The Late Cretaceous diamondiferous pyroclastic kimberlites from the Fort à la Corne (FALC) field, Saskatchewan craton, Canada: Petrology, geochemistry and genesis

The Late Cretaceous (ca. 100 Ma) diamondiferous Fort à la Corne (FALC) kimberlite field in the Saskatchewan (Sask) craton, Canada, is one of the largest known kimberlite fields on Earth comprising essentially pyroclastic kimberlites. Despite its discovery more than two decades ago, petrological, geochemical and petrogenetic aspects of the kimberlites in this field are largely unknown. We present here the first detailed petrological and geochemical data combined with reconnaissance Nd isotope data on drill-hole samples of five major kimberlite bodies. Petrography of the studied samples reveals that they are loosely packed, clast-supported and variably sorted, and characterised by the presence of juvenile lapilli, crystals of olivine, xenocrystal garnet (peridotitic as well as eclogitic paragenesis) and Mg-ilmenite. Interclast material is made of serpentine, phlogopite, spinel, carbonate, perovskite and rutile. The mineral compositions, whole-rock geochemistry and Nd isotopic composition (Nd: + 0.62 to − 0.37) are indistinguishable from those known from archetypal hypabyssal kimberlites. Appreciably lower bulk-rock CaO (mostly < 5 wt%) and higher La/Sm ratios (12–15; resembling those of orangeites) are a characteristic feature of these rocks. Their geochemical composition excludes any effects of significant crustal and mantle contamination/assimilation. The fractionation trends displayed suggest a primary kimberlite melt composition indistinguishable from global estimates of primary kimberlite melt, and highlight the dominance of a kimberlite magma component in the pyroclastic variants. The lack of Nb-Ta-Ti anomalies precludes any significant role of subduction-related melts/fluids in the metasomatism of the FALC kimberlite mantle source region. Their incompatible trace elements (e.g., Nb/U) have OIB-type affinities whereas the Nd isotope composition indicates a near-chondritic to slightly depleted Nd isotope composition. The Neoproterozoic (~ 0.6–0.7 Ga) depleted mantle (TDM) Nd model ages coincide with the emplacement age (ca. 673 Ma) of the Amon kimberlite sills (Baffin Island, Rae craton, Canada) and have been related to upwelling protokimberlite melts during the break-up of the Rodinia supercontinent and its separation from Laurentia (North American cratonic shield). REE inversion modelling for the FALC kimberlites as well as for the Jericho (ca. 173 Ma) and Snap Lake (ca. 537 Ma) kimberlites from the neighbouring Slave craton, Canada, indicate all of their source regions to have been extensively depleted (~ 24%) before being subjected to metasomatic enrichment (1.3–2.2%) and subsequent small-degree partial melting. These findings are similar to those previously obtained on Mesozoic kimberlites (Kaapvaal craton, southern Africa) and Mesoproterozoic kimberlites (Dharwar craton, southern India). The striking similarity in the genesis of kimberlites emplaced over broad geological time and across different supercontinents of Laurentia, Gondwanaland and Rodinia, highlights the dominant petrogenetic role of the sub-continental lithosphere. The emplacement of the FALC kimberlites can be explained both by the extensive subduction system in western North America that was established at ca. 150 Ma as well as by far-field effects of the opening of the North Atlantic ocean during the Late Cretaceous.

Keywords: Fort à la Corne; Kimberlite; Laurentia; Rodinia; Saskatchewan craton