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Diabase Polished Diabase.jpg

Diabase ( /ˈd.əbs/ ) or dolerite or microgabbro [1] is a mafic, holocrystalline, subvolcanic rock equivalent to volcanic basalt or plutonic gabbro. Diabase dikes and sills are typically shallow intrusive bodies and often exhibit fine grained to aphanitic chilled margins which may contain tachylite (dark mafic glass). Diabase is the preferred name in North America, while dolerite is the preferred name in the rest of English-speaking world, where sometimes the name diabase is applied to altered dolerites and basalts. Some geologists prefer the name microgabbro to avoid this confusion.



Diabase normally has a fine but visible texture of euhedral lath-shaped plagioclase crystals (62%) set in a finer matrix of clinopyroxene, typically augite (20–29%), with minor olivine (3% up to 12% in olivine diabase), magnetite (2%), and ilmenite (2%). [2] Accessory and alteration minerals include hornblende, biotite, apatite, pyrrhotite, chalcopyrite, serpentine, chlorite, and calcite. The texture is termed diabasic and is typical of diabases. This diabasic texture is also termed interstitial. [3] The feldspar is high in anorthite (as opposed to albite), the calcium endmember of the plagioclase anorthite-albite solid solution series, most commonly labradorite.


A diabase dike crosscutting horizontal limestone beds in Arizona Dike diabase AZ.jpg
A diabase dike crosscutting horizontal limestone beds in Arizona
Diabase boulders at Devil's Den on the Gettysburg Battlefield, Pennsylvania Devil's Den 101215.jpg
Diabase boulders at Devil's Den on the Gettysburg Battlefield, Pennsylvania
Dolerite rocks and Quiver trees near Keetmanshoop (Namibia) Doleritfelsen und Kocherbaume.jpg
Dolerite rocks and Quiver trees near Keetmanshoop (Namibia)
Dolerite forms tall vertical columns throughout Tasmania These columns create steep vertical features through its alpine areas. Organ Pipes Mount Wellington.jpg
Dolerite forms tall vertical columns throughout Tasmania These columns create steep vertical features through its alpine areas.
Fair Head, Northern Ireland Fair Head - geograph.org.uk - 817076.jpg
Fair Head, Northern Ireland

Diabase is usually found in smaller relatively shallow intrusive bodies such as dikes and sills. Diabase dikes occur in regions of crustal extension and often occur in dike swarms of hundreds of individual dikes or sills radiating from a single volcanic center.

The Palisades Sill which makes up the New Jersey Palisades on the Hudson River, near New York City, is an example of a diabase sill. The dike complexes of the British Tertiary Volcanic Province which includes Skye, Rum, Mull, and Arran of western Scotland, the Slieve Gullion region of Ireland, and extends across northern England contains many examples of dolerite dike swarms, towards the Midlands other examples include Rowley Rag. Parts of the Deccan Traps of India, formed at the end of the Cretaceous also include dolerite. [4] It is also abundant in large parts of Curaçao, an island off the coast of Venezuela. Another example of diabase dikes has been recognized in the Mongo area within the Guéra Massif of Chad in Central Africa. [5]

In the Death Valley region of California, precambrian diabase intrusions metamorphosed pre-existing dolomite into economically important talc deposits. [6]

In the Thuringian-Franconian-Vogtland Slate Mountains of central Germany the diabase is entirely of Devonian age. [7] They form typical domed landscapes, especially in the Vogtland. One geotourist attraction is the Steinerne Rose near Saalburg, a natural monument, whose present shape is due to the typical weathering of lava pillows.

Gondwanaland and Australia

A geological event known as the Oenpelli Dolerite intrusive event occurred about 1,720 million years ago in western Arnhem Land, in the Northern Territory, [8] creating curved ridges of Oenpelli Dolerite stretching over 30,000 square kilometres (12,000 sq mi). [9] Further west, on the northern coast of Arnhem Land, a "subsurface radial dyke swarm" known as Galiwinku Dolerite, taking its name from the Aboriginal name for Elcho Island, occurs on the Gove Peninsula and continues under the Arafura Sea and on Wessel Islands, including Elcho and Milingimbi Islands. [10]

In the Yilgarn Craton of Western Australia, a Proterozoic 200-kilometre (120 mi) long dolerite dike, the Norseman-Wiluna greenstone belt [11] is associated with the non-alluvial gold mining area between Norseman and Kalgoorlie, which includes the largest gold mine in Australia, [12] the Super Pit gold mine. West of the Norseman–Wiluna Belt is the Yalgoo-Singleton greenstone belt, where complex dolerite dike swarms obscure the volcaniclastic sediments. [13] Large dolerite sills such as the Golden Mile Dolerite can exhibit coarse-grained texture, and show a large diversity in petrography and geochemistry across the width of the sill. [14]

The vast areas of mafic volcanism/plutonism associated with the Jurassic breakup of the Gondwana supercontinent in the Southern Hemisphere include many large diabase/dolerite sills and dike swarms. These include the Karoo dolerites of South Africa, the Ferrar Dolerites of Antarctica, and the largest of these, indeed the most extensive of all dolerite formations worldwide, are found in Tasmania. Here, the volume of magma which intruded into a thin veneer of Permian and Triassic rocks from multiple feeder sites, over a period of perhaps a million years, may have exceeded 40,000 cubic kilometres. [15] In Tasmania, dolerite dominates much of the landscape, particularly alpine areas, with many examples of columnar jointing.

Early Jurassic activity resulted in the formation of dolerite intrusion on Prospect Hill in Sydney, [16] and quarrying of basalt for roadstone and other building materials has been an important activity there for over 180 years. [17] [18]


Diabase is crushed and used as a construction aggregate for road beds, buildings, railroad beds (rail ballast), and within dams and levees. [19] [20]

Diabase can be cut for use as headstones and memorials; the base of the Marine Corps War Memorial is made of black diabase "granite" (a commercial term, not actual granite). Diabase can also be cut for use as ornamental stone for countertops, facing stone on buildings, and paving. [20] A form of dolerite, known as bluestone, is one of the materials used in the construction of Stonehenge. [21]

Diabase also serves as local building stone. In Tasmania, where it is one of the most common rocks found, [22] it is used for building, for landscaping and to erect dry-stone farm walls. In northern County Down, Northern Ireland, "dolerite" is used in buildings such as Mount Stewart together with Scrabo Sandstone as both are quarried at Scrabo Hill.

The Blackbird (violin) is made of black diabase.

See also

Related Research Articles

Gabbro A coarse-grained mafic intrusive rock

Gabbro is a phaneritic (coarse-grained), mafic intrusive igneous rock formed from the slow cooling of magnesium-rich and iron-rich magma into a holocrystalline mass deep beneath the Earth's surface. Slow-cooling, coarse-grained gabbro is chemically equivalent to rapid-cooling, fine-grained basalt. Much of the Earth's oceanic crust is made of gabbro, formed at mid-ocean ridges. Gabbro is also found as plutons associated with continental volcanism. Due to its variant nature, the term "gabbro" may be applied loosely to a wide range of intrusive rocks, many of which are merely "gabbroic".

Greenstone belt Zone of variably metamorphosed rocks occurring in Archaean and Proterozoic cratons

Greenstone belts are zones of variably metamorphosed mafic to ultramafic volcanic sequences with associated sedimentary rocks that occur within Archaean and Proterozoic cratons between granite and gneiss bodies.

Dike (geology) A sheet of rock that is formed in a fracture of a pre-existing rock body

A dike or dyke, in geological usage, is a sheet of rock that is formed in a fracture of a pre-existing rock body. Dikes can be either magmatic or sedimentary in origin. Magmatic dikes form when magma flows into a crack then solidifies as a sheet intrusion, either cutting across layers of rock or through a contiguous mass of rock. Clastic dikes are formed when sediment fills a pre-existing crack.

Sill (geology)

In geology, a sill is a tabular sheet intrusion that has intruded between older layers of sedimentary rock, beds of volcanic lava or tuff, or along the direction of foliation in metamorphic rock. A sill is a concordant intrusive sheet, meaning that a sill does not cut across preexisting rock beds. Stacking of sills builds a sill complex and a large magma chamber at high magma flux. In contrast, a dike is a discordant intrusive sheet, which does cut across older rocks. Sills are fed by dikes, except in unusual locations where they form in nearly vertical beds attached directly to a magma source. The rocks must be brittle and fracture to create the planes along which the magma intrudes the parent rock bodies, whether this occurs along preexisting planes between sedimentary or volcanic beds or weakened planes related to foliation in metamorphic rock. These planes or weakened areas allow the intrusion of a thin sheet-like body of magma paralleling the existing bedding planes, concordant fracture zone, or foliations.

Intrusive rock Magmatic rock formed below the surface

Intrusive rock is formed when magma penetrates existing rock, crystallizes, and solidifies underground to form intrusions, such as batholiths, dikes, sills, laccoliths, and volcanic necks.

Ultramafic rock

Ultramafic rocks are igneous and meta-igneous rocks with a very low silica content, generally >18% MgO, high FeO, low potassium, and are composed of usually greater than 90% mafic minerals. The Earth's mantle is composed of ultramafic rocks. Ultrabasic is a more inclusive term that includes igneous rocks with low silica content that may not be extremely enriched in Fe and Mg, such as carbonatites and ultrapotassic igneous rocks.

Large igneous province Huge regional accumulation of igneous rocks

A large igneous province (LIP) is an extremely large accumulation of igneous rocks, including intrusive and extrusive, arising when magma travels through the crust towards the surface. The formation of LIPs is variously attributed to mantle plumes or to processes associated with divergent plate tectonics. The formation of some of the LIPs the past 500 million years coincide in time with mass extinctions and rapid climatic changes, which has led to numerous hypotheses about the causal relationships. LIPs are fundamentally different from any other currently active volcanoes or volcanic systems.

Komatiite An ultramafic mantle-derived volcanic rock

Komatiite is a type of ultramafic mantle-derived volcanic rock defined as having crystallised from a lava with ≥ 18 wt% MgO. Komatiites have low silicon, potassium and aluminium, and high to extremely high magnesium content. Komatiite was named for its type locality along the Komati River in South Africa, and frequently displays spinifex texture composed of large dendritic plates of olivine and pyroxene.

Layered intrusion

A layered intrusion is a large sill-like body of igneous rock which exhibits vertical layering or differences in composition and texture. These intrusions can be many kilometres in area covering from around 100 km2 (39 sq mi) to over 50,000 km2 (19,000 sq mi) and several hundred metres to over one kilometre (3,300 ft) in thickness. While most layered intrusions are Archean to Proterozoic in age, they may be any age such as the Cenozoic Skaergaard intrusion of east Greenland or the Rum layered intrusion in Scotland. Although most are ultramafic to mafic in composition, the Ilimaussaq intrusive complex of Greenland is an alkalic intrusion.

The Yilgarn Craton is a large craton that constitutes the bulk of the Western Australian land mass. It is bounded by a mixture of sedimentary basins and Proterozoic fold and thrust belts. Zircon grains in the Jack Hills, Narryer Terrane have been dated at ~4.27 Ga, with one detrital zircon dated as old as 4.4 Ga.

Kambalda type komatiitic nickel ore deposits are a class of magmatic iron-nickel-copper-platinum-group element ore deposit in which the physical processes of komatiite volcanology serve to deposit, concentrate and enrich a Fe-Ni-Cu-(PGE) sulfide melt within the lava flow environment of an erupting komatiite volcano.

Kanichee Mine

The Kanichee Mine, also less commonly known as the Ajax Mine, is an abandoned base metal and precious metal mine, located in the Temagami region of northeastern Ontario, Canada. It is near the small unincorporated community of Temagami North, accessed by the Kanichee Mine Road from Highway 11. The Kanichee Mine zone has been explored and mined discontinuously from as early as 1910. During the 20th century, it operated and closed down at least three times, with the most recent being from 1973 to 1976. To date, the discontinuous operation of Kanichee Mine has produced 4.2 million pounds of metal.

Palisades Sill

The Palisades Sill is a Triassic, 200 Ma diabase intrusion. It extends through portions of New York and New Jersey. It is most noteworthy for The Palisades, the cliffs that rise steeply above the western bank of the Hudson River. The ideal location and accessibility of the sill, as well as its unique features, have generated much attention from nature enthusiasts, rock climbers, and geologists alike.

The High Arctic Large Igneous Province (HALIP) is a Cretaceous large igneous province in the Arctic. The region is divided into several smaller magmatic provinces. Svalbard, Franz Josef Land, Sverdrup Basin, Amerasian Basin, and northern Greenland are some of the larger divisions. Today, HALIP covers an area greater than 1,000,000 km2 (390,000 sq mi), making it one of the largest and most intense magmatic complexes on the planet. However, eroded volcanic sediments in sedimentary strata in Svalbard and Franz Josef Land suggest that an extremely large portion of HALIP volcanics have already been eroded away.

Temagami Greenstone Belt

The Temagami Greenstone Belt (TGB) is a small 2.7 billion year old greenstone belt in the Temagami region of Northeastern Ontario, Canada. It represents a feature of the Superior craton, an ancient and stable part of the Earth's lithosphere that forms the core of the North American continent and Canadian Shield. The belt is composed of metamorphosed volcanic rocks that range in composition from basalt to rhyolite. These form the east-northeast trend of the belt and are overlain by metamorphosed sedimentary rocks. They were created during several volcanic episodes involving a variety of eruptive styles ranging from passive lava eruptions to viscous explosive eruptions.

Dike swarm

A dike swarm or dyke swarm is a large geological structure consisting of a major group of parallel, linear, or radially oriented magmatic dikes intruded within continental crust or central volcanoes in rift zones like in Iceland.or other big volcanoes, resp. fissure systems in different parts of the world.

Circum-Superior Belt

The Circum-Superior Belt is a widespread Paleoproterozoic large igneous province in the Canadian Shield of Northern, Western and Eastern Canada. It extends more than 3,400 km (2,100 mi) from northeastern Manitoba through northwestern Ontario, southern Nunavut to northern Quebec. Igneous rocks of the Circum-Superior Belt are mafic-ultramafic in composition, deposited in the Labrador Trough near Ungava Bay, the Cape Smith Belt near the southern shore of Hudson Strait and along the eastern shore of Hudson Bay in its northern portion; the Thompson and Fox River belts in the northwest and the Marquette Range Supergroup in its southern portion. The Circum Superior Belt also hosts a rare example of Proterozoic Komatiite, in the Winnipegosis komatiite belt.

Volcanism of Eastern Canada

The volcanology of Eastern Canada includes the hundreds of volcanic areas and extensive lava formations in Eastern Canada. The region's different volcano and lava types originate from different tectonic settings and types of volcanic eruptions, ranging from passive lava eruptions to violent explosive eruptions. Eastern Canada has very large volumes of magmatic rock called large igneous provinces. They are represented by deep-level plumbing systems consisting of giant dike swarms, sill provinces and layered intrusions. The most capable large igneous provinces in Eastern Canada are Archean age greenstone belts containing a rare volcanic rock called komatiite.

Mackenzie Large Igneous Province

The Mackenzie Large Igneous Province (MLIP) is a major Mesoproterozoic large igneous province of the southwestern, western and northwestern Canadian Shield in Canada. It consists of a group of related igneous rocks that were formed during a massive igneous event starting about 1,270 million years ago. The large igneous province extends from the Arctic in Nunavut to near the Great Lakes in Northwestern Ontario where it meets with the smaller Matachewan dike swarm. Included in the Mackenzie Large Igneous Province are the large Muskox layered intrusion, the Coppermine River flood basalt sequence and the massive northwesterly trending Mackenzie dike swarm.

A subvolcanic rock, also known as a hypabyssal rock, is an intrusive igneous rock that is emplaced at medium to shallow depths within the crust, and has intermediate grain size and often porphyritic texture between that of volcanic rocks and plutonic rocks. Subvolcanic rocks include diabase and porphyry. Common examples of subvolcanic rocks are diabase, quartz-dolerite, micro-granite and diorite.


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