Constraints on kimberlite ascent mechanisms revealed by phlogopite compositions in kimberlites and mantle xenoliths

Andrea Giuliani*, David Phillips, Vadim S. Kamenetsky, Karsten Goemann

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    114 Citations (Scopus)


    Kimberlite magmas are of economic and scientific importance because they represent the major host to diamonds and are probably the deepest magmas from continental regions. In addition, kimberlite magmas transport abundant mantle and crustal xenoliths, thus providing fundamental information on the composition of the sub-continental lithosphere. Despite their importance, the composition and ascent mechanism(s) of kimberlite melts remain poorly constrained. Phlogopite is one of the few minerals that preserves a history of fluid migration and magmatism in the mantle and crust and is therefore an invaluable petrogenetic indicator of kimberlite magma evolution. Here we present major and trace element compositional data for phlogopite from the Bultfontein kimberlite (Kimberley, South Africa; i.e. the kimberlite type-locality) and from entrained mantle xenoliths. Phlogopite macrocrysts (~. >. 0.3-0.5. mm) and microcrysts (between ~. 0.1 and 0.3. mm) in the Bultfontein kimberlite display concentric compositional zoning patterns. The cores of these phlogopite grains exhibit compositions typical of phlogopite contained in peridotite mantle xenoliths. However, the rims of some grains show compositions analogous to kimberlite groundmass phlogopite (i.e. high Ti, Al and Ba; low Cr), whereas other rims and intermediate zones (between cores and rims) exhibit unusually elevated Cr and lower Al and Ba concentrations. The latter compositions are indistinguishable from matrix phlogopite in polymict breccia xenoliths (considered to represent failed kimberlite intrusions) and from Ti-rich overgrowth rims on phlogopite in other mantle xenoliths. Consequently, it is likely that these phlogopite grains crystallized from kimberlite melts and that the high Ti-Cr zones originated from earlier kimberlite melts at mantle depths. We postulate that successive pulses of ascending kimberlite magma progressively metasomatised the conduit along which later kimberlite pulses ascended, producing progressively decreasing interaction with the surrounding mantle rocks. In our view, these processes represent the fundamental mechanism of kimberlite magma ascent. Our study also indicates that, in addition to xenoliths/xenocrysts and magmatic phases, kimberlite rocks incorporate material crystallized at various mantle depths by previous kimberlite intrusions (mantle-derived 'antecrysts').

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)189-201
    Number of pages13
    Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2016


    • Kimberlite
    • Phlogopite
    • Zoning
    • Magma ascent
    • Mantle xenoliths
    • Kimberley


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