Diamondiferous and barren eclogites and pyroxenites from the western Kaapvaal craton record subduction processes and mantle metasomatism, respectively

Sonja Aulbach, K. S. Viljoen, Axel Gerdes

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

19 Citations (Scopus)


Mineral major and trace elements combined with Sr isotopes of clinopyroxene are used to unravel the origins and evolution of mantle eclogite and pyroxenite xenoliths from the Doornkloof-Sover orangeite dike (western Kaapvaal craton), and to investigate the generation and destruction of diamond in these rocks. Two different eclogite types are present: (1) MgO-poor eclogites (MgO = 7.3 to 14.5 wt%; n = 43) with accessory diamond ± corundum and kyanite, high garnet grossular content (median Ca# = 0.25) and clinopyroxene jadeite content (0.39). Reconstructed bulk rocks are LREE-depleted (median La 0.29 ppm) and have low median Cr2O3 (0.06 wt%) and incompatible trace-element contents (e.g. Sr, Zr, Ba, Pb, Th), and high Li and transition metal abundances. Some are characterised by stepped REE patterns or steep slopes in the MREE, similar to eclogites affected by interaction with dehydration fluids generated in subduction zones. These fluids may also have deposited diamond in typically reducing eclogite assemblages at diamond-stable pressures. (2) MgO-rich eclogites and pyroxenites (MgO = 14.0 to 20.0 wt%; n = 29), which are barren and enriched in LREE (median La 1.39 ppm), Cr2O3 (0.25 wt%) and incompatible trace elements, with lower Li and transition metal abundances than the MgO-poor group. These are typical signatures of carbonated ultramafic melt metasomatism in the mantle lithosphere. Strontium isotopic compositions vary widely in both groups, but high Cr2O3 and Ba contents are dominantly associated with 87Sr/86Sr > 0.7055. This reflects interaction with metasomatic agents remobilised from ancient lithospheric metasomes, which eventually gave rise to regional orangeite magmatism. The presence of strong positive Eu anomalies in both groups, including two pyroxenites, requires low-pressure igneous protoliths, presumably derived from a ca. 3 Ga spreading ridge, as reported for other eclogite materials from the western Kaapvaal craton. Based on the proportions of MgO-poor and –rich eclogites and pyroxenites, approximately 40% of the diamond inventory were destroyed by mantle metasomatism centred at ~135 ± 15 km depth, overlapping a low-velocity anomaly (mid-lithospheric discontinuity). Two diamondiferous orangeites ≤20 km from Doornkloof-Sover contain significantly different eclogite xenolith populations: At Newlands, MgO-poor diamondiferous eclogites are present in addition to barren MgO-rich ones and pyroxenites, suggesting that the host orangeite sampled a source region equally affected by diamond-destructive mantle metasomatism, whereas at Bellsbank, all eclogites are MgO-poor and LREE-depleted. This may explain higher diamond grades reported for this locality compared to Newlands or Doornkloof-Sover.

Original languageEnglish
Article number105588
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2020


  • Archaean oceanic crust
  • Diamond formation
  • Kimberlite-borne eclogite xenoliths
  • Metasomatism
  • Radiogenic isotopes
  • Trace elements

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geology
  • Geochemistry and Petrology


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