Diamondiferous peridotite xenoliths from the Argyle (AK1) lamproite pipe, Western Australia

A. L. Jaques*, H. St C O'Neill, C. B. Smith, J. Moon, B. W. Chappell

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

    79 Citations (Scopus)


    This paper describes a suite of peridotite xenoliths. some carrying diamonds at high grades, from the richly diamondiferous early Proterozoic (≈1180 Ma) Argyle (AK1) lamproite pipe, in northwestern Australia. The peridotites are mostly coarse garnet lherzolites but also include garnet harzburgite, chromite - garnet peridotite, a garnet wehrlite, and an altered spinel peridotite with extremely Cr-rich chromite. In all cases the garnet has been replaced by a kelyphite-like, symplectic intergrowth of Alrich pyroxenes, Al-spinel and secondary silicates. The peridotites have refractory compositions characterized by high Mg/(Mg+Fe) and depletion in lithophile elements (Al2O3 and CaO < 1%, Na2O≤0.03%) and high field strength cations such as Ti, Zr, Y, and Yb. Olivines have high Mg/(Mg+Fe) (Mg 91-93) and, like olivine inclusions in diamonds from the Argyle pipe, contain detectable amounts of Cr2O3 (0.03%-0.07%) but have very low CaO contents (typically 0.04%-0.05%). Enstatites (Mg 92-94) have comparatively high Cr2O3 (0.2%-0.45%) and Na2O (up to 0.18%) but very low Al2O3 contents (0.5%-0.7%). Diopsides (Mg 92-94, Ca/(Ca+Mg+Fe)=0.37-0.43) are Cr-rich (0.7%-1.9% Cr2O3) and have low Al2O3 (0.7%-2.2%) and Na2O (0.5%-1.6%) contents. Many have high K2O contents, typically 0.1%-0.4% but up to 1.3% K2O in one xenolith. The chromite coexisting with former garnet is Mg-and Cr-rich [Mg/(Mg+Fe2+)=0.68-0.72, Cr/(Cr+Al)=0.72-0.79] whereas chromite in the spinel peridotite is even more Cr-rich (65% Cr2O3, Cr/(Cr+Al)=0.85, resembling inclusions in diamond. One highly serpentinized former garnet peridotite contains a Cr-rich (up to 13% Cr2O3) titanate resembling armalcolite but containing significant K2O (1%-2.5%), CaO (0.6%-2.2%), ZrO2 (0.1%-0.8%), SrO (0.1%-0.3%), and BaO (up to 0.58%): this appears to have formed as an overprint of the primary mineralogy. Temperatures and pressures estimated from coexisting pyroxenes and reconstructed garnet compositions indicate that the garnet lherzolites equilibrated at 1140°-1290° C and 5.0-5.9 GPa (160-190 km depth), within the stability field of diamond. Oxygen fugacties within the diamond forming environment are estimated from spinel-bearing assemblages to be reducing, with fO2 between MW and IW. The presence of significant K in the diopsides from the peridotite xenoliths and in diopsides from heavy mineral concentrate from the Argyle pipe implies metasomatic enrichment of the subcontinental lithosphere within the diamond stability field. The P-T conditions estimated for the Argyle peridotites demonstrate that diamondiferous lamproite magmas incorporate mantle xenoliths from similar depths to kimberlites in cratonic settings, and imply that Proterozoic cratonized orogenic belts can have lithospheric roots of comparable thickness to beneath Archaean cratons. These roots lie at the base of the lithosphere within the stability field of diamond. The xenoliths, the calcic nature of chrome pyropes from heavy mineral concentrate, and the diamond inclusion assemblage indicate that the lighosphere beneath the Western Australian lamproites is mostly depleted lherozolite rather than the harzburgite commonly found beneath Archaean cratons. Nevertheless, the dominance of eclogitic paragenesis inclusions in Argyle diamonds indicates a significant proportion of diamondiferous eclogite is also present. The form, mineral inclusion assemblage, and the C-isotopic composition of diamonds in the peridotite xenoliths suggest that disaggregated diamondiferous peridotites are the source of the planar octahedral diamonds which constitute a minor component of the Argyle production. These diamonds are believed to have formed from mantle carbon in reduced, refractory peridotite (Iherzolite-harzburgite) in contrast to the predominant strongly 13C-depleted eclogitic suite diamonds which contain a recycled crustal carbon component. The source region of the lamproites has undergone long-term (≥2 Ga) enrichment in incompatible elements.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)255-276
    Number of pages22
    JournalContributions to Mineralogy and Petrology
    Issue number3
    Publication statusPublished - Mar 1990

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