Towards a new model for kimberlite petrogenesis: evidence from unaltered kimberlites and mantle minerals

Vadim S. Kamenetsky*, Alexander V. Golovin, Roland Maas, Andrea Giuliani, Maya B. Kamenetsky, Yakov Weiss

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

123 Citations (Scopus)
245 Downloads (Pure)


Kimberlites represent magmas derived from great mantle depths and are the principal source of diamonds. Kimberlites and their xenolith cargo have been extremely useful for determining the chemical composition, melting regime and evolution of the subcontinental mantle. The late-Devonian Udachnaya (means Fortuitous) pipe hosts the largest diamond deposit in Russia (>60% diamond quantity and value) and one of the largest in the world, supplying gem-quality diamonds (~12% of world production). Since its discovery in 1956, the Udachnaya kimberlite pipe has become a "type locality" for geochemists and petrologists studying mantle rocks and mantle physical-chemical conditions. Apart from hosting a diverse suite of extremely well-preserved mantle xenoliths, the host kimberlite (East body) is the only known occurrence of fresh kimberlite, with secondary serpentine almost absent and uniquely high Na2O and Cl (up to 6.2wt.%) and low H2O (<1wt.%) contents. The discovery of such compositional features in the only unaltered kimberlite has profound implications for models of parental kimberlite magma compositions, and the significance of the high Na and Cl abundances in the Udachnaya-East pipe has therefore been subjected to vigorous criticism. The main argument against a primary magmatic origin of high Na-Cl levels involves the possibility of contamination by salt-rich sedimentary rocks known in the subsurface of the Siberian platform, either by assimilation into the parental magma or by post-intrusion reaction with saline groundwaters. In this paper we review evidence against crustal contamination of Udachnaya-East kimberlite magma. This evidence indicates that the kimberlitic magma was not contaminated in the crust, and the serpentine-free varieties of this kimberlite owe their petrochemical and mineralogical characteristics to a lack of interaction with syn- and post-magmatic aqueous fluids. The groundmass assemblage of this kimberlite, as well as earlier-formed melt inclusions, contains alkali carbonate, chloride and other Na- and Cl-bearing minerals. This mineralogy reflects enrichment of the parental melt in carbonate, chlorine and sodium. The combination of low H2O, high alkali-Cl abundances, lack of serpentine, and the presence of alteration-free mantle xenoliths all indicate that the Udachnaya-East kimberlite preserves pristine compositions in both kimberlite and mantle xenoliths. Evidence for broadly similar chemical signatures is found in melt inclusions from kimberlites in other cratons (South Africa, Canada and Greenland in our study). We demonstrate that two supposedly "classic" characteristics of kimberlitic magmas - low sodium and high water contents - relate to postmagmatic alteration.A "salty" carbonate composition of the kimberlite parental melt can account for trace element signatures consistent with low degrees of partial melting, low temperatures of crystallisation and exceptional rheological properties that enable kimberlite magmas to rise with high ascent velocities, while carrying a large cargo of entrained xenoliths and crystals. Our empirical studies are now supported by experimental data which suggest that carbonate-chloride fluids and melts derived by liquid immiscibility are a crucial factor of diamond formation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)145-167
Number of pages23
JournalEarth-Science Reviews
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2014
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Copyright the Author(s) 2014. Version archived for private and non-commercial use with the permission of the author/s and according to publisher conditions. For further rights please contact the publisher.


Dive into the research topics of 'Towards a new model for kimberlite petrogenesis: evidence from unaltered kimberlites and mantle minerals'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this