Dawson's Oldoinyo Lengai Calciocarbonatite: A Magmatic Sövite or an Extremely Altered Natrocarbonatite?

J. Gittins and R. E. Harmer*
Department of Geology, University of Toronto, Toronto, Ontario, Canada M5S 3B1
Department of Geology, University of Pretoria, Pretoria 0002, South Africa
*Present address: Council for Geoscience, Private Bag X112, Pretoria 0001, South Africa

Abstract: In 1962 Dawson described a calcite carbonatite (specimen BD83) from the Tanzanian volcano Oldoinyo Lengai as a sövite, thus implying that at an earlier stage in its evolution this volcano had crystallized magmatic calciocarbonatites as well as the highly alkalic natrocarbonatite lava that has been erupted in more recent times. This proposition is difficult to reconcile with the currently fashionable hypothesis whereby the natrocarbonatite lava separated immiscibly from a type of nephelinite magma, most recently thought to be a wollastonite nephelinite. In 1993 Dawson sought to discredit the magmatic origin of this sövite specimen by arguing that it was derived from natrocarbonatite lava through extreme alteration (calcitization) in which process the original nyerereite was replaced by calcite in near-perfect pseudomorphs. We suggest that the arguments advanced in support of this concept are unconvincing and that the specimen is exactly what it was originally described as, namely a magmatic sövite in which the calcite crystallized from a magma rather than having replaced nyerereite. We do not seek to discredit the liquid immiscibility hypothesis but do believe that whatever process is responsible for the Oldoinyo Lengai natrocarbonatites and silicate rocks must also allow for the crystallization of calciocarbonatite.

Keywords: sövite • altered natrocarbonatite • Oldoinyo Lengai • calcitization • Tanzania

Mineralogical Magazine; June 1997 v. 61; no. 406; p. 351-355; DOI: 10.1180/minmag.1997.061.406.02
© 1997, The Mineralogical Society
Mineralogical Society (www.minersoc.org)