 140:142–151, 2012). However, repeated metasomatism (associated with the intrusion of silicate melts) will raise the FeO content near the base of the craton over time, developing a carapace of oxidizing material that would prevent the rise of CH4-rich fluids into higher levels of the subcontinental lithospheric mantle (SCLM). Oxidation of these fluids would release CO2 and H2O to drive metasomatism and low-degree melting both in the carapace and higher in the SCLM. This model can explain the genesis of cratonic diamonds from both reduced and oxidized fluids, the existence of SiC as inclusions in diamonds, and the abundance of SiC in some kimberlites. It should encourage further study of the fine fractions of heavy-mineral concentrates from all types of explosive volcanism.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)S101–S114
Number of pages14
JournalMineralogy and Petrology
Issue numberSuppl. 1
Early online date11 May 2018
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2018
EventInternational Kimberlite Conference (11th : 2017) - Gaborone, Botswana
Duration: 18 Sep 201722 Sep 2017
Conference number: 11th


  • Mantle redox
  • Moissanite (SiC)
  • Subcontinental lithospheric mantle
  • Mantle metasomatism
  • Abiotic methane


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