Dataset: Patterns and controls on the distribution of diamondiferous intrusions in Australia


The distribution of kimberlite, lamproite and related alkaline volcanism in Australia can be broadly related to the structure of the Australian continent and lithosphere. Diamondiferous kimberlites and lamproites, with the apparent exception of the weakly diamondiferous Orrorro kimberlites in the Adelaide Fold Belt, lie within the large Precambrian shield where seismic tomographic models and heat flow data indicate the presence of relatively cold, high seismic wave speed lithosphere (tectosphere) typically some 200 km thick or more beneath the Archaean cratons and up to 300 km in parts of central Australia. Many of the diamondiferous intrusions appear to lie at the margins rather than in the centre of the lithosphere domains. The highest concentration of diamondiferous intrusions (kimberlites and lamproites) is on and around the Kimberley Craton where seismic data indicate crustal thicknesses of 35-40 km and a lithosphere up to 275 km thick that is distinct from Proterozoic northern Australia.

Many, but clearly not all, of the intrusions show evidence of regional and local structural controls. Some are spatially associated with known crustal structures, especially regional faults. Others are aligned, either singly or in clusters, along or near discontinuities and/or gradients evident in regional scale potential field data, especially the total horizontal gradients of gravity data continued upward tens to hundreds of kilometres. Many of these features are not evident in the original datasets as their signatures are masked by shorter wavelength (near surface) anomalies. In some cases, the kimberlites and associated rocks lie within crustal blocks and domains defined by discontinuities in the potential field data rather than at domain boundaries.

Our overview suggests that analysis of potential field data, especially horizontal gradients in upwardly continued potential field data, at all scales can assist definition of crustal and, potentially, lithospheric structures that may influence the distribution of diamond pipes. However, more definitive mapping of Australia's diamond prospective regions requires the integration of data on crustal structures, especially trans-lithospheric faults, and geodynamic settings with high resolution tomographic models and other geophysical, petrologic, and isotopic information on the nature of the lithosphere beneath the Australian continent.

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