Implications of garnet resorption for the Lu–Hf garnet geochronometer: an example from the contact aureole of the Makhavinekh Lake Pluton, Labrador



In the contact aureole of the Makhavinekh Lake Pluton (MLP), Labrador, garnet resorption caused redistribution of Lu and loss of Hf, creating spuriously young Lu–Hf garnet ages. Garnet grew during granulite facies regional metamorphism at 1860–1850 Ma. At 1322 Ma, garnet rims were replaced by coronas of cordierite and orthopyroxene during contact metamorphism. Garnet–ilmenite Lu–Hf geochronology using bulk-garnet separates yields apparent ages that young from 1876 ± 21 Ma at 4025 m from the contact to 1396 ± 8 Ma at 450 m from the contact. Toward the contact, garnet crystals are progressively more resorbed. Concentrations of Lu measured by LA-ICP-MS along radial traverses on central sections through relict garnet decrease gently away from the cores but rise steeply within 50–200 μm of the edges of the relicts. Enrichments of Lu in rims of relict garnet demonstrates strong partitioning of Lu into garnet during resorption and modest intracrystalline diffusion. Hafnium distributions could not be measured, but considering the strong incompatibility of Hf with garnet, it is likely that nearly all Hf in resorbed portions of the garnet was lost from the crystals. Lu–Hf ages in the aureole are thus controlled predominantly by this retention of Lu and loss of Hf during garnet resorption. This deduction was tested with a simple numerical model in which the partial retention of Lu and loss of Hf is tracked as a population of garnet is resorbed. Assuming a spherical geometry for garnet porphyroblasts, Rayleigh fractionation is used to approximate initial Lu zoning profiles ranging from flat to steeply decreasing toward garnet rims. The model simulates: (i) Lu–Hf decay for a specified period before resorption; (ii) instantaneous resorption with retention of Lu and loss of Hf from the resorbed portion of the crystal and (iii) Lu–Hf decay during a specified period after resorption. Several parameters influence the modelled age, but garnet resorption and Lu retention are the primary factors. When all other parameters are held constant, larger amounts of resorption and higher degrees of Lu retention produce younger apparent ages (false ages). Similarly, flatter initial Lu profiles yield younger apparent ages as a consequence of the larger proportion of Lu and Hf that resides in the outer portions of the porphyroblast. The difference between the apparent and actual ages is greater if the duration of the pre-resorption decay period is large relative to the post-resorption decay period. Larger crystals in a Gaussian crystal-size distribution (CSD) generally dominate the Lu–Hf budget and produce an older apparent age relative to the age of the mean crystal size. Compared to a symmetrical Gaussian CSD, positively skewed CSDs result in reduced resorption of large crystals and produce an older apparent age. Application of the model to the MLP aureole, positing growth at 1850 Ma and resorption at 1320 Ma, yields model ages that young from 1850 to 1374 Ma toward the contact, in good agreement with the apparent ages determined from geochronology.