Provenance history of detrital diamond deposits, West Coast of Namaqualand, South Africa

Abstract

The West Coast of Namaqualand in South Africa hosts extensive detrital diamond deposits, but considerable debate exists as to the provenance of these diamonds. Some researchers have suggested derivation of the diamonds from Cretaceous-Jurassic kimberlites (also termed Group I kimberlites) and orangeites (also termed Group II kimberlites) located on the Kaapvaal Craton. However, others favour erosion of diamonds from the ca.300 Ma Dwyka Group sediments, with older, pre-Karoo kimberlites being the original source(s). Previous work has demonstrated that 40Ar/39Ar analyses of clinopyroxene inclusions, extracted from diamonds, yield ages approaching the time(s) of source kimberlite emplacement, which can be used to constrain the provenance of placer diamond deposits. In the current study, 40Ar/39Ar analyses were conducted on clinopyroxene inclusions from two similar batches of Namaqualand detrital diamonds, yielding (maximum) ages ranging from 117.5 ± 43.6 Ma to 3684 ± 191 Ma (2σ) and 120.6 ± 15.4 Ma to 688.8 ± 4.9 Ma (2σ), respectively. The vast majority of inclusions (88%) produced ages younger than 500 Ma, indicating that most Namaqualand diamonds originated from Cretaceous-Jurassic kimberlites/orangeites, with few, if any, derived from the Dwyka tillites. The provenance of the Namaqualand diamonds from ca.115–200 Ma orangeites is consistent with Late Cretaceous paleo-drainage reconstructions, as these localities could have been sampled by the ‘paleo-Karoo’ River and transported to the West Coast via an outlet close to the current Olifants River mouth. At ca.90 Ma, this drainage system appears to have been captured by the ‘paleo-Kalahari’ River, a precursor to the modern Orange River system. This latter drainage is considered to have transported diamonds eroded from both ca.80–90 Ma kimberlites and ca.115–200 Ma orangeites to the West Coast, which were subsequently reworked along the Namibian coast, forming additional placer deposits.

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Acknowledgments

We are indebted to the De Beers Group for donation of the Namaqualand diamonds, logistical and financial support, and permission to publish. We are especially indebted to Verlece Anderson, Gillian Parker and Edna van Blerk, of Harry Oppenheimer House in Kimberley, for selection of clinopyroxene-bearing diamonds. We thank Stan Szczepanski for technical assistance in the University of Melbourne 40Ar/39Ar analyses. We acknowledge the constructive comments by the two reviewers (Steven Shirey and Ray Burgess) of the manuscript, and the editorial handling of Thomas Stachel.

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Phillips, D., Harris, J.W., de Wit, M.C.J. et al. Provenance history of detrital diamond deposits, West Coast of Namaqualand, South Africa. Miner Petrol 112, 259–273 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00710-018-0568-9

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Keywords

  • Diamond
  • Kimberlite
  • 40Ar/39Ar
  • Provenance