Prior to the development of the Diavik Diamonds Project, baseline studies were conducted to determine the geochemical characteristics of four kimberlite orebodies as an aid in the design of both the water-management system and the facilities for containment of processed kimberlite and ore stockpiles. Materials tested included field samples of volcaniclastic and pyroclastic kimberlite, processed kimberlite (i.e., kimberlite ore which had been screened and washed as part of the processing procedure), and sedimentary mudstone (a minor xenolithic unit which was assimilated during kimberlite emplacement). Approximately 200 samples of kimberlite materials were collected as part of the geochemistry program. Test-work included whole-rock chemical analyses, acid-base accounting, kinetic leach tests using columns, and mineralogical analyses.
Diavik kimberlite has major oxide and trace-element concentrations consistent with global averages for kimberlite. The mean total-sulfur content of the kimberlite material is 0.22 wt% S, but with a significant range. The kimberlite has an excess of carbonate minerals over sulfide minerals (average CO2 = 4 wt%, present mainly as calcite), and has a mean neutralization potential of 311 kg CaCO3 equivalent/tonne. A reactive form of framboidal pyrite associated specifically with the mudstone xenoliths is the primary source of sulfide-sulfur. Long-term kinetic tests confirmed the preliminary interpretations that were made from the static-test results. Kimberlite and processed kimberlite are net acid-consuming materials that produce alkaline drainages and have low but detectable leaching rates for SO4 and specific trace metals such as Al, Co, Cu, Ni, and Zn. If segregated from the kimberlite, mudstone xenoliths are acid-generating (pH = 3) and produce an effluent with elevated concentrations of SO4, Fe, Al, Cu, Ni, and Zn. The study demonstrates that xenolithic units in Diavik kimberlites have an important effect on the environmental geochemistry of the ore rock. The mineralogy and aqueous geochemistry of the kimberlite materials are such that they may not be suitable for general earthworks or as an alkaline agent and should report to an engineered facility to protect site water quality.