Springer Online Journal Archives 1860-2000
Abstract A Quaternary volcanic field at Fort Portal, SW Uganda, contains approximately 50 vents that erupted only carbonatite. The vents are marked by monogenetic tuff cones defining two ENE-trending belts. Lava from a fissure at the west end of the northern belt formed a flow 0.3 km2 in area and 1–5 m thick. The lava is vesicular throughout with a scoriaceous top, and probably formed by agglutination of spatter from lava fountains. “Phenocrysts” are olivine, clinopyroxene, phlogopite, and titanomagnetite enclosing blebs of pyrrhotite. Rims of monticellite, gehlenite, and reinhardbraunsite surround olivine, clinopyroxene and phlogopite, and magnetite is rimmed by spinel. The reaction relations suggest that these “phenocryst” phases are actually xenocrysts, perhaps from a source similar to that which supplied phlogopite clinopyroxenite xenoliths in the Katwe-Kikorongo volcanic field 75 km SW of Fort Portal. The groundmass of fresh carbonatite lava consists of tabular calcite, spurrite, periclase, hydroxylapatite, perovskite, spinel, pyrrhotite, and barite. The lava was readily altered; where meteoric water had access, spurrite and periclase are lacking, and some calcite is recrystallized. Vesicles in lava and rare dike rocks are partly filled with calcite, followed by jennite and thaumasite. Pyroclastic deposits cover 142 km2 and are far more voluminous than lava. Carbonatite ejecta were identical to lava in primary mineralogy, but are much more contaminated by crustal rock fragments and xenocrysts. At Fort Portal, eruption of a CaO-MgO-CO2-SiO2-P2O5-SO2-H2O-F liquid was unaccompanied by that of a more silica-rich or alkali-rich liquid. Alkali-rich carbonatite lavas and pyroclastic deposits have been documented elsewhere in East Africa, and calcite-rich volcanic carbonatites have been attributed to replacement of magmatic alkali carbonates by calcite. However, the alkali-poor volcanic carbonatites at Fort Portal were not formed by leaching of alkalis in meteoric water; tabular calcite is not pseudomorphous after alkali carbonates such as nyerereite. The Fort Portal magma was low in alkalis at the time of eruption.
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