Multi-stage metamorphic evolution and protolith reconstruction of spinel-bearing and symplectite-bearing ultramafic rocks in the Zheltau massif, Southern Kazakhstan (Central Asian Orogenic Belt)

Anfisa V. Pilitsyna, Andrey A. Tretyakov, Kirill E. Degtyarev, Taisia A. Alifirova, Valentina G. Batanova, Simon J. Cuthbert, Elena V. Kovalchuk, Boris V. Ermolaev

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Spinel-bearing ultramafic rocks, metamorphosed in high-pressure conditions, are described from the metamorphic complexes of the western part of the Central Asian Orogenic Belt (CAOB) in the Chu-Yili region in Southern Kazakhstan. They comprise small bodies of magnetite-bearing serpentinites, Cr-spinel-bearing serpentinized and amphibolitized dunites and peridotites enclosed by strongly retrogressed kyanite-bearing paragneisses. Apart from serpentinization, the ultramafic rockswere also overprinted by later rodingitization expressed in the development of the index-minerals hydrogrossular, prehnite and vuagnatite. Cr-spinel-bearing peridotites are characterized by extensive development of symplectitic and coronitic microtextures, which are interpreted to have been formed after garnet breakdown during decompression (i.e. exhumation). Calculated pressure (P) and temperature (T) obtained by phase diagram modelling and conventional geothermobarometry for the symplectites were P 11.5–14.5 kbar for a wide temperature range of T 600–850 °C, which followed the transition from garnetto spinel peridotite. Major and trace element whole-rock geochemical characteristics of the spinel-bearing ultramafic rocks as well as their structurally close relations indicate their mutual origin as parts of an oceanic cumulatecomplex of an arc-basin system. The protoliths were probably plagioclase-bearing (thus shallow, crustal) ultramafic rocks and troctolites, subducted to eclogite facies conditions and then exhumed along with other metamorphic complexes of the Zheltau massif. These spinel-bearing ultramafic rocks could be classified as crustal formations in accordance with the inferred depths of their origin (<5 kbar), in common with many HP ultramafic/mafic complexes in the CAOB. However, strongly depleted geochemical signatures of the rocks, together with the distinctive microtextural features observed in the spinel peridotites, are unique, and their occurrence in the western CAOB is described here for the first time.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)11-34
Number of pages24
JournalGondwana Research
Early online date16 Aug 2018
Publication statusPublished - 31 Dec 2018



  • Spinel peridotite
  • HP metamorphism
  • West Central Asian Orogenic Belt
  • Cumulate
  • Cpx-Opx-Spl symplectite

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