The lamproites of the West Kimberley Province occur in an area of 150 km in diameter that includes over 100 intrusions and volcanic forms. At Ellendale, 48 dikes, sills, plugs, and diatremes cut across Devonian and Permian sedimentary rocks. The Ellendale features are 20-22 million years old.
Windblown sand covers most of the volcanic features and most were discovered by geophysical methods. Drilling and trenching was used to search for diamonds. This photo shows a depression at the surface that marks the location of a lamproite pipe. All photos courtesy of Grant Boxer.
Map and cross-section of the Mount North diatreme. The lamproites are divided based on their mineralogy: ol=olivine, di=diopside, ri=richterite, and ph=phlogopite. Simplified from Jaques and others (1986).
Mount North and the 81 Mile Vent are the best exposed diatremes. Mount North is a diatreme that rises 90 m above the surrounding plain. The lamproite forms steep cliffs and, in some layers, columnar jointing that overlies pyroclastic rocks and sills. Following an initial explosive phase, a body of magma filled the core of the volcano, forming a plug.
Well-bedded sandy lapilli tuff exposed at Mount North. These pyroclastic rocks record the early explosive volcanic eruptions that formed a tuff-ring. The light-colored beds are quartz-rich. The dark-colored layers have more clasts of country rock. Most of the original pyroclastic material at Mount North has been eroded away.
Chemical composition of lamproite from Mount North (from Jaques and others, 1986):
SiO2 TiO2 Al2O3 FeO MnO MgO CaO Na2O K2O P2O5 42.84 7.53 5.45 7.78 0.09 11.24 3.98 0.46 7.37 2.02 FeO = FeO total.
Aerial view of sandstone rims adjacent to Ellendale pipes 5 (background) and 6 (foreground).
Bomb sags in the pyroclastic deposits at Ellendale Pipes 5.
Bedded tuffs in the pyroclastic deposits at Ellendale Pipes 5.
The Ellendale No. 9 and Ellendale No. 4 intrusions are not exposed at the surface but they contain significant (but sub-economic) concentrations of diamonds. The diamonds found in these intrusions were the first major discovery of diamonds in host rock in Western Australia.
The Argyle pipe, in the East Kimberley Province, has been major producer of diamonds. The Ellendale intrusions contain subeconomic quantities of diamonds.
VolcanoWorld wishes to thank Grant Boxer for generously sharing his knowledge and photographs of the diamond pipes of Western Australia.
Jaques, A.L., Lewis, J.D., and Smith, C.B., 1986, The kimberlites and lamproites of Western Australia: Geological Survey of Western Australia Bulletin 132, 268 p.