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Tasmanian Geological Survey

Tasmania Record 1998/09

Diamonds in Tasmania
by R. S. Bottrill

Abstract There have been verbal reports of some diamonds
being found in the Corinna district more recently
Diamonds occur in the Savage River–Donaldson River (Hugh Nolan, pers. comm.), but there is no evidence
area of northwestern Tasmania, in placer deposits that these have been verified.
probably derived by reworking of high-level Tertiary
sediments. The ultimate source of the diamonds in
Tasmania remains enigmatic, but they may be Occurrence
subduction-related, and could have been carried to the
surface in alkaline basaltic or lamprophyric dykes and The diamonds found in the Donaldson River–Savage
breccia pipes. Exploration to date has been largely River area were relatively small (up to 1/3 carat),
superficial, and typical indicator minerals may not be slightly rounded octahedra, of near gem quality and
of great use. with distinctive yellow apices. Only one is now known
to exist and is lodged in the Tasmanian Museum and
Art Gallery.
Introduction and History The diamonds were found in alluvial deposits with
gold, chromite, ilmenite, spinel, osmiridium,
Diamonds have been known from Tasmania since
cassiterite and topaz; most of these minerals are
1894, when they were first found by L. Harvey, a
granite or ultrabasic-derived, and the source of
prospector sluicing for gold, reportedly in Sunday
diamonds is not known. No kimberlites, lamproites or
Creek and Harveys Creek, both described as
other typical diamond source rocks are known in the
tributaries of the Savage River (Twelvetrees, 1918; fig.
area. The diamonds may have been reworked from
1). More were subsequently found in the Donaldson
high-level Tertiary alluvial deposits, which are
River–Savage River area, including in Middletons
common in the area, that were derived from the granite
Creek and possibly in Badger Creek (now Savage
and ultrabasic areas further east.
Creek).

The exact locations are uncertain. Harveys Creek was Recent Exploration
described as a tributary of Badger Creek by
Twelvetrees, but was drawn as a tributary of Little Systematic exploration for diamonds in Tasmania has
Savage River by Reid (1921). Sunday Creek is generally been relatively sparse to date.
taken to be Sabbath Creek (Russell, 1997), although this
drains into the Donaldson rather than the Savage The Mt Lyell Mining & Railway Company Ltd
River. Twelvetrees (1918) noted newspaper reports of searched the Luina–Pieman area for various minerals
“a large number” of diamonds being found, but official in 1980/81, and specifically targeted diamonds
records indicate only 16 or 18 were authenticated to ( H u t t o n , 1980) . Th e co mpan y col l ec ted
1910 (Petterd, 1910). Twelvetrees noted that the stream-sediment samples in many catchments,
diamonds were of a character distinctive from other including Middleton Creek, Sabbath Creek, Longback
fields, so the occurrences were probably real. Creek, Nineteen Mile Creek, Harveys Creek and in the
Browns Plains area. Chromite of possible kimberlitic
One stone was also reported by Twelvetrees (1918) in affinity and garnets (possibly pyropes?), possible
‘gem sand’ from the Hellyer River (exact location picro-ilmenites, and Cr-diopsides were reported.
unknown). These were not followed up.

Reid (1921) reported the presence of diamonds in thin The Shell Company of Australasia Ltd explored an
sections of peridotite from the Heazlewood Ultramafic area near Adamsfield in southern Tasmania in
Complex at Bald Hill, northeast of Savage River. This 1981/82, which it considered prospective for
reportedly occurred in olivine, within and predating diamonds (Ruxton, 1982). Pan concentrates showed
chromite, but has not been confirmed by later studies. garnets, pyroxenes, ilmenites, and zircons, all
Tasmanian Geological Survey Record 1998/09 1

Waratah Savage River Corinna 0 10 20 kilometres REPORTED DIAMOND OCCURRENCES IN TASMANIA (Approximate Locations) 1. Harveys Creek 5. Middleton Creek 2. Sunday Creek (Sabbath Creek) 3. Hellyer River Figure 1 Tasmanian Geological Survey Record 1998/09 2 . Savage Creek (Badger Creek) 4. Bald Hill N 6.

Birch and Barron. but the area was not et al. The company diamonds may be somewhat earlier in age than the specifically targeted diamonds in their stream sapphires (Robertson and Sutherland. Charchalis. Some potential The main fields are around Copeton and Bingara in the diamond indicator minerals were found. including New England district. 1985. olivine. leucite basanite and diamonds. 1988a. where there is a deposits cannot be discounted. Proterozoic. 1997). The anomaly was previously inconclusively ascribed by Geopeko Limited. Sapphires are considered to be the best indicator minerals. 1996). being found in most of the principal (Barron et al. 1996). Some grains were examined in Victoria. They although diamonds typically occur in slightly older considered that the origin of the diamonds was sediments than the sapphires (Lishmund and Oakes. together with sodic garnets and pyroxenes considered that eroded material from above the (Barron et al. (McConachy. Most of these minerals were. Corundum may be a more useful indicator to 1988 (Charchalis. including by electron microprobe analysis. basanite. The diamonds are unusual in chemistry. Barron et Shannon. mostly in Cainozoic alluvial deposits.3% MgO) carats. 1988b). 1988). They were sources. pyroxenes. is In 1997/98 Rio Tinto Exploration Pty Ltd took up some probable. however. Most of these deposits appear to lack the but did not conduct any exploration. 1997). and again may be present in this basement. between 1978 and 1985 (Penny et al. Dawson. collected from the Little Savage River and Savage Creek and examined mineralogically. formed during subduction at more than 1000 Ma and Diamonds are widespread throughout New South brought to the surface in kimberlites or lamproites Wales. Old reports suggest that there were 1988a. and the lack of abrasion and tribality of the occurrences Petrecon Australia Pty Ltd held an Exploration Licence indicates numerous small. Kanmantoo. Mersey River areas near Cradle Mountain. diamonds have been found. These heavy minerals included garnets. with kimberlitic and lamproitic diamonds. Suggestions of a source in Permian glacial ground in the Donaldson River area. including (nepheline monchiquite. Diamond occurrences are also widespread throughout ilmenite and zircon. Stream-sediment samples were al. particularly near Beechworth in the northeast detail..g.. al. The alluvial diamonds usually Cr-spinel. 1988) with the mostly of alkaline (basanitic) composition (Barron et Tertiary alluvial deposits having untested potential. local sources. 1988b). leucite-nepheline basanite) (MacNevin. No further work and/or tin placers) with the sources being unknown.. Sutherland. spinels.. 1997. Tertiary high-level sub-basaltic alluvial deposits in the mineral inclusions and physical properties compared area. Cambrian ultrabasic rocks. as for deposits in NSW. in the Forth and possible exception of pyrope garnets (MacNevin. 1980). About two million tested further. to be due to pyrrhotite-alteration of Genetic Model sediments (Pemberton.5 carat (Birch and and chromian pyroxenes (<1. but most were less than 0. Palaeozoic and Mesozoic tectonic units (the Adelaide. 1984. The company mineral. 1997). from 1984 1973). 1973. Stone.. but these were thought to be derived from occur with zircons and corundum (sapphire). characteristic indicator minerals of kimberlites and Base Resources Ltd conducted more serious lamproites (Ross. Barron. and E-diamonds of eclogitic affinity. 1996. sediment sampling for heavy minerals. Perhaps 200–300 number of grains were of particular interest.. was done. the largest recorded was 8. 1976). who drilled the target. but some have been found in situ in Industrial & Mining Investigations Pty Ltd searched in Cretaceous to Tertiary basic alkaline intrusive rocks the Savage River area for various minerals. Most diamonds worldwide are considered to be of two main types: P-diamonds of peridotitic affinity and of Diamonds in Eastern Australia Archaean age. diatreme breccias and dolerite. but little work was done distribution favours small.2 magnesian garnets (include pyrope with <12. the Tamworth Zone and t h e Australian diamonds may be sourced from kimberlitic Sydney–Bowen and Clarence–Morton Basins (Barron rocks in unexposed. 1998). A (Birch and Barron. with the exploration in the Tyennan Element. They are over the Arthur River area in northwest Tasmania in commonly spatially associated with Tertiary basaltic 1 987/88.potential diamond indicators. the ultrabasic rocks and were not followed up. delaminated Precambrian Tasmanian Geological Survey Record 1998/09 3 . 1996). probably many more but ‘only an experienced eye considered to have various possible non-kimberlitic would pick them’ (Birch and Barron. 1996. 1996).2% Cr2O3). but the patchy bulls-eye magnetic anomaly.. local sources. all found in Cainozoic alluvial sediments (mostly gold Precambrian metamorphic basement. basalt. prospective for diamonds (Cromer et al. 1986. Th e company considered th e ar e a pyroclastic rocks. (1990) suggested that the eastern F o ld Be lt s . including stones have been found. 1992). Precambrian rocks in this Element could have been the Diamonds and corundum in central Queensland are source of the diamonds reported from the Corinna area also thought to be sourced from spatially associated and postulated that the lower parts of kimberlitic pipes Tertiary basaltic pyroclastic rocks. complicated by reworking of heavy minerals from 1983). so a basaltic source. e. Lachlan and New England Taylor et al. 1984).

1984.. minerals. 1980.. rapidly emplaced magmas (alkaline diopsides and pyropes (Pyr70–79 Alm17–19 Gr2–12) in basalt and lamprophyre). 1996. and plot to graphite. fig. probable that they are subduction-related and were mostly less than ~85 km thick (Barron et al. erosion of the breccia pipes and reworking into placer Brown. so the y are wo rthy of further investi gat io n . Sutherland.. in placer deposits high-pressure origin (from Brown. and in western NSW (Barron et al.. 2). pyrope (Pyr44 Alm38 low as 75 km. 1984. but by reference to evidence for such lithosphere east of Broken Hill. at depths as The high-magnesian almandine. 1989. fig. especially pyrope garnets and alkali basalts and nephelinites. and tested for the presence of diamonds Devonian and Cretaceous age. There is a broad similarity between western Cradle Mountain Oatlands Bow Hill Tasmania and the diamondiferous mobile zones surrounding the Kimberley Block in Western Ca Australia. Peridotitic garnet Discussion Figure 2 Diamonds occur in the Savage River–Donaldson River Compositions of Tasmanian garnets of possible area of northwest Tasmania. Tasmanian Geological Survey Record 1998/09 4 . subduction-diamond exploration (Barron et al. Eclogitic garnet The diamond potential of ultrabasic lamprophyres is not well evaluated (e.2% Cr2O3) found eclogitic or kimberlitic diamond (Sutherland. blueschist subduction of slabs of carbonaceous sediments down an d e clo git e ar e co n sid e r e d f avo u r a b l e f or to the diamond-eclogite facies zone of the lithosphere. which occur elsewhere in Australia and may contain some diamonds (Sutherland. rather than the normal 100–300 km for Gr16 Sps1) and chromian diopside (<1. unfortunately. There is no Tasmania remains enigmatic. (1996). Some deep-sourced. nephelinites and near Oatlands. 1988a. Ross. 1992). These. b).lithosphere underlying the diamond fields. and the recent dating of always good sources of typical diamond indicator a diamond from NSW at 300 Ma (Sutherland. 1996). Mg Fe + Mn Bottrill and Neef. 2). 2). 1996) proposed a new model for diamond formation in New South Wales. within the diamond stability field. 1994). widespread and locally common throughout Tasmania (Sutherland and Corbett. Unfortunately no Na analyses are deposits. 1989. 1998). but t h e re m ay b e potential for ultr ab asic lamprophyres.1984 probably derived by reworking of Tertiary alluvial and Charchalis. Barron et al. 1996). Such diamonds may have pipes throughout Tasmania be located and sampled been ‘sampled’ by the lamprophyric intrusive rocks of for petrology. Sutherland. 1994). 1988b) The diamonds may be captured and transported from may well be of eclogitic or kimberlitic affinity (Barron the static slab as xenoliths or xenocrysts in various et al. Sutherland (1996) noted that megacrysts and xenoliths in a basalt vent at Bow Hill. 1974. in the Cradle Mountain area (Charchalis. All these groups are corundum. 1996.. Lamprophyres in Tasmania are mostly calc-alkaline. but these occurrences may all be worthy of follow-up diamond Western Tasmania was a mobile zone during the exploration. although no direct relationship with the diamond occurrences is known. 1984. 1996). and/or the Tertiary and indicator minerals. but magnetic surveys may be able to pinpoint breccia pipes. have compositions similar to related rocks takes place at deeper levels. w it h t e m pe rature gradients lower th an t h e and western and central Tasmania would fit this surrounding lithosphere and arresting of the slabs criteria. generation of the alkaline basalts. it seems most most of the lithosphere in eastern Australia is thin. The diamonds are further concentrated by near the eclogite field (Ferguson and Sheraton. The ultimate source of the diamonds in diamond-associated garnets from Barron et al. Subsequently diamonds formed from carbon therein. 1986. available for any of these garnets. This involves Regions with mafic-poor arc volcanic rocks.g. 1996). Dawson. are not kimberlitic indicator minerals. and similar occurrences in eastern Australia. probably carried to the surface in alkaline basaltic or Other problems with the model include the lack of lamprophyric dykes.. McClenaghan et al. emplacement of these volatile magmas is needed to High-Mg almandine and Cr-diopside were also prevent resorption or recrystallisation of the diamonds reported from somewhere near Oatlands. fig. (1994. Cambrian with a probable subduction zone. 1988a. Rock et al. Ford. with fields for sediments. 1979. The rapid peridotitic minerals (Sutherland. but Helmstaedt (1993) noted that they are genetically related to kimberlites and some are diamondiferous. allowing It is recommended that all Tertiary basaltic breccia for diamond formation.

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