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Multiple melting stages and refertilization as indicators for ridge to subduction formation: The New Caledonia ophiolite

journal contribution
posted on 2023-05-17, 05:08 authored by Ulrich, M, Picard, C, Guillot, S, Chauvel, C, Cluzel, D, Sebastien MeffreSebastien Meffre
The origin of the New Caledonia ophiolite (South West Pacific), one of the largest in the world, is controversial. This nappe of ultramafic rocks (300 km long, 50 km wide and 2 km thick) is thrust upon a smaller nappe (Poya terrane) composed of basalts from mid-ocean ridges (MORB), back arc basins (BABB) and ocean islands (OIB). This nappe was tectonically accreted from the subducting plate prior and during the obduction of the ultramafic nappe. The bulk of the ophiolite is composed of highly depleted harzburgites (± dunites) with characteristic U-shaped bulk-rock rare-earth element (REE) patterns that are attributed to their formation in a forearc environment. In contrast, the origin of spoon-shaped REE patterns of lherzolites in the northernmost klippes was unclear. Our new major element and REE data on whole rocks, spinel and clinopyroxene establish the abyssal affinity of these lherzolites. Significant LREE enrichment in the lherzolites is best explained by partial melting in a spreading ridge, followed by near in-situ refertilization from deeper mantle melts. Using equilibrium melting equations, we show that melts extracted from these lherzolites are compositionally similar to the MORB of the Poya terrane. This is used to infer that the ultramafic nappe and the mafic Poya terrane represent oceanic lithosphere of a single marginal basin that formed during the late Cretaceous. In contrast, our spinel data highlights the strong forearc affinities of the most depleted harzburgites whose compositions are best modeled by hydrous melting of a source that had previously experienced depletion in a spreading ridge. The New Caledonian boninites probably formed during this second stage of partial melting. The two melting events in the New Caledonia ophiolite record the rapid transition from oceanic accretion to convergence in the South Loyalty Basin during the Late Paleocene, with initiation of a new subduction zone at or near the ridge axis. © 2009 Elsevier B.V.


Publication title

Lithos: An International Journal of Mineralogy, Petrology, and Geochemistry










School of Natural Sciences


Elsevier Science Bv

Place of publication

Po Box 211, Amsterdam, Netherlands, 1000 Ae

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Expanding knowledge in the earth sciences

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