Indicator mineral and till geochemical methods for kimberlite exploration in glaciated terrain

CIM Bulletin, Vol. 95, No. 1061, 2002

M.B. McClenaghan

This paper summarizes diamond exploration techniques used in glaciated terrain, focussing on indicator mineral and geochemical methods applied to glacial sediments. Understanding the ice flow history, depositional history, and stratigraphy of glacial sediments is essential to successful sampling, interpretation and follow-up of indicator mineral and geochemical anomalies related to kimberlites. Kimberlite indicator minerals survive glacial transport over long distances and the relative abundance of each mineral in till is a function of the primary mineralogy of individual kimberlites. Indicator mineral distributions observed at a regional scale define the net effect of glacial dispersal, often along different ice flow directions. Local-scale distributions define individual dispersal trains. The medium sand (0.25 mm to 0.5 mm) fraction of heavy mineral concentrates, prepared from glacial sediment samples, is best suited for indicator mineral surveys. The application of till geochemistry to diamond exploration is increasing because it is significantly cheaper than indicator mineral analysis and it can be performed quickly. The <0.063 mm (silt+clay) and 0.5 mm to 2.0 mm (coarse sand) fractions provide the best geochemical contrast between background and kimberlite-rich till. Kimberlite pathfinder elements that provide good contrast include Ni, Cr, Ba, Co, Sr, Rb, Nb, Mg, Ta, Ca, Fe, K, Ti and LREE, the relative importance of which will depend on kimberlite composition and that of the surrounding bedrock.
Keywords: Diamonds, Exploration techniques, Geochemical methods, Kimberlites, Till geochemistry, Glaciated terrain