Abstract

Widespread lateritized ultramafic rocks in the southern part of the Muratdağı region of Turkey constitute a significant source of Ni-Cr-bearing ore with economic potential. However, no mineralogical or geochemical characterizations of these important materials have been performed previously. The aim of the present study was to describe the mineralogy, geochemistry, and genesis of Ni-Cr-bearing smectite in garnierite and ferruginous saprolite associated with the lateritized ophiolite-related ultramafic rocks. The lateritic zones are well developed over serpentinized harzburgitic mantle peridotites. The lateritized units and related bedrocks were examined using polarized-light microscopy, X-ray diffraction, scanning and transmission electron microscopies, and chemical and isotopic methods. The garnierite-containing saprolites are enriched in smectite, Fe-(oxyhydr)oxide phases, and opal-CT. Micromorphological images revealed that flaky smectite and, locally, Fe-rich particles, alunite, gypsum, gibbsite, and sulfur crystals developed along the fractures and dissolution voids. The development of saprolite demonstrates chemical weathering. The presence of silicified and Fe-(oxyhydr)oxide phases associated with gypsum, alunite, and local native sulfur in vertical and/or subvertical fractures and fault infillings are indicative of hydrothermal processes along the extensional, tectonically related fault systems. Chemical weathering and hydrothermal processes, which probably started during the Oligocene and Miocene, led to the formation of nontronite, Fe-bearing montmorillonite, and local Fe-rich kaolinite. Nickel and Cr are concentrated significantly in the saprolite zone and are positively correlated with Fe2O3 content, which is controlled by the formation of nontronite, montmorillonite, and Fe-(oxyhydr)oxide phases. Nickel-Cr-bearing nontronite and montmorillonite precipitated from alkaline water as a result of the increasing (Fe2O3+Al2O3+Cr2O5+Ni+Co)/(MgO+SiO2) ratio under the control of both chemical weathering and hydrothermal processes. The Fe and Mg (associated with Ni and Cr) required for the formation of smectite were supplied by solutions from both chemical weathering and hydrothermal alteration of Ni-Cr-bearing olivine and pyroxene in the harzburgitic bedrock; the Al was supplied by schists, granite, and volcanic units.

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