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Petrogenesis of the St David's Head Layered Intrusion, Wales: a complex history of multiple magma injection and in situ crystallisation

  • R. E. Bevins (a1), G. J. Lees (a2), R. A. Roach (a2), G. Rowbotham (a2) and P. A. Floyd (a2)...

The St David's Head Intrusion, exposed in North Pembrokeshire, is a tholeiitic sill up to 570 m thick, comprising principally mafic gabbros, which are in part layered. Layering varies from the centimetre to the metre scale. A range of gabbroic compositions is present, defining seven major petrological types, which are cut by thin silicic (aplitic) veins.

Log–log plots of incompatible elements from the various lithological units indicate that all of the rocks in the intrusion are petrogenetically linked, although a variety of processes has been operative. Roach (1969) considered the quartz gabbros and dolerites, which form an envelope around the other units, to relate most closely to the parental composition. However, the least evolved compositions in the intrusion are from the xenolithic laminated olivine gabbros, although these mafic compositions are due primarily to the presence of abundant, mafic, cognate xenoliths. These xenoliths are thought to relate to an earlier episode of crystal accumulation in a high-level magma chamber. The various laminated gabbros reflect crystal accumulation in situ after magma emplacement, leading in certain layers to extreme enrichments in Fe, Ti, and V, related to high modal proportions of cumulus ilmenite. Further in situ crystallisation led to differentiation of the residual liquid, producing more silicic gabbros with well-developed granophyric textures, the granophyre reflecting the silicic residuum. Extreme differentiation, possibly combined with expulsion of silicic residual liquid during crystal accumulation and compaction, resulted in the cross-cutting aplite veins.

Three different types of layering are present in the intrusion. Firstly, preferred orientation of tabular minerals in the laminated gabbro units is thought to result from discrete sedimentation episodes from a convecting magma chamber. Secondly, macrorhythmic modal layering up to 1 m thick consists of an alternation of relatively ilmenite-rich and ilmenite-poor layers in the laminated gabbro units, although the reason for the modal variation is not certain. Thirdly, a centimetre-scale felsic–mafic microrhythmic layering is present in the envelope quartz gabbros and dolerites, which is similar to the inch-scale layering in the Stillwater Igneous Complex. This layering is thought to relate to metasomatic reaction in the gabbro in the presence of water at a late magmatic stage. Overall, these various lithological units themselves define a large-scale layering in the intrusion.

Combined, the petrological and geochemical data suggest that the St David's Head Intrusion was not emplaced in a single event. Rather, a series of magma pulses, of contrasting compositions but petrogenetically linked, was intruded. Some of the chemical variations now seen existed prior to emplacement, indicating the former presence of high-level crustal magma chambers, while other variations developed as a result of in situ crystallisation processes and related chemical differentiation.

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