Kimberlite volcanism involves the emplacement of olivine-rich volcaniclastic deposits into volcanic vents or pipes. Kimberlite deposits are typically pervasively serpentinised as a result of the reaction of olivine and water within a temperature range of 130-400 °C or less. We present a model for the influx of ground water into hot kimberlite deposits coupled with progressive cooling and serpentisation. Large-pressure gradients cause influx and heating of water within the pipe with horizontal convergent flow in the host rock and along pipe margins, and upward flow within the pipe centre. Complete serpentisation is predicted for wide ranges of permeability of the host rocks and kimberlite deposits. For typical pipe dimensions, cooling times are centuries to a few millennia. Excess volume of serpentine results in filling of pore spaces, eventually inhibiting fluid flow. Fresh olivine is preserved in lithofacies with initial low porosity, and at the base of the pipe where deeper-level host rocks have low permeability, and the pipe is narrower leading to faster cooling. These predictions are consistent with fresh olivine and serpentine distribution in the Diavik A418 kimberlite pipe, (NWT, Canada) and with features of kimberlites of the Yakutian province in Russia affected by influx of ground water brines. Fast reactions and increases in the volume of solid products compared to the reactants result in self-sealing and low water-rock ratios (estimated at <0.2). Such low water-rock ratios result in only small changes in stable isotope compositions; for example, δO18 is predicted only to change slightly from mantle values. The model supports alteration of kimberlites predominantly by interactions with external non-magmatic fluids.
- Hydrothermal alteration