Base-metal sulfides (BMSs) are minerals that host platinum-group elements (PGE) in mantle peridotites and significantly control the bulk PGE content. They have been investigated in detail down to the sub-micrometer scale to elucidate PGE behavior in the Earth's interior. Base-metal sulfides are supposedly subjected to supergene and seawater weathering, leading to the redistribution of PGEs at low temperatures. Careful and thorough measurements of BMSs are thus required to elucidate PGE behavior in the Earth's interior.
In the present study, a sub-micrometer-sized PGE-bearing sulfide inclusion in a clinopyroxene crystal in a harzburgite xenolith from Tahiti (Society Islands, French Polynesia) was investigated in detail (down to the sub-micrometer scale) using transmission electron microscopy with energy-dispersive X-ray spectroscopy (TEM-EDS). The sulfide inclusion is of carbonatitic metasomatic origin, as it is enveloped by carbonaceous glass, and forms a planar inclusion array with other PGE-bearing sulfide inclusions. The following sulfide phases were identified using TEM-EDS: Fe- and Ni-rich monosulfide solid solutions (MSSs), Fe- and Ni-rich pentlandite, sugakiite, heazlewoodite, chalcopyrite, and Cu-Ir-Pt-Rh-thiospinel (cuproiridsite–malanite–cuprorhodsite). We established the formation process of the metasomatic PGE-bearing sulfide inclusion by considering morphological and mineral characteristics in addition to the chemical composition. A primary MSS first crystallized from metasomatic sulfide melt at ca. 1000 °C, followed by the crystallization of an intermediate solid solution (ISS) below 900 °C. A high-form (high-temperature origin) Fe-rich pentlandite simultaneously crystallized with the primary MSS below ca. 850 °C and recrystallized into a low-form (low-temperature origin) Fe-rich pentlandite below ca. 600 °C. The primary MSS decomposed to Fe- and Ni-rich MSSs, low-form Ni-rich pentlandite, sugakiite, and heazlewoodite. The ISS decomposed to chalcopyrite below ca. 600 °C. Meanwhile, a Cu-Ir-Pt-Rh-thiospinel crystallized directly from the evolved Cu-rich sulfide melt below ca. 760 °C. Thus, Ir, Pt, and Rh preferentially partitioned into the melt phase during the crystallization process of the metasomatic sulfide melt. Metasomatic sulfide melts could be a significant medium for the transport and condensation of Pt together with Ir and Rh during the fractionation process in the Earth's interior. We hypothesize that the compositional variability of PGEs in carbonatites is due to the separation of sulfide melt leading to the loss of PGEs in the carbonatitic melts.