Dissolution–precipitation processes governing the carbonation and silicification of the serpentinite sole of the New Caledonia ophiolite

  • Marc Ulrich
  • Manuel Muñoz
  • Stéphane Guillot
  • Michel Cathelineau
  • Christian Picard
  • Benoit Quesnel
  • Philippe Boulvais
  • Clément Couteau
Original Paper


The weathering of mantle peridotite tectonically exposed to the atmosphere leads commonly to natural carbonation processes. Extensive cryptocrystalline magnesite veins and stock-work are widespread in the serpentinite sole of the New Caledonia ophiolite. Silica is systematically associated with magnesite. It is commonly admitted that Mg and Si are released during the laterization of overlying peridotites. Thus, the occurrence of these veins is generally attributed to a per descensum mechanism that involves the infiltration of meteoric waters enriched in dissolved atmospheric CO2. In this study, we investigate serpentinite carbonation processes, and related silicification, based on a detailed petrographic and crystal chemical study of serpentinites. The relationships between serpentine and alteration products are described using an original method for the analysis of micro-X-ray fluorescence images performed at the centimeter scale. Our investigations highlight a carbonation mechanism, together with precipitation of amorphous silica and sepiolite, based on a dissolution–precipitation process. In contrast with the per descensum Mg/Si-enrichment model that is mainly concentrated in rock fractures, dissolution–precipitation process is much more pervasive. Thus, although the texture of rocks remains relatively preserved, this process extends more widely into the rock and may represent a major part of total carbonation of the ophiolite.


Serpentine Magnesite Carbonation Silicification New Caledonia ophiolite 



The authors gratefully thank Gilles Montagnac (ENS Lyon) and Marie-Camille Caumon (GeoRessources Nancy) for their help during Raman analyses. We also thank Valerie Magnin (ISTerre Grenoble) for her help during μ-XRF analyses and Clément Marcaillou (Eramet-SLN) and Olivier Vidal (ISTerre Grenoble) for their contributions on the development of the XRF-mapping software. This work has been possible thanks to the technical assistance of Koniambo SA. The financial support from Labex ANR-10-LABX-21-01 Ressources21 (Strategic metal resources of the 21st century) is gratefully acknowledged. We thank the editor Jochen Hoefs and the two anonymous reviewers for their careful revisions that helped to improve this manuscript.

Supplementary material

410_2013_952_MOESM1_ESM.eps (340 kb)
Raman spectra of brown chalcedony (Silica #2, Figure 4) and white chalcedony (Silica #3, Figure 4). Both only differ by the intensity of the moganite band (501) which is significantly higher in the white chalcedony. (EPS 339 kb)
410_2013_952_MOESM2_ESM.eps (5.5 mb)
RGB (for Red-Green-Blue) map calculated by the superposition of the three phase maps shown in Figure 7. One color is attributed to each phase (Red: Magnesite; Green: Serpentine; Blue: Silica), in order to highlight the relationship between mineral phases. Pixels characterized by a mix of green and blue show the progressive silicification of the serpentine mesh. Greenish to brownish pixels (mix of red and green) correspond to partially carbonated serpentine grains. (EPS 5639 kb)
410_2013_952_MOESM3_ESM.eps (1.6 mb)
Progressive silicification of the serpentine mesh illustrated by Raman spectroscopy. (EPS 1590 kb)
410_2013_952_MOESM4_ESM.eps (833 kb)
µ-XRF maps of elemental concentrations based on ROI (region of interest) measurement at element K-edge. These maps correspond to raw data used for the calculation of mineral phase maps (in %) shown in Figure 6 and Figure S5, and quantitative maps shown in Figure 6 and Figure S6. (EPS 833 kb)
410_2013_952_MOESM5_ESM.eps (5.3 mb)
Maps of mineral phases calculated calculated on the basis of µ-XRF measurements (EDAX Eagle III). The « Total » map corresponds to the sum of phase maps and is used to verify the consistency of the calculation (each pixel of the map have to be close to 100 %). (EPS 5433 kb)
410_2013_952_MOESM6_ESM.eps (898 kb)
Quantitative maps (in wt. %) calculated on the basis of µ-XRF measurements (EDAX Eagle III). The « Total » map corresponds to the sum of quantitative maps. Map of H2O+CO2, elements that cannot be measured by µ-XRF, is calculated by subtracting the Total map to 100. (EPS 898 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Marc Ulrich
    • 1
    • 2
    • 6
  • Manuel Muñoz
    • 2
  • Stéphane Guillot
    • 2
  • Michel Cathelineau
    • 1
  • Christian Picard
    • 3
  • Benoit Quesnel
    • 4
  • Philippe Boulvais
    • 4
  • Clément Couteau
    • 5
  1. 1.Laboratoire Géoressources, CNRS, UMR 7566Université de LorraineNancyFrance
  2. 2.Institut des Sciences de la Terre, CNRS, UMR 5275Université de Grenoble 1GrenobleFrance
  3. 3.Laboratoire Chrono-environnement, UMR 6249Université de Franche-ComtéBesançonFrance
  4. 4.Géosciences Rennes, CNRS, UMR 6118Université de Rennes 1RennesFrance
  5. 5.Service GéologiqueKoniambo Nickel SASNouvelle CalédonieFrance
  6. 6.IPGS-EOST, UMR 7516Université de StrasbourgStrasbourgFrance

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