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Emplacement age and thermal footprint of the diamondiferous Ellendale E9 lamproite pipe, Western Australia


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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The authors would like to thank the Minerals and Energy Research Institute of Western Australia and M405 project sponsors (North Australian Diamonds Ltd. Venus Resources, Gem Minerals, Flinders Mines) for their support of this research. Angelo Vartesi and Travis Naughton are thanked for drafting the figures. Special thanks to Cameron Scadding and Allen Thomas (TSW Analytical, Perth) for assistance with ICP MS analysis and to Adam Frew for assistance with SHRIMP and 40Ar/39Ar analysis. The constructive comments of Patrick Williams, Rolf L. Romer and two anonymous reviewers greatly improved the manuscript.

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Correspondence to Noreen J. Evans.

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Editorial handling: R. Romer

Electronic supplementary material

Below is the link to the electronic supplementary material.


Analytical methods. Detailed description of all analytical methods used, including (U–Th)/He, U/Pb and Ar–Ar and a more detailed discussion of alpha corrections employed. (PDF 138kb)


Full U–Pb data sets. U–Pb SHRIMP data for zircon separated from the Grant Formation sandstone and the E9 Lamproite dyke (PDF 153kb)


Thermochronology and Geochronology results. Table 1. Zircon (U–Th)/He and U/Pb ages for double dated E9 Pipe and regional sandstone; Table 2. Zircon (U–Th)/He ages for traverse from E9 lamproite dyke and into adjacent sandstone (PDF 148kb)

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Evans, N.J., McInnes, B.I.A., McDonald, B. et al. Emplacement age and thermal footprint of the diamondiferous Ellendale E9 lamproite pipe, Western Australia. Miner Deposita 48, 413–421 (2013). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00126-012-0430-7

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  • Diamond
  • (U–Th)/He
  • U–Pb
  • Lamproite
  • Ellendale
  • Geochronology
  • Thermochronology
  • Exploration