The Agpaitic Rocks — An Overview*

Henning Sørensen
Institute of Geology, The University of Copenhagen, Øster Voldgade 10, DK-1350 Copenhagen K
*Contributions to the Mineralogy of Ilímaussaq no. 98

Abstract: It is now generally agreed that the term ‘agpaitic’ should be restricted to peralkaline nepheline syenites (and phonolites) containing minerals such as eudialyte and rinkite, that is complex silicates of Zr, Ti, the rare earth elements (REE), and F and other volatiles. There are, however, cases of transition into more common types of nepheline syenites containing zircon, titanite, ilmenite, etc.

The agpaitic rocks are characterized by extremely high contents of rare elements such as Li, Be, Nb, Ta, REE, Zr, Th, etc. and of volatiles, first of all F and Cl. This gives rise to a wealth of mineral species, more than 500 in the Lovozero and Khibina complexes of the Kola peninsula, about 250 in Mont Saint-Hilaire, Quebec, Canada, and about 200 in the type locality, the Ilímaussaq complex, South Greenland.

These rocks have very long melting intervals and solidus temperatures as low as 500 to 400°C. They are accompanied by a gas phase rich in methane and other hydrocarbons and most probably also by sodium-rich fluids as indicated by the presence of minerals such as ussingite (NaAlSi3O8·NaOH) and villiaumite (NaF) and of pegmatites and hydrothermal veins rich in sodium and rare and volatile elements.

Agpaitic nepheline syenites are considered to have been formed by consolidation of melts oversaturated in alkalis, especially sodium, under conditions preventing the volatiles from escaping. These melts have been derived by extreme fractionation processes in alkali basaltic or nephelinitic magmas. The main stage of crystallization of the melts is characterized by minerals such as nepheline (sometimes also sodalite), alkali feldspars, arfvedsonite, aegirine and eudialyte, but the most highly developed, hyperagpaitic lujavrites of the Ilímaussaq complex have been formed from melts with extreme concentrations of sodium and volatiles resulting in the formation of naujakasite instead of nepheline, ussingite instead of sodalite and alkali feldspars, and steenstrupine instead of eudialyte. During the late stages of crystallization, sodium-rich fluids are the cause of late- and postmagmatic alteration and of the formation of hydrothermal mineralizations. The late stages are characterized by water-soluble sodium-rich minerals of which more than 80 have been found in the Khibina and Lovozero complexes.

Keywords: agpaitic rocks • nepheline syenite • phonolite • eudialyte • rinkite • Ilímaussaq complex

Mineralogical Magazine; August 1997 v. 61; no. 407; p. 485-498; DOI: 10.1180/minmag.1997.061.407.02
© 1997, The Mineralogical Society
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