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3D textural evidence for the formation of ultra-high tenor precious metal bearing sulfide microdroplets in offset reefs: an extreme example from the Platinova Reef, Skaergaard Intrusion, Greenland

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journal contribution
posted on 2016-07-07, 09:57 authored by David A. Holwell, Stephen J. Barnes, Margaux Le Vaillant, Reid R. Keays, Louise A. Fisher, Richard Prasser
The Platinova Reef in the Skaergaard Intrusion, east Greenland, is an example of a type of layered-intrusion-hosted, precious metal-enriched, stratiform, disseminated sulphide deposit referred to as “offset reefs”. These typically show platinum-group element (PGE) enrichment immediately below a major increase in the abundance of Cu-rich sulphides, with a prominent peak in Au enrichment exactly at that transition between the PGE-rich and the Cu-sulphide-rich zones. The reasons for the relative sequence of offsets in metal peaks, and the occasionally very high metal tenors have been subject to great debate. Here we use an integrated approach of high-resolution X-ray computed tomography (HRXCT), SEM, synchrotron and desktop microbeam XRF mapping, and thin section petrography to comprehensively classify the textural relations of the precious metal-bearing sulphides of the Platinova Reef as an extreme end member example of an exceedingly high tenor offset deposit. Our results show that in the zones of PGE enrichment, precious metal minerals (PMMs) are intimately associated with Cu sulphide globules, mostly located at, or close to, silicate and oxide boundaries. The textures are identical in zones enriched in Pd and Au, and thus we do not see any evidence for different processes forming the different zones. The PMM:Cu sulphide ratio in each globule varies significantly but overall the size of the globules increases from the Pd-rich, through the Au-rich, and into the Cu zone, with a significant corresponding decrease in PM tenor. As such, this records a progression of exceedingly high tenor, microdroplets of sulphide, which progressively get larger up through the section, and decrease in tenor proportionally to their size. Cumulus droplets of Cu sulphide became enriched in metals, and were trapped in situ without significant transport from their point of nucleation. The transition to larger sulphides represents a change from sulphides nucleated and trapped in situ, to larger ones that liquated from magma devoid of crystals, and that were able to grow and sink. This feature is common in all offset reef deposits, and is marked by the major enrichment in Au. Although the metal ratios of PGE to Au in the Pd- and Au-rich offset zones differ, the identical textures and comparable mineralogy show the physical mechanisms of concentration are the same, indicating a similar physical method of concentration. The relative position of the Pd, Au and Cu peaks in the Platinova Reef is essentially the same as that in numerous other offset reefs, suggesting that common overarching processes are responsible for the enrichment in metals, and relative offsets in peak metal concentrations in all such deposits. The most important of these processes are their relative Dsul/sil values and the diffusivities of the metals, which determine the order of offsets and the high tenors of the smallest sulphide droplets. The Platinova Reef therefore records the extreme enrichment via equilibrium and diffusive partitioning into sulphide liquid microdroplets very close to their point of nucleation.



Lithos, 2016, 256-257, pp. 55-74

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