In-situ assimilation of mantle minerals by kimberlitic magmas - Direct evidence from a garnet wehrlite xenolith entrained in the Bultfontein kimberlite (Kimberley, South Africa)

Ashton Soltys*, Andrea Giuliani, David Phillips, Vadim S. Kamenetsky, Roland Maas, Jon Woodhead, Thomas Rodemann

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    56 Citations (Scopus)


    The lack of consensus on the possible range of initial kimberlite melt compositions and their evolution as they ascend through and interact with mantle and crustal wall rocks, hampers a complete understanding of kimberlite petrogenesis. Attempts to resolve these issues are complicated by the fact that kimberlite rocks are mixtures of magmatic, xenocrystic and antecrystic components and, hence, are not directly representative of their parental melt composition. Furthermore, there is a lack of direct evidence of the assimilation processes that may characterise kimberlitic melts during ascent, which makes understanding their melt evolution difficult.In this contribution we provide novel constraints on the interaction between precursor kimberlite melts and lithospheric mantle wall rocks. We present detailed textural and geochemical data for a carbonate-rich vein assemblage that traverses a garnet wehrlite xenolith [equilibrated at ~. 1060 °C and 43 kbar (~. 140-145 km)] from the Bultfontein kimberlite (Kimberley, South Africa). This vein assemblage is dominated by Ca-Mg carbonates, with subordinate oxide minerals, olivine, sulphides, and apatite. Vein phases have highly variable compositions indicating formation under disequilibrium conditions. Primary inclusions in the vein minerals and secondary inclusion trails in host wehrlite minerals contain abundant alkali-bearing phases (e.g., Na-K bearing carbonates, Mg-freudenbergite, Na-bearing apatite and phlogopite). The Sr-isotope composition of vein carbonates overlaps those of groundmass calcite from the Bultfontein kimberlite, as well as perovskite from the other kimberlites in the Kimberley area. Clinopyroxene and garnet in the host wehrlite are resorbed and have Si-rich reaction mantles where in contact with the carbonate-rich veins. Within some veins, the carbonates occur as droplet-like, globular segregations, separated from a similarly shaped Si-rich phase by a thin meniscus of Mg-magnetite. These textures are interpreted to represent immiscibility between carbonate and silicate melts.The preservation of reaction mantles, immiscibility textures and disequilibrium in the vein assemblage, suggests quenching, probably triggered by entrainment and rapid transport toward the Earth's surface in the host kimberlite magma. Based on the Sr-isotope systematics of vein carbonate minerals, and the close temporal relationship between carbonate-rich metasomatism and kimberlite magmatism, we suggest that the carbonate-rich vein assemblage was produced by the interaction between a melt genetically related to the Bultfontein kimberlite and wehrlitic mantle wall rock. If correct, this unique xenolith sample provides a rare snapshot of the assimilation processes that might characterise parental kimberlite melts during their ascent through the lithospheric mantle.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)182-196
    Number of pages15
    Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 2016


    • Kimberlite
    • Melt evolution
    • Assimilation
    • Carbonate metasomatism
    • Lithospheric mantle
    • Kimberley


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