Using chalcophile elements to constrain crustal contamination and xenolith-magma interaction in Cenozoic basalts of eastern China

Gang Zeng*, Xiao Wen Huang, Mei Fu Zhou, Li Hui Chen, Xi Sheng Xu

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Citations (Scopus)


Continental basalts have complicated petrogenetic processes, and their chemical compositions can be affected by multi-staged geological evolution. Compared to lithophile elements, chalcophile elements including Ni, platinum-group elements (PGEs) and Cu are sensitive to sulfide segregation and fractional crystallization during the evolution of mantle-derived magmas and can provide constraints on the genesis of continental basalts. Cenozoic intra-continental alkaline basalts in the Nanjing basaltic field, eastern China, include high-Ca and low-Ca varieties. All these basalts have poor PGE contents with Ir ranging from 0.016 ppb to 0.288 ppb and high Cu/Pd ratios from 0.7 × 105 to 4.7 × 105 (5.7 × 103 for DMM), indicating that they were derived from sulfide-saturated mantle sources with variable amounts of residual sulfide during melting or might undergo an early-sulfide segregation in the mantle. Relatively high Cu/Pd ratios along with high Pd concentrations for the high-Ca alkaline basalts indicate an additional removal of sulfide during magma ascent. Because these basalts have high, variable Pd/Ir ratios (2.8-16.8) with low Ce/Pb (9.9-19.7) ratios and εNd values (+3.6-+6.4), crustal contamination is proposed to be a potential process to induce the sulfide saturation and removal. Significantly increased Pd/Ir ratios for few high-Ca basalts can be explained by the fractionation of laurite or Ru-Os-Ir alloys with olivine or chromite. For low-Ca alkaline basalts, their PGE contents are well correlated with the MgO, Sc contents, incompatible element ratios (Lu/Hf, Na/Ti and Ca/Al) and Hf isotopes. Good correlations are also observed between Pd/Ir (or Rh/Ir) and Na/Ti (or Ca/Al) ratios. Variations of these elemental ratios and Hf isotopes is previously documented to be induced by the mixing of peridotite xenolith-released melts during ascent. Therefore, we suggest that such xenolith-magma interaction are also responsible for the variable PGE compositions of low-Ca alkaline basalts.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)163-172
Number of pages10
Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 2016
Externally publishedYes


  • Alkaline basalts
  • Crustal contamination
  • Eastern China
  • Platinum-group elements
  • Xenolith-magma interaction


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