New Volcanic Futures

High-K andesite petrogenesis and crustal evolution: Evidence from mafic and ultramafic xenoliths, Egmont Volcano (Mt. Taranaki) and comparisons with Ruapehu Volcano, North Island, New Zealand

Economic Impact & Health & Wellbeing | Mount Taranaki | 12.05.2023


• Mafic xenoliths and andesites of Egmont Volcano formed in the same magmatic system.

• Open and closed system fractional crystallisation controlled magmatic evolution.

• Geothermobarometry indicates evolution in a polybaric magmatic system.

• Amphibole fractionation can sequester water in the crust.


This study uses the geochemistry and petrology of xenoliths to constrain the evolutionary pathways of host magmas at two adjacent andesitic volcanoes in New Zealand’s North Island. Egmont (Mt. Taranaki) is located on the west coast of the North Island and Ruapehu lies 140 km to the east at the southern end of the Taupo Volcanic Zone, the principal locus of subduction-related magmatism in New Zealand. Xenoliths are common in the eruptives of both volcanoes but the xenoliths suites are petrographically and geochemically different. Ruapehu xenoliths are predominantly pyroxene–plagioclase granulites derived from Mesozoic meta-greywacke basement and the underlying oceanic crust. The xenolith population of Egmont Volcano is more complex. It includes sedimentary, metamorphic and plutonic rocks from the underlying basement but is dominated by coarse grained, mafic and ultramafic igneous rocks. Gabbroic xenoliths (Group 1) are composed of plagioclase, clinopyroxene and amphibole whereas ultramafic xenoliths are dominated by amphibole (Group 2) or pyroxene (Group 3) or, in very rare cases, olivine (Group 4). In Group 1 xenoliths plagioclase and clinopyroxene and in some cases amphibole show cumulate textures. Amphibole also occurs as intercumulate poikilitic crystals or as blebs or laminae replacing pyroxene. Some Group 2 xenoliths have cumulate textures but near monomineralic amphibole xenoliths are coarse grained with bladed or comb textures. Pyroxene in Group 3 xenoliths has a polygonal granoblastic texture that is commonly overprinted by veining and amphibole replacement.

Group 1 and most Group 2 xenoliths have major, trace element and Sr, Nd and Pb isotope compositions indicating affinity with the host volcanic rocks. Geochemical variation can be modelled by assimilation fractional crystallisation (AFC) and fractional crystallisation (FC) of basaltic parents assuming an assimilant with the composition of average crystalline basement and Group 1 xenoliths have compositions approximating the solid material extracted during these processes. Some Group 2 xenoliths have relatively unevolved Sr and Nd isotopic compositions and they are interpreted to have derived as crystal cumulates from a more primitive parental basalt or through metasomatic alteration of other xenolith types by isotopically less evolved fluids or melts. Some Group 3 xenoliths could have originally been pyroxene cumulates but the granoblastic textures of others are more consistent with an origin as restites generated during anatexis of amphibolite. Group 4 xenoliths have textures similar to those of mantle-derived peridotite xenoliths found in intraplate basalts.

The geochemical variation is consistent with a system fed by mantle-derived magmas that underplated and intruded the lower crust. At this level AFC and FC and crustal anatexis generated cumulates and pyroxene restite represented by the mafic and ultramafic xenoliths. The magmas segregating at these deep levels moved higher into the crust where a complex dispersed magma storage and plumbing system formed. Here magmas evolved further through AFC and FC with the formation of cumulates and crystal mushes that are represented by some Group 1 and Group 2 xenoliths. Xenoliths were further modified by interaction with host magmas or by alteration at the side walls of magma storages and conduits.