Abstract

The following native metals have been identified in the Muskox intrusion: native iron, native nickel–iron (awaruite), native cobalt–iron (wairauite), and native copper. Mineral distributions and textures indicate that the native metals formed more or less contemporaneously, during the period of serpentinization of the host dunites and related rocks.Conditions during serpentinization must have been more reducing in the central and lower parts of the layered series than in the margins and upper parts of the intrusion. This is indicated by the fact that most native metals are abundant in the central regions and are essentially lacking elsewhere, even in strongly serpentinized zones. This zoning suggests that reducing conditions may have been generated internally, possibly as a result of the serpentinization process itself. The composition of the primary olivine of forsterite80–88 together with the presence of abundant secondary magnetite in equivalent serpentinites indicates that a redox reaction, olivine + water = serpentine + magnetite + hydrogen, contributed to the development of a progressively more reducing, or hydrogen-rich, fluid phase.Natural phase relations indicate that each native metal formed primarily in situ as a result of the decomposition of specific earlier formed minerals that had become unstable in the reducing environment. Native iron appears to have been formed by the reduction of magnetite; awaruite by the reduction of pentlandite; wairauite by the reduction of an unknown phase, possibly cobalt pentlandite or cobaltian pyrite; and native copper by the reduction of chalcopyrite. The feasibility of most of these reactions was confirmed by experimental studies carried out in systems open to moist hydrogen.

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