Natrocarbonatite flows in the crater of the volcano Oldoinyo Lengai (Tanzania) are the only carbonatite magmas observed to erupt and have provided strong arguments in favor of a magmatic origin for carbonatite. The currently favored explanation for the genesis of these carbonatites by liquid immiscibility between a silicate and a carbonatite melt is questioned based on the extremely low eruption temperatures of 544-593 °C and compositional and mineralogical characteristics not in agreement with experimental constraints. Experimental investigations of the relationship between Oldoinyo Lengai natrocarbonatite and related silicate rock compositions do indicate that alkali-bearing peralkaline carbonatite with liquidus calcite can form by liquid immiscibility. At the same time, these experiments result in evidence which speaks against a liquid immiscibility origin for the highly alkaline and peralkaline Oldoinyo Lengai natrocarbonatite. On the carbonatite side of the miscibility gap, fractional crystallization cannot account for a liquid evolution from alkali-bearing peralkaline carbonatite to highly alkaline natrocarbonatite. Such an evolution does not seem to be compatible with the liquidus mineral assemblages and the chemistry of Oldoinyo Lengai natrocarbonatite. No natural silicate magma is known to produce natrocarbonatite compositions by liquid immiscibility. The best interpretation of the Oldoinyo Lengai natrocarbonatite flows involves expulsion of a cognate, mobile, alkaline, and CO 2-rich fluid condensate. This conclusion is supported by recent studies of silicate and carbonatite melt inclusions in minerals of ultramafic alkaline complexes, trace element partitioning, isotopic constraints, and by experimental data on major element partitioning between coexisting H 2O-CO 2-rich fluid and carbonatitic melt. In contrast to all other suggested modes of formation, an origin of Oldoinyo Lengai natrocarbonatite from cognate fluid appears best to be in agreement with the field observations, the petrography, mineralogy, and geochemistry of Oldoinyo Lengai natrocarbonatite and the dynamics of the Oldoinyo Lengai natrocarbonatite extrusion.
- Programområde 4: Mineralske råstoffer