The Mineralogy of Nepheline Syenite Complexes from the Northern Part of the Chilwa Province, Malawi

Alan R. Woolley and R. Garth Platt
Department of Mineralogy, British Museum (Natural History), Cromwell Road, London SW7 5BD, UK
Department of Geology, Lakehead University, Thunder Bay, Ontario, Canada

Abstract: The mineralogy, including the accessory phases låvenite, rosenbuschite, and catapleiite, and consequent petrogenetic implications have been investigated for a group of four overlapping nepheline syenite complexes (Chikala, Chaone, Mongolowe, and Chinduzi) and for spatially associated silica-saturated and over-saturated perthosites, from the northern part of the Chilwa Alkaline Province, Malawi.

The complexes are thought to have formed by injection into high-level chambers of magma pulses genetically related to a common source magma at depth. Evidence for the source magma is preserved in salitic cores observed in the pyroxenes and a trend to more hedenbergite-rich compositions is believed to have formed by evolution of this magma. Subsequent trends of acmite enrichment followed magma injection into the higher-level chambers; the actual pyroxene trend associated with each individual complex is a function of the evolution attained by the source magma, oxidation potential, and perhaps even alkali activity. On the basis of such a two-stage model, the pyroxene data suggest emplacement of the Chaone and Mongolowe magmas somewhat earlier than that of Chikala, with the Chinduzi magma migrating even later.

Amphiboles and biotites are believed to have formed after high-level injection of the magmas. Their compositions broadly reflect the nature of the crystallizing pyroxenes in that magnesian hastingsitic hornblendes and more Mg-rich biotites are associated with more Mg-rich sodic pyroxenes, whereas katophorites and annite-rich micas are generally associated with sodic pyroxenes somewhat richer in hedenbergite. Sub-solidus crystallization in some of the complexes is represented by aegirine and magnesio-arfvedsonite. Nepheline compositions indicate broadly similar crystallization temperatures within the complexes, namely 950 to 750°C. Oxygen fugacities for these magmas obtained from biotite/annite compositions vary from 10−19 to 10−14 bars for this temperature range. Mineralogical data, particularly from pyroxenes and amphiboles, strongly suggest that the perthosites, spatially associated with the nepheline syenite complexes, are genetically unrelated.

Keywords: nepheline syenite • pyroxene • amphibole • mica • låvenite • rosenbuschite • catapleiite • Chilwa • Malawi

Mineralogical Magazine; December 1986 v. 50; no. 358; p. 597-610; DOI: 10.1180/minmag.1986.050.358.05
© 1986, The Mineralogical Society
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