Letšeng diamond mine, Lesotho: a variant of Kimberley-type pyroclastic kimberlite emplacement

Research paper by Casey M. Hetman, Barbara Scott Smith, Jock Robey, Teboho Nkotsi, Mohapi Mohapi, Thabang Mohapi

Indexed on: 05 Dec '18Published on: 04 Dec '18Published in: Mineralogy and Petrology


The Letšeng Diamond Mine comprises two ~91 Ma kimberlite pipes. An update of the geology is presented based on the 2012–2017 detailed investigation of open pit exposures and all available drillcores which included mapping, logging and petrography. Each of the steep-sided volcanic pipes comprises a number of phases of kimberlite with contrasting diamond contents which were formed by the emplacement of at least four batches of mantle-derived magma. The resulting range of textures includes resedimented volcaniclastic kimberlite (RVK), Kimberley-type pyroclastic kimberlite (KPK), coherent kimberlite (CK) and minor amounts of hypabyssal kimberlite (HK). The pipes are compared with KPK occurrences from southern Africa and worldwide. Many features of the Letšeng pipes are similar to KPK infilled pipes particularly those of the widespread Cretaceous kimberlite province of southern Africa. The differences displayed at Letšeng compared to other large KPK pipe infills described from around the world are attributed to the marginal or melnoitic nature of the magma and the upper diatreme to crater setting of the Letšeng pipes, where processes become extrusive. It is concluded that the pipes comprise a variant of Kimberley-type pyroclastic kimberlite emplacement. The classification of many of the Letšeng rocks as KPK is important for developing the internal geology of the pipes as well as for predicting the distribution of diamonds within the bodies.