Geological Magazine


Petrology and geochemistry of volcanic rocks of the Cerro Galan caldera, northwest Argentina

P. W. Francisa1, R. S. J. Sparksa2, C. J. Hawkeswortha3, R. S. Thorpea3, D. M. Pylea2, S. R. Taita4, M. S. Mantovania5 and F. McDermotta3

a1 Lunar and Planetary Institute, 3303 NASA Road One, Houston, Texas, 77058, U.S.A.

a2 Department of Earth Sciences, University of Cambridge, Downing Street, Cambridge CB2 3EQ, U.K.

a3 Department of Earth Sciences, The Open University, Milton Keynes MK7 6AA, U.K.

a4 Institut de Physique du Globe, 4, Place Jussieu, Universite de Paris 6 et 7, Paris, France

a5 Instituto Astronomico e Geofisico, U. de Sao Paulo, Av. Miguel Stefano 4200, Caixa Postal 30627, 01051 Sao Paulo SP, Brazil


At least 2000 km3 of relatively uniform dacitic magma have been erupted from the Cerro Galan caldera complex, northwest Argentina. Between 7 and 4 Ma ago several composite volcanoes predominantly of dacitic lava were constructed, and several large high-K dacitic ignimbrites were erupted. 2.2 Ma ago the > 1000km3 Cerro Galan ignimbrite was erupted. The predominant mineral assemblage in the ignimbrites is plagioclase-biotite-quartz-magnetite-ilmenite; the Cerro Galan ignimbrite also contains sanidine. Fe-Ti oxide minerals in the Cerro Galan ignimbrite imply temperatures of 801–816 °C. Plagioclase phenocrysts in the ignimbrites typically have rather homogeneous cores surrounded by complex, often oscillatory zoned, rims. Core compositions show a marked bimodality, with one population consisting of calcic cores surrounded by normally zoned rims, and a second of sodic cores surrounded by reversely zoned rims. The older ignimbrites do not show systematic compositional zonation, but the Cerro Galan ignimbrite exhibits small variations in major elements (66–69% SiO2) and significant variations in Rb, Sr, Ba, Th and other trace elements, consistent with derivation from a weakly zoned magma chamber, in which limited fractional crystallization occurred. The ignimbrites have 87Sr/86Sr = 0.7108–0.7181; 143Nd/144Nd = 0.51215–0.51225, and δ18O = + 10 to + 12.5, consistent with a significant component of relatively non-radiogenic crust with high Rb/Sr and enriched in incompatible elements. Nd model ages for the source region are about 1.24 Ga. 87Sr/86Sr measurements of separated plagioclases indicate that Anrich cores have slightly lower 87Sr/86Sr than less calcic plagioclases, suggesting a small degree of isotopic heterogeniety in different components within the magmas. Pb isotope data for plagioclase show restricted ranges (206Pb/204Pb, 207Pb/204Pb and 208Pb/204Pb = 18.87–18.92, 15.65–15.69 and 39.06–39.16 respectively), and suggest derivation from Proterozoic crustal material(> 1.5 Ga).

Contemporaneous satellite scoria cones and lavas are high-K basalts, basaltic andesites and andesites with SiO2 = 51–57%; K2O = 2–3% and normative plagioclase compositions of An37–48, and may be derived from a mantle source containing both ‘subduction zone’ and ‘within plate’ components. 87Sr/86Sr ranges from 0.7055 to 0.7094 and 143Nd/144Nd from 0.51250 to 0.51290. Variation diagrams such as MgO: SiO2 show two trends, one indicating closed system fractional crystallization and the other crustal contamination. AFC modelling of the open system rocks indicates a parental mantle-derived mafic magma which is itself enriched in K, Rb, Ba, U, Ta/Sm, Ta/Th and Sr, and has 87Sr/86Sr = 0.705–0.706, while the contaminant need not be more radiogenic than the dacitic ignimbrites.

The Cerro Galan dacitic magmas are interpreted in terms of a deep and uniform region of the central Andean continental crust repeatedly melted by emplacement of incompatible-element-enriched, mantle-derived mafic magmas, a proportion of which may also have mixed with the dacite magmas. A component of the crustal material had a Proterozoic age. The magmas derived by crustal melting were also enriched in incompatible elements either by crystal/liquid fractionation processes, or by metasomatism of their source regions just prior to magma generation. Much of the crystallization took place in the source region during the melting process or in mid-crustal magma chambers. The magmas may have re-equilibrated at shallow levels prior to eruption, but only limited compositional zonation developed in high-level magma chambers.

(Received November 24 1987)

(Revised April 10 1989)

(Accepted April 10 1989)