We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. You can change your cookie settings at any time. Otherwise, we'll assume you're OK to continue.

Durham University

Research & business

View Profile

Publication details

Zhang, Y.Q., Song, S.G., Yang, L.M., Su, L., Niu, Yaoling, Allen, M.B. & Xu, X. (2017). Basalts and picrites from a plume-type ophiolite in the South Qilian Accretionary Belt, Qilian Orogen: Accretion of a Cambrian Oceanic Plateau? Lithos 278-281: 97-110.

Author(s) from Durham


Oceanic plateaus with high–Mg rocks in the present-day oceanic crust have attracted much attention for their proposed mantle-plume origins and abnormally high mantle potential temperatures (Tp). However, equivalent rocks in ancient oceanic environments are usually poorly preserved because of deformation and metamorphism. Here we present petrological, geochronological and geochemical data for pillow lavas from Cambrian ophiolites in the Lajishan and Yongjing regions of the South Qilian Accretionary Belt (SQAB), from the southern part of the Qilian Orogen, northern China. Three rock groups can be identified geochemically: (1) sub-alkaline basalts with enriched mid- ocean ridge basalt (E-MORB) affinity; (2) alkaline basalts with oceanic island basalt (OIB) features, probably derived from partial melting of an enriched mantle source; and (3) picrites with MgO (18–22 wt.%). Cr-numbers [Cr# = Cr/(Cr + Al)] of spinels from the picrites suggest 18–21% degree of partial melting at the estimated mantle potential temperature (Tp) of 1489–1600 °C, equivalent to values of Cenozoic Hawaiian picrites (1500–1600 °C). Zircons from one gabbro sample yielded a U–Pb Concordia age of 525 ± 3 Ma, suggesting the oceanic crust formed in the Cambrian. Available evidence suggests that Cambrian mantle plume activity is preserved in the South Qilian Accretionary Belt, and influenced the regional tectonics: “jamming” of the trench by thick oceanic crust explains the emplacement and preservation of the oceanic plateau, and gave rise to the generation of concomitant Ordovician inner-oceanic island arc basalts via re-organisation of the subduction zones in the region.