Thermobarometry in a subgreenschist to greenschist transition in metabasites of the Abitibi greenstone belt, Superior Province, Canada

Powell, W.G., Carmichael, D.M., and Hodgson, C.J.

1993, Journal of Metamorphic Geology, v. 11, pp. 165-178


Mineral equilibria in the system CaO-MgO-Al2O3-SiO2-H2O provide a basis for mapping of four reaction isograds and one bathograd in the low pressure transition from subgreenschist to greenschist facies. Most of the Matachewan area of the Abitibi greenstone belt is in the lower pressure bathozone, as indicated by the widespread occurrence of the assemblage Prh-Chl. The higher pressure bathozone is indicated by two occurrences of Pmp-Act-Ep-Qtz, but in these samples the bathograd is displaced to anomalously lowpressure by the high Fe content of the coexisting minerals. This illustrates the need to analyze coexisting minerals, calculate activities of end-member species, and compute P-T curves for individual samples before interpreting the isograd/bathograd patterns.


Petrographic and microprobe analysis indicates that great care must be taken in the selection of 'equilibrium' assemblages. Pyroxene phenocrysts in one sample are replaced by the assemblage Pmp-Act-Ep-Chl-Qtz, whereas Prh-Act-Ep-Chl-Qtz occurs in the groundmass. Compositional variation may be more cryptic, as in a sample of metabasaltic hyaloclastite that contains two spatially distinct 'univariant' assemblages, Prh-Pmp-Ep-Chl-Qtz and Prh-Act-Ep-Chl-Qtz, within the devitrified matrix. Whereas chlorite compositions are similar in both assemblages, prehnite and epidote in the latter assemblage are significantly richer in Fe and poorer in Al. Accordingly, the rock is interpreted to contain two distinct univariant assemblages rather than one invariant assemblage (Prh-Pmp-Act-Ep-Chl-Qtz). The displaced univariant curves for this sample intersect at 2.2 kbar and 250C.


Taking account of all thermobarometric implications, the low-grade limit of the greenschist facies is at 250-270C and 2-2.5 kbar, corresponding to depths of 7-8 km. Comparison of apparent P-T conditions on both sides of the Larder Lake-Cadillac break, a regional CO2-metasomatized fault zone that is spatially associated with many Archean gold deposits, provides an upper limit of not more than c. 1 km for post-metamorphic, south-side-up, dip-slip displacement.