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Field relations, geochemistry, origin and emplacement of the Baltoro granite, Central Karakoram

  • M. P. Searle (a1), M. B. Crawford (a2) and A. J. Rex


The Miocene Baltoro granite forms a massive plutonic unit within the Karakoram batholith, and is composed of comagmatic monzogranites and leucogranites with a mineralogy consisting of quartz-K-feldspar-plagioclase-biotite ± muscovite ± garnet, with accessory sphene, zircon, monazite and opaques. Geochemically the Baltoro granites are mildly peraluminous, and show a calc-alkaline trend on trace-element normalised diagrams with high LIL/HFS element ratios and negative Nb, P and Ti anomalies. REE are strongly fractionated with little or no Eu anomaly. Leucogranites are depleted in most elements compared to monzogranites with notable exceptions being Rb, K and the HREEs. Initial 87Sr/86Sr ratios are 0·7072-0·7128, considerably lower than High Himalayan leucogranites (0·74-0·79), and are indicative of a lower continental crust source. The probable petrogenesis of the Baltoro granite involves dehydration melting of a biotite-rich pelite to produce a voluminous, hot, water-undersaturated magma which could then separate from its source and intrude through an already thickened and still hot crust. Fractional crystallisation of the monzogranites produced the leucogranites and a pegmatite dyke swarm. A suite of lamprophyre dykes including amphibolerich vogesites and biotite-rich minettes intrude the country rock, dominantly to the north, around the Baltoro granite. These calc-alkaline shoshonitic lamprophyres are volatile-rich mantle-derived melts intruded around the same time as the granite, indicating simultaneous melting of the mantle and lower crust beneath the Karakoram during the Miocene, approximately 30 Ma after the India-Asia collision which initially caused the crustal thickening. Intrusion of mantle melts provided heat to promote crustal melting and may have selectively contaminated the granite magma.

The Baltoro granite intrudes sillimanite gneisses with melt pods along the southern margin indicating temperatures above 700°C at the time of intrusion. Locally, internal fabrics and numerous aligned xenoliths along the southern margin in the Biafo glacier region indicate steep, southward-directed thrusting during emplacement. Along the northern contact, the Baltoro granite intrudes anchimetamorphic to greenschist facies metasedimentary rocks with an andalusite-bearing contact aureole. Northward-directed culmination collapse normal faulting during Miocene emplacement is inferred, in order to explain the P-T differences either side of the pluton. This also provided an extensional stress regime in the upper crust to accommodate the rising magma.



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