Transgressive nature and chilled margins of the Upper Zone in the western Bushveld Complex, South Africa
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External Organisational units
- University of Witwatersrand
- GeoActive (Pty) Ltd
The Upper Zone of the Bushveld Complex has long been known to have formed from a major influx of magma into the chamber that caused large-scale erosion of the chamber floor cumulates. The most dramatic manifestations of this process are two major gap areas (Northern and Southern) in the western Bushveld Complex in which the Upper Zone appears to have eroded away the underlying cumulates down to the very base of the Complex. However, due to almost complete lack of outcrops in the gap areas, no direct field observations have ever been reported to confirm the transgressive nature of the Upper Zone. Here, we present for the first time such observations from the Kameelhoek chromite mine located at the margin of the Northern Gap. In the open pit we have documented several transgressive depressions (up to 40 m in width) in the orthopyroxenite and chromitites of the Lower Critical Zone that are filled in with magnetite gabbro of the Upper Zone. The magnetite gabbro is chilled against the sidewalls of the depressions, forming glassy and fine-grained textured rocks with plagioclase laths arranged in radial clusters. Mineralogically and chemically, the magnetite gabbro correlates with cumulates from the lowermost part of the Upper Zone at its normal position in the complex. Three major points that have emerged from this study are: (1) the Critical Zone has been eroded away by magma that was parental to the Upper Zone, (2) this eroding magma was not the one that initiated formation of the Pyroxenite Marker, but rather the evolved melt that replenished the chamber at some later stage, and (3) the melt was phenocryst-free and likely derived from a deep-seated staging chamber. Our study thus supports a recent notion that even during the formation of the Upper Zone, the Bushveld chamber had still been operating as an open system that was replenished by melts from deeper magma sources.