Age and origin of gem corundum and zircon megacrysts from the Mercaderes-Rio Mayo area, South-West Colombia, South America
Potential sources for alluvial gem corundum and zircon from the Rio Mayo area, near Mercaderes, Colombia are reviewed, based on U–Pb dating of syngenetic and protogenetic mineral inclusions in corundum samples and on a zircon megacryst. Corundum recovered from the region (approx. 99% sapphire, 1% ruby) commonly shows growth banding, includes colour change stones and exhibits overlaps in colour ranges and inclusion characteristics. This suggests a contiguous genetic suite. The U–Pb dating used laser ablation-inductively coupled plasma-mass spectrometry (LA-ICP-MS) techniques. Because of the young ages and low-U contents of the dated zircons, the acquired data required a special statistical treatment. The results from zircon, fluorapatite and allanite-(Ce) inclusions provide a corundum crystallization age of 8 to 11 Ma, in relation to northern Andean Miocene uplift and magmatism. The zircon megacryst gave a younger crystallization age of c. 0.6 Ma, unrelated to the corundum genesis. Geochemical parameters (trace element and O isotope ranges) for corundum samples suggest a metamorphic/metasomatic origin. The age data rules out corundum genesis during the Late Cretaceous ophiolitic generation, but leave open possible later metasomatic interactions with this substrate. The Cr/Ga and Ga/Mg ratios and O isotope range for the corundum fall within the known limits for metasomatic, desilicated felsic/ultramafic ‘plumasitic’ associations, suggesting a possible parental source. Allanite, extremely rare as an inclusion in corundum elsewhere, may prove a characteristic inclusion for Rio Mayo corundum.