Constraints on Archaean crustal evolution of the Zimbabwe craton: A U-Pb zircon, Sm-Nd and Pb-Pb whole-rock isotope study

Hielke A. Jelsma*, Michael L. Vinyu, Peter J. Valbracht, Gareth R. Davies, Jan R. Wijbrans, Ed A.T. Verdurmen

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


The U-Pb ages of zircons from seven felsic volcanic and plutonic rocks from northern Zimbabwe combined with field data and Pb-Pb and Sm-Nd whole-rock isotope data, constrain the timespan of development of the Harare-Shamva granite-greenstone terrain and establish the relative involvement of juvenile mantle-derived and reworked crustal material. Basement-cover field relationships and isotope and geochemical data demonstrate that the greenstones were deposited onto 3.2-2.8 Ga basement gneisses, in ensialic, continental basins. Geodynamic models for the generation of the areally extensive bimodal magmatic products and growth of the pre-existing crustal nucleus consistent with our interpretations are rift-related: (1) intracontinental rifting related to mantle plume activity or; (2) rifting in a back-arc environment related to a marginal volcanic arc. The data, in conjunction with field evidence, do not indicate the presence and accretion of an older (ca. 2.70 Ga) and a younger (ca. 2.65 Ga) greenstone sequence in the Harare part of the greenstone belt, as was recently postulated on the basis of SHRIMP zircon ages. Zircon ages for basal felsic volcanics (2715 ± 15 Ma) and a subvolcanic porphyry (2672 ± 12 Ma) constrain the initiation and termination of deposition of the greenstone sequence. The timespan of deposition of the Upper Bulawayan part of the greenstone sequence corresponds well with radiometric ages for Upper Bulawayan greenstones in the central and southern part of the craton and supports the concept of craton-wide lithostratigraphic correlations for the late Archaean in Zimbabwe. Zircon ages for a syn-tectonic gneiss (2667 ± 4 Ma) and a late syn-tectonic intrusive granodiorite (2664 ± 15 Ma) pinpoint the age of deformation of the greenstone sequence and compare well with a Pb-Pb age of shear zone related gold mineralization (2659 ± 13 Ma) associated with the latter intrusive phase. The intimate timing relation of greenstone deformation and granitoid emplacement, but also the metamorphic evidence for a thermal effect of the batholiths on the surrounding greenstone belts, and the structural and strain patterns in the greenstone sequence around and adjacent to the batholiths, imply that the intrusion of the granitoids had a significant influence on the tectono-thermal evolution of the greenstone belt. Prolonged magmatic activity is indicated by the zircon ages of small, post-tectonic plutons intrusive into the greenstone belt, with a mineralized granodiorite dated at 2649 ± 6 Ma and an unmineralized tonalite at 2618 ± 6 Ma. The 2601 ± 14 Ma crystallization age of an " external" Chilimanzi-type granite agrees well with existing radiometric ages for similar granites within the southern part of the craton, demonstrating a craton-wide event and heralding cratonization. The similarity between U-Pb zircon ages and TDM model ages (2.65-2.62 Ga) and the positive εNdT values (+ 3 to + 2) for the late syn-tectonic and post-tectonic intrusive plutons within the greenstone belt indicate magmatism was derived directly from the mantle or by anatexis of lower crustal sources, with very short crustal residence times, and minor contamination with older crust. The rather high model μ1 values (8.2-8.6) are unlikely to indicate the involvement of significant amounts of older crust and may be inherited from a high U/Pb mantle source, as was suggested by previous workers for the Archaean mantle beneath Southern Africa. The older TDM ages for the felsic volcanics (3.0-2.8 Ga) and the porphyries (2.8-2.7 Ga) suggest that these felsic magmas were derived by partial melting of a source that was extracted from the mantle ca. 200 Ma prior to volcanism or may indicate interaction between depleted mantle-derived melts and older crustal material.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)55-70
Number of pages16
JournalContributions to Mineralogy and Petrology
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 1996


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