Emplacement age and thermal footprint of the diamondiferous Ellendale E9 lamproite pipe, Western Australia
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The diamondiferous Ellendale 9 (E9) pipe is a funnel-shaped maar-diatreme volcano consisting of inward-dipping tuff sequences intruded by lamproite plugs and dykes. The host rocks for the E9 pipe are Permian sandstones. The multiple lithological contacts exposed within the mined maar volcano provide a natural laboratory in which to study the effect of volcanic processes on U–Th–Pb–He systematics. Zircon from the regional sandstone and E9 lamproite display a bimodal distribution of ages on (U–Th)/He–U/Pb plots. The zircon U/Pb ages for the E9 pipe (n = 52) range from 440 to 2,725 Ma, while the cluster of (U–Th)/He ages for the lamproite dyke zircon indicate that dyke emplacement occurred at 20.6 ± 2.8 Ma, concordant with a maximum emplacement age of about ≤22 Ma from phlogopite 40Ar/39Ar. These ages indicate a xenocrystic origin for the zircon entrained in the E9 dyke. The U/Pb ages of detrital zircon from the regional sandstone host (373–3,248 Ma; n = 41) are indistinguishable from those of the lamproite zircon xenocrysts, whereas the detrital zircon in the host sandstone yield (U–Th)/He ages from 260 to 1,500 Ma. A thermochronology traverse across the E9 lamproite dyke reveals that the zircon (U–Th)/He ages in the host sandstone have not been significantly thermally reset during dyke emplacement, even at the contact. The capability of the zircon (U–Th)/He method to distinguish deep, mantle source lithologies from upper crustal source lithologies could be used in geochemical exploration for diamonds. Pre-screening of detrital samples using etching and helium assay methods will improve the efficiency and decrease the cost of greenfields exploration.
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