The stability and composition of sulfate melts in arc magmas

Michael Hutchinson*, Richard A Brooker, John H. Dilles, Jon D Blundy

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)
18 Downloads (Pure)


The stability field and composition of immiscible sulfate melts in equilibrium with silicate magmas has been determined using experiments over a range of crustal pressures, allowing an assessment of their possible role in transporting sulfur into the sub-volcanic arc and porphyry copper deposit systems. Experimental starting materials were based on natural trachy- andesite and trachydacite compositions, with 3.5–7 wt% H2O and 3.5–5.5 wt% sulfur added to produce large, analyzable amounts of sulfate phases. Conditions ranged over 800–1200 °C, 0.2-1GPa and ƒO2 > NNO + 2.5. Sulfate melts formed at temperatures above 1000 °C at 0.75 and 1 GPa and above 900 °C at 0.2 GPa, suggesting some pressure dependence on their stability. At temperatures below 1100 °C sulfate melts and anhydrite crystals commonly coexist. Sulfate melts quenched to an intergrowth that was difficult to prepare for analysis. However, the composition was approximated by EPMA and further constrained by mass balance calculations. Sulfate melts were dominated by CaO and SO3, but also contained, in order of decreasing abundance, Na2O, K2O, MgO, FeO, Cl and P2O5. Chlorine showed a particular preference for the sulfate melt relative to the coexisting silicate melt, and calculated partition coefficients for sulfate/silicate melts were 5–13 at 1200 °C, 0.75–1 GPa. Experimental data show that, in the absence of an exsolved, hydrous fluid phase, sulfate melts can form in natural arc magmas at near-liquidus temperatures ≥ 1000 °C, assuming that magmas are oxidized and contain sufficient sulfur (> 2000–3000 ppm S). These results suggest that sulfate melt could be an important component in transporting sulfur as well as chlorine to shallow levels in the crust for hydrous magmas under a specific range of conditions. Both the non-quenchable and water-soluble nature of sulfate melts (and anhydrite) make them difficult to identify, unless trapped as mineral inclusions similar to the “wormy anhydrite” trapped in high-temperature amphiboles from Yanacocha, Peru.
Original languageEnglish
Article number92 (2020)
Number of pages25
JournalContributions to Mineralogy and Petrology
Publication statusPublished - 14 Sep 2020


  • Sulfate melt
  • Arc magmas
  • Anhydrite
  • Phase equilibria
  • Experimental petrology


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