A review of the 2500 Ma span of alkaline-ultramafic, potassic and carbonatitic magmatism in West Greenland

Lotte Melchior Larsen, David C. Rex

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    Kimberlites, carbonatites and ultramafic, mafic and potassic lamprophyres have been produced in West Greenland in recurrent events since the Archaean. Five distinct age groups are recognised: Archaean (>2500 Ma). Early Proterozoic (1700-1900 Ma), Middle Proterozoic (Gardar, c. 1100-1300 Ma), Late Proterozoic (600 Ma) and Mesozoic-Tertiary (200-30 Ma) The rocks comprise two large and four small carbonatite occurrences, four kimberlite dyke swarms, one lamproite dyke swarm and one lamproite pipe, one dyke swarm of potassic lamprophyre (shonkinite) and some ten dyke swarms of ultramafic lamprophyre and monchiquite. Geochemical data for the various rock groups are presented. Some of the carbonatites may represent relatively unmodified mantle-derived melts. The kimberlites range from primitive to differentiated compositions, and there are regional differences between kimberlites within Archaean and Proterozoic basement. The ultrapotassic lamproites and shonkinites have strong negative Nb spikes in their trace element spectra. The ultramafic and monchiquitic lamprophyres encompass a large compositional variation; however, several of the dyke swarms have individual chemical characters. The rocks are very unevenly distributed in West Greenland, indicating a lithospheric control, probably by old weakness zones providing access to the surface. The kimberlites are considered to be mainly of asthenospheric derivation. The regional differences are interpreted in terms of melting with phlogopite as a residual phase, with smaller degrees of melting at deeper levels beneath the Archaean lithosphere than beneath the Proterozoic. The ultrapotassic lamproites and shonkinites occur almost exclusively within a continental collision zone with possible two-way subduction and they are interpreted as mainly of lithospheric derivation, with a contribution from a subducted slab. Data for the other rock types are equivocal. Except for the Archaean rocks, the age groups can be related to major geotectonic events. The Early Proterozoic group is related to continental collision at 1850 Ma and subsequent rifting; the Middle Proterozoic group is related to continental rifting (Gardar) and the Mesozoic group is likewise related to continental rifting prior to continental break-up in the Tertiary. The 600 Ma kimberlites and carbonatite are envisaged as cratonic, extra-rift activity in relation to continental break-up and formation of the Iapetus ocean further south, perhaps with a common cause in a broad, impinging mantle plume.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)367-402
    Number of pages36
    Issue number3-6
    Publication statusPublished - Nov 1992

    Programme Area

    • Programme Area 4: Mineral Resources


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