Any member of a family of minerals that contains the carbonate ion, CO32−, as the basic structural unit. The carbonates are among the most widely distributed minerals in the earth's crust; the most common are calcite, dolomite, and aragonite. Dolomite replaces calcite in limestones; when this replacement is extensive, the rock is called dolomite. Other relatively common carbonate minerals are siderite, rhodochrosite, strontianite (strontium-rich); smithsonite (zinc-rich); witherite (barium-rich); and cerussite (lead-rich).
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Talc carbonate mineral assemblages are controlled by temperature and pressure of metamorphism and the partial pressure of carbon dioxide within metamorphic fluids, as well as by the composition of the rock.
Thus, the MgO content of a metamorphosed ultramafic rock can be estimated roughly by understanding the mineral assemblage of the rock. Magnesium content determines the proportion of talc and/or magnesite and aluminium-calcium-sodium content determines the proportion of amphibole and/or chlorite.
At amphibolite facies, the diopside-in isograd is reached (dependent on carbon dioxide partial pressure) and metamorphic assemblages trend toward talc-pyroxene and eventually toward metamorphic olivine.
Serpentinisation of olivine Forsterite - aqueous silica → Serpentine
Carbonation of serpentine to form talc-magnesite
Talc carbonate is present in many of the ultramafic bodies of the Archaean Yilgarn Craton, Western Australia. Notably, the Widgiemooltha Komatiite shows pure talc-carbonation on the eastern flank of the Widgeimooltha Dome, and almost pure serpentinite metamorphism on the western flank.
Felsic and mafic rocks tend to be less affected by carbon dioxide due to their higher aluminium content. Ultramafic rocks lack aluminium, which allows carbonate to react with magnesium silicates to form talc. In rocks with extremely low aluminium contents, this reaction can progress to create magnesite.
Advanced carbonation of felsic and mafic rocks, very rarely, creates fenite, a metasomatic alteration caused particularly by carbonatite intrusions. Fenite alteration is known, but very restricted in distribution, around high-temperature metamorphic talc-carbonates, generally in he form of a sort of aureole around ultramafics. Such examples include biotite-rich zones, amphibolite-calcite-scapolite alteration and other unusual skarn assemblages.