Crystal fractionation and partial melting in the petrogenesis of a Proterozoic high-MgO volcanic suite, Ungava, Québec

D. M. Francis*, A. J. Hynes, J. N. Ludden, J. Bédard

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

35 Citations (Scopus)


There is little concensus on the relative importance of crystal fractionation and differential partial melting to the chemical diversity observed within most types of volcanic suites. A resolution to this controversy is best sought in suites containing high MgO lavas such as the Chukotat volcanics of the Proterozoic Cape Smith foldbelt, Ungava, Quebec. The succession of this volcanic suite consists of repetitive sequences, each beginning with olivine-phyric basalt (19-12 wt% MgO), grading upwards to pyroxene-phyric basalt (12-8 wt% MgO) and then, in later sequences, to plagioclase-phyric basalt (7-4 wt% MgO). Only the olivine-phyric basalts have compositions capable of equilibrating with the upper mantle and are believed to represent parental magmas for the suite. The pyroxene-phyric and plagioclase-phyric basalts represent magmas derived from these parents by the crystal fractionation of olivine, with minor chromite, clinopyroxene and plagioclase. The order of extrusion in each volcanic sequence is interpreted to reflect a density effect in which successively lighter, more evolved magmas are erupted as hydrostatic pressure wanes. The pyroxene-phyric basalts appear to have evolved at high levels in the active part of the conduit system as the eruption of their parents was in progress. The plagioclase-phyric basalts may represent residual liquids expelled from isolated reservoirs along the crust-mantle interface during the late stages of volcanic activity. A positive correlation between FeO and MgO in the early, most basic olivine-phyric basalts is interpreted to reflect progressive adiabatic partial melting in the upper mantle. Although this complicates the chemistry, it is not a significant factor in the compositional diversification of the volcanic suite. The preservation of such compositional melting effects, however, suggests that the most basic olivine-phyric basalts represent primitive magmas. The trace element characteristics of these magmas, and their derivatives, indicate that the mantle source for the Chukotat volcanics had experienced a previous melting event.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)27-36
Number of pages10
JournalContributions to Mineralogy and Petrology
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Oct 1981

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geophysics
  • Geochemistry and Petrology


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