The transition from carbonate to silicate melts in the CaO-MgO-SiO2-CO2 system

K. R. Moore*, B. J. Wood

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

    76 Citations (Scopus)


    The compositions of melts in equilibrium with a lherzolite mineral assemblage were determined in the analogue system CaO-MgO-SiO2-CO2 at 3 GPa. Carbonate liquids coexist with olivine and two pyroxenes between the solidus for carbonated lherzolite at 1250°C and 1450°C. The Ca/(Ca + Mg) ratio of these melts is 0·64 and the main effects of rising temperature are increasing SiO2 content (from <4·3 to 7·5 wt %) and decreasing CO2 content. Between 1475°C and ~1525°C the SiO2 content of the liquid increases dramatically from 10 to 30% and, thereafter, the CO2 content decreases rapidly as the CO2-absent invariant point (at >1700°C) is approached. The progression from carbonate to silicate liquids is, therefore, abrupt and the field of transitional compositions (10-30% SiO2) is restricted to very narrow temperature intervals at pressures greater than the solidus ledge. All liquids appear to be miscible. In the context of upwelling magma, our results provide possible insight into the origins of complexes that are considered to contain primary carbonatites. The solidus 'ledge' between 2·5 and 3 GPa acts as a filter for both carbonatites and transitional melt compositions. Carbonatites, which have a wide stability field at 3 GPa, may rise through the mantle if they are isolated from lherzolite by wallrock reaction and production of wehrlite. Transitional carbonate-silicate melts must also, however, react with the mantle at low pressures. This fact, combined with the small range of physical conditions over which they are generated and their higher (than carbonatite) viscosity, means that they rarely reach crustal levels. Low-CO2 silicate melts, in contrast, are not required to react extensively en route to the surface and are abundant. We suggest that the binary nature of some carbonatite complexes may be controlled by the compositions of primary mantle melts produced at pressures greater than the solidus ledge.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)1943-1951
    Number of pages9
    JournalJournal of Petrology
    Issue number11-12
    Publication statusPublished - Nov 1998


    • Carbonatites
    • CO saturation
    • Metasomatism
    • Primary liquids

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