Vol. 47 No. 3 (2020)

Igneous Rock Associations 26. Lamproites, Exotic Potassic Alkaline Rocks: A Review of their Nomenclature, Characterization and Origins

Roger H. Mitchell
Department of Geology, Lakehead University, Thunder Bay, Ontario, P7B 5E1, Canada
Geoscience Canada V.47 No3 (2020)

Published 2020-09-28


  • lamproite:potassic rock:diamonds:mantle;nomenclature

How to Cite

Mitchell, R. H. (2020). Igneous Rock Associations 26. Lamproites, Exotic Potassic Alkaline Rocks: A Review of their Nomenclature, Characterization and Origins. Geoscience Canada, 47(3), 119–142. https://doi.org/10.12789/geocanj.2020.47.162


Lamproite is a rare ultrapotassic alkaline rock of petrological importance as it is considered to be derived from metasomatized lithospheric mantle, and of economic significance, being the host of major diamond deposits. A review of the nomenclature of lamproite results in the recommendation that members of the lamproite petrological clan be named using mineralogical-genetic classifications to distinguish them from other genetically unrelated potassic alkaline rocks, kimberlite, and diverse lamprophyres. The names “Group 2 kimberlite” and “orangeite” must be abandoned as these rock types are varieties of bona fide lamproite restricted to the Kaapvaal Craton. Lamproites exhibit extreme diversity in their mineralogy which ranges from olivine phlogopite lamproite, through phlogopite leucite lamproite and potassic titanian richterite-diopside lamproite, to leucite sanidine lamproite. Diamondiferous olivine lamproites are hybrid rocks extensively contaminated by mantle-derived xenocrystic olivine. Currently, lamproites are divided into cratonic (e.g. Leucite Hills, USA; Baifen, China) and orogenic (Mediterranean) varieties (e.g. Murcia-Almeria, Spain; Afyon, Turkey; Xungba, Tibet). Each cratonic and orogenic lamproite province differs significantly in tectonic setting and Sr–Nd–Pb–Hf isotopic compositions. Isotopic compositions indicate derivation from enriched mantle sources, having long-term low Sm/Nd and high Rb/Sr ratios, relative to bulk earth and depleted asthenospheric mantle. All lamproites are considered, on the basis of their geochemistry, to be derived from ancient mineralogically complex K–Ti–Ba–REE-rich veins, or metasomes, in the lithospheric mantle with, or without, subsequent contributions from recent asthenospheric or subducted components at the time of genesis. Lamproite primary magmas are considered to be relatively silica-rich (~50–60 wt.% SiO2), MgO-poor (3–12 wt.%), and ultrapotassic (~8–12 wt.% K2O) as exemplified by hyalo-phlogopite lamproites from the Leucite Hills (Wyoming) or Smoky Butte (Montana). Brief descriptions are given of the most important phreatomagmatic diamondiferous lamproite vents. The tectonic processes which lead to partial melting of metasomes, and/or initiation of magmatism, are described for examples of cratonic and orogenic lamproites. As each lamproite province differs with respect to its mineralogy, geochemical evolution, and tectonic setting there is no simple or common petrogenetic model for their genesis. Each province must be considered as the unique expression of the times and vagaries of ancient mantle metasomatism, coupled with diverse and complex partial melting processes, together with mixing of younger asthenospheric and lithospheric material, and, in the case of many orogenic lamproites, with Paleogene to Recent subducted material.