Abstract

Geophysical studies of upper mantle structure can provide constraints on diamond formation. Teleseismic and magnetotelluric data can be used in diamond exploration by mapping the depth of the lithosphere–asthenosphere boundary. Studies in the central Slave Craton and at Fort-à-la-Corne have detected conductors in the lithospheric mantle close to, or beneath, diamondiferous kimberlites. Graphite can potentially explain the enhanced conductivity and may imply the presence of diamonds at greater depth. Petrologic arguments suggest that the shallow lithospheric mantle may be too oxidized to contain graphite. Other diamond-bearing regions show no upper mantle conductor suggesting that the correlation with diamondiferous kimberlites is not universal. The Buffalo Head Hills in Alberta host diamondiferous kimberlites in a Proterozoic terrane and may have formed in a subduction zone setting. Long period magnetotelluric data were used to investigate the upper mantle resistivity structure of this region. Magnetotelluric (MT) data were recorded at 23 locations on a north–south profile extending from Fort Vermilion to Utikuma Lake and an east–west profile at 57.2°N. The data were combined with Lithoprobe MT data and inverted to produce a three-dimensional (3-D) resistivity model with the asthenosphere at 180–220 km depth. This model did not contain an upper mantle conductor beneath the Buffalo Head Hills kimberlites. The 3-D inversion exhibited an eastward dipping conductor in the crust beneath the Kiskatinaw terrane that could represent the fossil subduction zone that supplied the carbon for diamond formation. The low resistivity at crustal depths in this structure is likely due to graphite derived from subducted organic material.

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