The origin of ultramafic complexes with melilitolites and carbonatites: A petrological comparison of the Gardiner (E Greenland) and Kovdor (Russia) intrusions

Dominik Gudelius, Michael W. Marks, Gregor Markl, Troels F.D. Nielsen, Jochen Kolb, Benjamin Walter

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review


In many alkaline complexes, large amounts of ultramafic rocks occur together with carbonatites, melilitolites and other alkaline silicate rocks. There is an ongoing debate if and how these contrasting lithologies were formed by differentiation of a common, mantle-derived silicate magma or rather by metasomatic processes between carbonatite and country rocks. In order to find petrological evidence for one or the other, two key examples, the Gardiner (E Greenland) and Kovdor (Russia) complexes are compared in this study. Despite their similar tectonic setting and succession of rock types, they show significant differences in the texture and mineral composition of ultramafic rocks. Ultramafic rocks from Kovdor include calcite- and biotite-rich dunites and pyroxenites without typical cumulate textures. They consist of Ni-poor forsterite, Cr-poor diopside and Ni-Cr-poor spinel and are possibly metasomatic reaction products between mantle-derived carbonatite melts and silicic host rocks. Similar ultramafic rocks are associated with carbonatites e. g. at Palabora (South Africa), Afrikanda (Russia), and Salitre (Brazil). In contrast, the ultramafic rocks from Gardiner show well-preserved cumulate textures and consist of Ni-rich forsterite, Cr-rich diopside as well as Cr-Ni-Ti-rich spinel and also contain F-Cl-rich apatite. They record an increase in aSiO2 from dunite to pyroxenite at similar fO2 (ΔFMQ ~ +1.2, with FMQ = fayalite-magnetite-quartz buffer), indicating that these rocks represent cumulates of an evolving, moderately oxidized mafic melt derived from a Ti-rich mantle source, similar to other rocks of the North Atlantic igneous province. In contrast to systems like Kovdor where carbonatite metasomatism is likely dominant, Ti-rich parental silicate magmas can abundantly crystallize Ti phases, as recorded by massive perovskite cumulates in Gardiner melilitolites. This can effectively scavenge HFSE from the magmatic system early in its evolution and likely explains HFSE-barren carbonatites at Gardiner, while those from Kovdor are highly HFSE-enriched. In summary, the results of our study provide strong textural and mineral chemical evidence that ultramafic rocks in alkaline complexes can be of both cumulate and metasomatic origin; the specific type has an important bearing on their HFSE enrichment and on the types of ores present in such complexes.

Original languageEnglish
Article numberegad036
Number of pages26
JournalJournal of Petrology
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2023


  • alkaline magmatism
  • carbonatite metasomatism
  • HFSE enrichment
  • mantle sources
  • Melilitolite
  • redox conditions
  • subvolcanic intrusion

Programme Area

  • Programme Area 4: Mineral Resources


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