Reconstruction of a kimberlite eruption, using an integrated volcanological, geochemical and numerical approach: A case study of the Fox Kimberlite, NWT Canada

L. A. Porritt, R. A. F. Cas

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

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An integrated approach involving volcanology, geochemistry and numerical modelling has enabled the reconstruction of the volcanic history of the Fox kimberlite pipe. The observed deposits within the vent include a basal massive, poorly sorted, matrix supported, lithic fragment rich, eruption column collapse lapilli tuff. Extensive vent widening during the climactic magmatic phase of the eruption led to overloading of the eruption column with cold dense country rock lithic fragments, dense juvenile pyroclasts and olivine crystals, triggering column collapse. >40% dilution of the kimberlite by granodiorite country rock lithic fragments is observed both in the physical componentry of the rocks and in the geochemical signature, where enrichment in Al2O3 and Na2O compared to average values for coherent kimberlite is seen. The wide, deep, open vent provided a trap for a significant proportion of the collapsing column material, preventing large scale run-away in the form of pyroclastic flow onto the ground surface, although minor flows probably also occurred. A massive to diffusely bedded, poorly sorted, matrix supported, accretionary-lapilli bearing, lithic fragment rich, lapilli tuff overlies the column collapse deposit providing evidence for a late phreatomagmatic eruption stage, caused by the explosive interaction of external water with residual magma. Correlation of pipe morphology and internal stratigraphy indicate that widening of the pipe occurred during this latter stage and a thick granodiorite cobble-boulder breccia was deposited. Ash- and accretionary lapilli-rich tephra, deposited on the crater rim during the late phreatomagmatic stage, was subsequently resedimented into the vent. Incompatible elements such as Nb are used as indicators of the proportion of the melt fraction. or kimberlite ash, retained or removed by eruptive processes. When compared to average coherent kimberlite the ash-rich deposits exhibit similar to 30% loss of fines whereas the column collapse deposit exhibits similar to 50% loss. This shows that despite the poorly sorted nature of the column collapse deposit significant elutriation has occurred during the eruption, indicating the existence of a high sustained eruption column. The deposits within Fox record a complex eruption sequence showing a transition from a probable violent sub-plinian style eruption, driven by instantaneous exsolution of magmatic volatiles, to a late phreatomagmatic eruption phase. Mass eruption rate and duration of the sub-plinian phase of the eruption have been determined based on the dimensions of milled country-rock boulders found within the intra-vent deposits. Calculations show a short lived eruption of one to eleven days for the sub-plinian magmatic phase, which is similar in duration to small volume basaltic eruptions. This is in general agreement with durations of kimberlite eruptions calculated using entirely different approaches and parameters, such as predictions of magma ascent rates in kimberlite dykes. (C) 2008 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)241-264
Number of pages24
JournalJournal of Volcanology and Geothermal Research
Issue number3-4
Publication statusPublished - 20 Jan 2009

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