Petrology of local concentration of chromian spinel in dunite from the slow-spreading Southwest Indian Ridge
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This is the first detailed report on local concentration of chromian spinel in a dunite from an ultraslow spreading ridge, the Southwest Indian Ridge (SWIR). The sample was collected from an outcrop with detailed observations using submersible SHINKAI 6500 of the Japanese Marine Science Technology Center. The dunite occurs as a tabular-shaped layer in a lherzolite host outcrop. Spinel is found as a string of small micropods 2 - 3 centimeters in size. These spinel micropods make a layer in the middle part of a spinel-poor dunite (< 1 vol % spinel) parallel to the lithological boundary between dunite and enstatite-poor harzburgite. The enstatite-poor harzburgite has relatively high-Cr# spinel (> 0.4) compared with other peridotite samples in the studied area (lherzolites to harzburgite with low-Cr# spinel, typically Cr# <= 0.3). The occurrence and chemical compositions of clinopyroxene in the enstatite-poor harzburgite suggest that some clinopyroxenes crystallized from infiltrated interstitial melts. The host peridotites are interpreted as a residue of relatively low degrees of partial melting consistent with a location along the SWIR far from a mantle hot spot. This was then followed by crystallization of clinopyroxene from interstitial melt in the dunite. Irrespective of their small size, the lithological relationships between the spinel micropods and the host peridotites are the same as those for podiform chromitite in ophiolites and orogenic peridotites. The spinel Cr# in the micropods (0.3) is compatible with the lower range of those in basalts from SWIR far from hot spot. The spine] micropods were mainly formed by interaction between relatively depleted peridotite and a locally significant volume of basaltic melt traversing the upper mantle. This study coupled with the previous works on chromitites suggest that podiform chromites occur in every geodynamic setting, though economic concentrations of chromite (Cr-rich spinel) are unlikely to occur in the mantle at ultraslow spreading ridges.