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Publication Type:

Journal Article


Earth and Planetary Science LettersEarth and Planetary Science Letters, Volume 312, Number 1-2, p.213-225 (2011)




Archean kimberlite, detrital heavy minerals, diamond indicators, diamondiferous metaconglomerate, Superior craton, Wawa–Abitibi terrane


We studied heavy minerals extracted from a diamondiferous metaconglomerate that formed 2697–2701 Ma in a successor basin within the Michipicoten Greenstone Belt (MGB) of the Wawa–Abitibi Terrane (Southern Superior Craton). The conglomerate is metamorphosed in the greenschist facies and contains mainly locally derived igneous mafic to felsic detritus, but also very minor components of medium grade metamorphic minerals, diamonds and paragenetic diamond indicator minerals. Comparison of the size distribution, resorbtion and N aggregation of diamonds in nearby Wawa lamprophyres and the metaconglomerate diamonds confirms that the latter were not derived from the proximal lamprophyric source. The heavy minerals in the metaconglomerate include diopside, olivine, corundum, chromite, almandine, pyrope with kelyphitic rims, picroilmenite, amphibole and anorthite. Low abundances of the heavy minerals (several grains per 4–70 tons of the metaconglomerate) are, in part, explained by their complete or partial replacement by the greenschist mineral assemblage. Detrital almandine and amphibole are inferred to originate in amphibolite facies rocks. Cr-diopside, olivine, chromite and anorthite were sourced from mafic–ultramafic anorthosite- and chromitite-bearing layered complexes mapped in the MGB. The presence of pyrope with more than 6 wt.% Cr2O3 suggests derivation from a cratonic root. Picroilmenite has compositions typical of kimberlite and unlike that of ultramafic lamprophyres and other unconventional diamondiferous volcanics. The Wawa metaconglomerate, therefore, should be considered analogous to the Witwatersrand successor basin conglomerate in recording indirect evidence for Archean kimberlites. The tight localization of the diamondiferous conglomerate in time and space was controlled by a quick (~ 3 Ma) erosion of the source kimberlite body. The location of the kimberlite-bearing > 2.7 Ga Superior protocraton was inferred from the provenance of the metaconglomerate detrital material. The clasts could have originated as close as the northern Wawa–Abitibi Terrane or as distant as the Opatica terrane. The pre-2.7 Ga diamonondiferous cratonic root below the Southern Superior was removed in the Neoarchean–Proterozoic. The existence of Archean kimberlites and deep diamondiferous roots below smaller pre-2.7 Ga protocratons emphasizes the similarity of Neoarchean and Phanerozoic mantle processes.