Kimberlite Terminology and Classification

  • B. H. Scott SmithEmail author
  • T. E. Nowicki
  • J. K. Russell
  • K. J. Webb
  • R. H. Mitchell
  • C. M. Hetman
  • M. Harder
  • E. M. W. Skinner
  • Jv. A. Robey
Conference paper


Description, classification and interpretation of kimberlites and related rocks, and communication of that information, underpin the development of three-dimensional geological models used in generating reliable diamond resource estimates. A rationalisation of kimberlite terminology and classification is presented in a practical, systematic framework or scheme. The scheme has five stages and is based on progressively increasing levels of interpretation building upon a series of descriptors that are applied independently of, and prior to, genetic classifications. Stage 1 of the scheme is rock description (alteration, structure, texture, components) and involves only limited genetic interpretation. The components are ascribed to three classes: compound clasts (kimberlitic, mantle, crustal), crystals, in particular olivine, and interstitial matrix (groundmass, interclast cement or clastic matrix). Kimberlitic compound clasts include magmaclasts (e.g. solidified melt-bearing pyroclasts), lithic clasts (e.g. autoliths) and accretionary clasts. Where possible, subsequent stages involve classification and higher levels of interpretation, based on increasing degrees of genetic inference. Stage 2 is the petrogenetic classification into parental magma type and mineralogical type. Stage 3a is the broad textural-genetic classification into coherent kimberlite and volcaniclastic kimberlite. In Stage 3b, coherent kimberlite is further subdivided into intrusive kimberlite or extrusive kimberlite, and volcaniclastic kimberlite into pyroclastic kimberlite, resedimented volcaniclastic kimberlite and epiclastic volcanic kimberlite. Pyroclastic kimberlites can be assigned into two main classes: Kimberley type (formerly tuffisitic kimberlite) and Fort à la Corne-type (formerly pyroclastic kimberlite). Stage 4 incorporates an assessment of the spatial relationship to and the morphology of the kimberlite body from which the rocks under investigation derive. Stage 5 involves more detailed genetic interpretation with more specific classification based on the mode of formation.


Kimberlite Terminology Classification Nomenclature Diamond Exploration Evaluation Mining 



Discussions over several decades with many colleagues in particular pioneers, Barry Hawthorne, Roger Clement and the late Barry Dawson have provided a foundation to this contribution. Jocelyn McPhie is gratefully acknowledged for sound advice and encouragement especially during early parts of the development of this scheme and for expert teachings over the years. Jocelyn’s thorough, detailed and constructive comments as reviewer of this and an earlier manuscript were very much appreciated and significantly improved this paper and the scheme. Many colleagues and clients are thanked for innumerable discussions that led to many of the concepts included in this paper. Russell Eley is acknowledged for the idea of the term pyrocryst to provide an excellent solution to a long-term terminology problem. This paper has benefited from discussions with Steve Sparks and his research group, participants of the 2006 Kimberlite Emplacement Workshop, and other members of the now disbanded IAVCEI Kimberlite Terminology Working Group (Ray Cas, Richard Brown, Matthew Field). Stuart Smith is thanked for professional assistance in drafting of tables and figures. Helpful comments by reviewer Richard Brown and guest editor Bruce Kjarsgaard are gratefully acknowledged. Thanks to guest editor Graham Pearson for his support and assistance in the publication process.


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Copyright information

© Geological Society of India 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • B. H. Scott Smith
    • 1
    • 3
    Email author
  • T. E. Nowicki
    • 2
  • J. K. Russell
    • 3
  • K. J. Webb
    • 2
  • R. H. Mitchell
    • 4
  • C. M. Hetman
    • 2
    • 5
  • M. Harder
    • 2
    • 6
  • E. M. W. Skinner
    • 7
  • Jv. A. Robey
    • 8
  1. 1.Scott-Smith Petrology Inc.North VancouverCanada
  2. 2.Mineral Services Canada Inc.North VancouverCanada
  3. 3.Department of Earth, Ocean and Atmospheric SciencesUniversity of British ColumbiaVancouverCanada
  4. 4.Department of GeologyLakehead UniversityThunder BayCanada
  5. 5.SRK Consulting (Canada) Inc.VancouverCanada
  6. 6.Tetra Tech IncVancouverCanada
  7. 7.Rhodes UniversityGrahamstownSouth Africa
  8. 8.Rockwise Consulting CCKimberleySouth Africa

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