Olivine-bearing lamproite magmas intruded into Permian coal seams in northeast India occur as root-like cylinder stockworks, extending for up to several kilometres up-dip along the bedding planes of their sedimentary host. Clusters of eight or more conduits are typical, linked by thin tubular cross-branches. Cylindrical geometry may arise by injection of hot, low-viscosity fluid through a slot, with the development of multiple tube-like instabilities at the interface between the moving fluid and a higher-viscosity host. This behaviour appears more complex than the models of Chouke, van Meurs & van der Pod, and Saffman & Taylor, which predict the development of a single dominant tube in porous or layered flow. Cylinder emplacement may be an essentially passive process, in which the sediment column is reduced by expulsion of heated pore fluids at the head of the moving intrusion, creating a space into which the melt can propagate. Generation of a superheated vapour envelope by non-nucleated film boiling of these fluids around the hot lamproite magma (the Leidenfrost effect) allows melt flow to be maintained in a lengthening tube thermally insulated from the surrounding coal, in a manner analogous to submarine lava tubes. Cooling of the magma through the Nukiyama temperature (the temperature at which maximum evaporation of the heated fluid occurs) may give rise to violent surface boiling and the formation of large vapour bubbles at the magma–coal interface. Implosion of these bubbles could then result in the formation of shock breccias, comparable to hyaloclastites produced by bubble or surface film collapse in the vicinity of pillow lava tubes. The operation of such a process around lamproite magma is suggested by the presence of complex breccias composed of highly fragmented coal, sandstone, and lamproite, at the termini of certain cylinders.
Surface and subsurface exposures of the cylinders reveal the presence of a carbonate–chlorite–clay halo surrounding each intrusion, resulting from the alteration of mafic mineral phases by fugitive volatiles released from the protective vapour jacket. The coal seams proximal to intrusion clusters are relatively undeformed, with no evidence of assimilation by the invading melts. The coals have experienced extensive carbonization, probably as a result of slow conductive heating from the cooling lamproite bodies, or fluids derived therefrom. Field observations indicate that these thermal effects are not merely confined to the coal–melt interface, but occur for some considerable distance away from the intrusions, producing large areas of naturally coked coal.