Roter Kamm impact crater, Namibia: Geochemistry of basement rocks and breccias

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The Roter Kamm crater in the southern Namib Desert has previously been identified as an impact structure on the basis of crater morphology and the presence of impact melt breccias which contain shock metamorphosed quartz and lithic clasts. To better define the variety of target rocks and breccias, we studied the petrography and chemical composition of a new suite of twenty-eight basement and breccia samples from the Roter Kamm crater. Based on chemical data for target lithologies and breccias we suggest that the crater was formed in a two-layer target region: an upper layer of Gariep metasediments (schist, marble, ± quartzite and sandstone) overlying the crystalline basement of the Namaqualand Metamorphic Complex. The basement was also heavily intruded by coarse-grained quartz veins and quartz- and quartz-feldspar pegmatites. The clast population in the melt breccias indicates that impact-induced melting involved mainly metasedimentary target rocks, with rarely detected contributions from pegmatite and granite/granodiorite. Three varieties of melt breccias can be defined: (1) “schistose,” (2) quartzitic melt breccias, (3) “true” impact melt breccias. These melt breccia types are chemically heterogeneous, and even the impact melt breccias may have been produced in situ and not from a coherent melt body. The shapes of the schistose melt breccias, previously thought to be ejected impact breccias, are most likely caused by erosion, and these breccias are now interpreted to be locally derived. The crater basement as exposed at the rim was structurally severely affected and, at least locally, considerable thermal energy was generated during formation of large volumes of cataclastic, mylonitic, and pseudotachylitic breccias. Analyses of mylonite and pseudotachylites from the crater rim, as well as their respective host rocks, show that these breccias were mainly formed from local material. Analyses of pseudotachylite-like breccias indicate that these possible friction melts are generated by preferential melting of hydrous ferromagnesian minerals and feldspar, similar to their tectonically produced counterparts. Although no significant fluid effects resulting from formation of mylonites or pseudotachylites are indicated, several breccias (compared to their host rocks) do show evidence of severe chemical alteration (chloritisation and sericitisation). The presence of large vesicles filled with hydrothermal mineral assemblages in some schistose breccias and other petrographic and chemical data support the hypothesis of an impact-induced hydrothermal event in the crater area.

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Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta

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Journal Article
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