Kimberlite metasomatism of the lithosphere and the evolution of olivine in carbonate-rich melts - evidence from the Kimberley Kimberlites (South Africa)

Ashton Soltys*, Andrea Giuliani, David Phillips, Vadim S. Kamenetsky

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

28 Citations (Scopus)


Olivine is the most abundant phase in kimberlites and is stable throughout most of the crystallization sequence, thus providing an extensive record of kimberlite petrogenesis. To better constrain the composition, evolution, and source of kimberlites we present a detailed petrographic and geochemical study of olivine from multiple dyke, sill, and root zone kimberlites in the Kimberley cluster (South Africa). Olivine grains in these kimberlites are zoned, with a central core, a rim overgrowth, and occasionally an external rind. Additional 'internal' and 'transitional' zones may occur between the core and rim, and some samples of root zone kimberlites contain a late generation of high-Mg olivine in cross-cutting veins. Olivine records widespread pre-ascent (proto-)kimberlite metasomatism in the mantle including the following features: (1) relatively Fe-rich (Mg# <89) olivine cores interpreted to derive from the disaggregation of kimberlite-related megacrysts (20 % of cores); (2) Mg-Ca-rich olivine cores (Mg# >89; >0·05 wt% CaO) suggested to be sourced from neoblasts in sheared peridotites (25 % of cores); (3) transitional zones between cores and rims probably formed by partial re-equilibration of xenocrysts (now cores) with a previous pulse of kimberlite melt (i.e. compositionally heterogeneous xenocrysts); (4) olivine from the Wesselton water tunnel sills, internal zones (I), and low-Mg# rims, which crystallized from a kimberlite melt that underwent olivine fractionation and stalled within the shallow lithospheric mantle. Magmatic crystallization begins with internal olivine zones (II), which are common but not ubiquitous in the Kimberley olivine. These zones are euhedral, contain rare inclusions of chromite, and have a higher Mg# (90·0 ± 0·5), NiO, and Cr2O3 contents, but are depleted in CaO compared with the rims. Internal olivine zones (II) are interpreted to crystallize from a primitive kimberlite melt during its ascent and transport of olivine toward the surface. Their compositions suggest assimilation of peridotitic material (particularly orthopyroxene) and potentially sulfides prior to or during crystallization. Comparison of internal zones (II) with liquidus olivine from other mantle-derived carbonate-bearing magmas (i.e. orangeites, ultramafic lamprophyres, melilitites) shows that low (100×) Mn/Fe (∼1·2), very low Ca/Fe (∼0·6), and moderate Ni/Mg ratios (∼1·1) appear to be the hallmarks of olivine in melts derived from carbonate-bearing garnet-peridotite sources. Olivine rims display features indicative of magmatic crystallization, which are typical of olivine rims in kimberlites worldwide; that is, primary inclusions of chromite, Mg-ilmenite and rutile, homogeneous Mg# (88·8 ± 0·3), decreasing Ni and Cr, and increasing Ca and Mn. Rinds and high-Mg olivine are characterized by extreme Mg-Ca-Mn enrichment and Ni depletion, and textural relationships indicate that these zones represent replacement of pre-existing olivine, with some new crystallization of rinds. These zones probably precipitated from evolved, oxidized, and relatively low-temperature kimberlite fluids after crustal emplacement. In summary, this study demonstrates the utility of combined petrography and olivine geochemistry to trace the evolution of kimberlite magmatic systems from early metasomatism of the lithospheric mantle by (proto-)kimberlite melts, to crystallization at different depths en route to surface, and finally late-stage deuteric or hydrothermal fluid alteration after crustal emplacement.

Original languageEnglish
Article numberegaa062
Pages (from-to)1-31
Number of pages31
JournalJournal of Petrology
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2020


  • Kimberley
  • kimberlite
  • metasomatism
  • olivine
  • zonation


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