Kimberlite: A Unique Probe into the Deep Earth

With all due respect to basalt, and I appreciate a granite as much as the next person, kimberlite is hard to beat. But what is a kimberlite? Kimberlites may be classified as igneous rocks but it is difficult to know how exactly to describe them in terms of magma, at least in any conventional sense of the word. Kimberlites tap the deepest recesses of our planet that we can sample. Propelled by a formidable volatile load, kimberlite melts transit hundreds of kilometers of mantle and crust, perhaps in just a few days, to form unique ballistic deposits at Earth’s surface. Kimberlites accumulate and transport ripped-up bits from throughout most, if not all, of their ascent path, including diamond, that classic gem of desire with its remarkable qualities that have fueled a global market. Indeed, much of our understanding of kimberlite is owed to the intrepid explorers who searched for and studied elusive diamond deposits. Adding to the veil of petrological complexity kimberlites are often pervasively altered by fluids, some of which were magmatic but some of which were not. The study of kimberlites over many decades has revealed glimpses of their origins and the paths by which they have travelled.

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