A lead isotopic study of the Stillwater Complex, Montana: constraints on crustal contamination and source regions

Contributions to Mineralogy and Petrology

, , and



Analyses of the Pb isotopic compositions of plagioclase from 23 samples covering the stratigraphic thickness of the Stillwater Complex indicate a narrow range of apparent initial isotopic compositions (206Pb/ 204Pb=13.95; 207Pb/204Pb=14.95-15.01; 208Pb/204Pb=33.6). The uniformity of our data is in contrast to, but not necessarily contradictory to, other recent investigations which give indications that the complex formed by repeated injection of magmas with at least two distinct compositions that were presumably derived from different source regions. Samples from the Basal series of the complex have consistently higher 207Pb/204Pb ratios, suggesting either minor contamination from adjacent country rocks or a slight distinction between parental magmas. Apparent initial Pb isotopic compositions of the complex are very radiogenic compared to Late Archean model-mantle values, but are nearly identical to initial Pb isotopic compositions found for the the adjacent, slightly older (2.73-2.79 Ga), Late Archean crustal suite in the Beartooth Mountains. Contamination of magmas parental to the Stillwater Complex by the Late Archean crustal suite is rejected for two reasons: (1) Th and U concentrations in Stillwater rocks and plagioclase are very low (about 0.08 and 0.02 ppm respectively), yet Th/U ratios are uniform at about 4, in contrast to the highly variable (2-26) but often high Th/U ratios found for the Late Archean crustal complex; (2) it seems improbable that any contamination process would have adjusted the isotopic compositions of the diverse magmas entering the Stillwater chamber to near-identical values. The preferred hypothesis to explain the Pb isotopic data for the Stillwater Complex and the associated Late Archean crustal suite involves a major Late Archean crust-forming event that resulted in a compositionally complex crust/mantle system with relatively homogeneous and unusual Pb isotopic compositions. The parental magmas of the Stillwater Complex were generated at different levels within this crust/mantle system, before isotopic contrasts could develop by radioactive decay within compositionally discrete reservoirs. This situation limits the utility of all isotopic tracer systems in discriminating among the various mantle and crustal reservoirs that may have affected the final isotopic character of the Stillwater magmas. The late Archean crustal complex and the Stillwater Complex melts were ultimately derived from the same distinct mantle without obvious direct interaction with the Middle to Early Archean crust present in the region. ?? 1991 Springer-Verlag.

Additional publication details

Publication type:
Publication Subtype:
Journal Article
A lead isotopic study of the Stillwater Complex, Montana: constraints on crustal contamination and source regions
Series title:
Contributions to Mineralogy and Petrology
Year Published:
Publisher location:
Larger Work Type:
Larger Work Subtype:
Journal Article
Larger Work Title:
Contributions to Mineralogy and Petrology
First page:
Last page: