Deep mantle storage of the Earth’s missing niobium in late-stage residual melts from a magma ocean

O. Nebel, W. van Westrenen, P.Z. Vroon, M. Wille, M.M. Raith

    Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


    The origin of the observed niobium deficit in the bulk silicate Earth (BSE) compared to chondritic meteorites constitutes a long-standing problem in geochemistry. The deficit requires a large-scale process fractionating niobium from tantalum, and a super-chondritic Nb/Ta reservoir hidden in the deep silicate Earth and/or in the metallic core. The only voluminous super-chondritic Nb/Ta silicate reservoir analysed to date is found in lunar basalts that assimilated highly evolved Fe-rich rocks associated with anorthosites in the lunar crust. These Fe-rich rocks, enriched in incompatible elements, are thought to represent the last fractions of melt remaining at the end of lunar magma ocean crystallization. Here we report high-precision Nb-Ta data for a Fe-rich, late-stage rock suite associated with a terrestrial anorthosite from the Proterozoic Bolangir complex in India. The geochemical characteristics of this rock suite resemble those expected for late-stage residual melts from a terrestrial magma ocean. Samples show extreme, super-chondritic Nb/Ta up to 31.1 and highly elevated Nb concentrations up to 338ppm. We argue that formation of an early enriched crustal reservoir (EECR) with these characteristics (high Fe, high Nb, superchondritic Nb/Ta) is likely in the course of Hadean late-stage terrestrial magma ocean solidification. Subduction and subsequent permanent deep mantle storage in the D'' layer of a minor amount (∼0.5% of the BSE mass) of this EECR can readily explain the terrestrial Nb deficit, without the need to invoke core Nb storage. Our model is consistent with short-lived
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)4392-4404
    Number of pages12
    JournalGeochimica et Cosmochimica Acta
    Publication statusPublished - 2010


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