Mineralogy and Petrology

, Volume 112, Supplement 2, pp 737–753 | Cite as

Diamond exploration and regional prospectivity of Western Australia

  • Mark T. HutchisonEmail author
Original Paper


Pre-1.6 Ga rocks comprise around 45% of the onshore area of Western Australia (WA), constituting the West Australian Craton (WAC) (including the Archean Yilgarn and Pilbara Cratons) and the western part of the North Australian Craton (NAC). These areas provide the conditions suitable for diamond formation at depth, and numerous diamondiferous lamproite and kimberlite fields are known. As emplacement ages span close to 2500 Ma, there are significant opportunities for diamond-affinity rocks being present near-surface in much of the State, including amongst Phanerozoic rocks. WA’s size, terrain, infrastructure and climate, mean that many areas remain underexplored. However, continuous diamond exploration since the 1970s has resulted in abundant data. In order to advance future exploration, a comprehensive database of results of diamond exploration sampling (Geological Survey of Western Australia 2018) has been assessed. The Yilgarn and Pilbara Cratons have spinel indicators almost exclusively dominated by chromite (>90% of grains), whereas (Mg,Fe,Ti)-bearing Al-chromites account for more of the indicator spinels in the NAC, up to 50% of grains at the Northern Territory (NT) border. Increasing dominance of Al in chromites is interpreted as a sign of weathering or a shallower source than Al-depleted Mg-chromites. Garnet compositions across the State also correlate with geological subdivisions, with lherzolitic garnets showing more prospective compositions (Ca-depleted) in WAC samples compared to the NAC. WAC samples also show a much broader scatter into strongly diamond-prospective G10 and G10D compositions. Ilmenites from the NAC show Mg-enriched compositions (consistent with kimberlites), over and above those present in NT data. However, ilmenites from the WAC again show the most diamond-prospective trends. Numerous indicator mineral concentrations throughout the State have unknown sources. Due in part to the presence of diamondiferous lamproites, it is cautioned that some accepted indicator mineral criteria do not apply in parts of WA. For example Ca-depleted garnets, Mg-depleted ilmenites and Cr-depleted and Al-absent clinopyroxenes are all sometimes associated with strongly diamondiferous localities. Quantitative prospectivity analysis has also been carried out based on the extent and results of sampling, age of surface rocks relative to ages of diamond-prospective rocks, and the underlying mantle structure. Results show that locations within the NAC and with proximity to WA’s diamond mines score well. However, results point to parts of the WAC being more prospective, consistent with mineral chemical data. Most notable are the Hamersley Basin, Eastern Goldfields Superterrane and the Goodin Inlier of the Yilgarn Craton. Despite prolific diamond exploration, WA is considerably underexplored and the ageing Argyle mine and recent closure of operations at Ellendale warrant a re-evaluation of diamond potential. Results of mineral chemistry and prospectivity analysis make a compelling case for renewed exploration.


Western Australia Diamond exploration Kimberlite Lamproite Indicator minerals 



Wayne Taylor, is gratefully acknowledged for his invaluable insights regarding mineral chemistry in particular regarding spinels. Bram Janse, Grant Boxer, Mark Mitchell, Tom Reddicliffe, Lynton Jaques, Jim Wright and Stephan Myer are warmly thanked for considerable discussion and generous data-sharing from their wealth of knowledge of WA diamond exploration. All participants in the WA diamond explorers’ regular Friday lunches in Subiaco assisted greatly in supporting the progression of this research. Don Flint, Western Australian Department of Mines, Industry Regulation and Safety (DMIRS) instigated the project and provided invaluable support at all stages and is very gratefully acknowledged. The manuscript benefitted from constructive reviews from Andrew Macdonald and Marty Podolsky and editorial handling by Jarek Jakubec and Lutz Nasdala. This work is published with the approval of the Director General of the DMIRS. This work was funded by the West Australian Government’s Exploration Incentive Scheme.

Supplementary material

710_2018_579_MOESM1_ESM.docx (33 kb)
ESM 1 (DOCX 33.1 KB)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Austria, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Trigon GeoServices LtdLas VegasUSA
  2. 2.Geological Survey of Western AustraliaPerthAustralia

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