A geochemical study over the southwestern part of the South Range of the Sudbury Igneous Complex (SIC) was completed to assess the suitability of surficial media (humus, B-horizon soil and C-horizon soil) for delineating geochemical anomalies associated with Ni-Cu-PGE mineralization. Another objective was to test whether Na pyrophosphate can eliminate the effects of anthropogenic contamination in humus. Results of this study suggest that the natural geochemical signature of humus is strongly overprinted by anthropogenic contamination. Despite no indication of underlying or nearby mineralization, metal concentrations in humus samples by aqua regia collected downwind from smelting operations are higher compared to background, including up to 13 times higher for Pt, 12 times higher for Cu and 9 times higher for Ni. The high anthropogenic background masks the geogenic signal such that it is only apparent in humus samples collected in the vicinity of known Ni-Cu-PGE deposits. Results of this study also demonstrate that anthropogenically-derived atmospheric fallout also influences the upper B-horizon soil; however, lower B-horizon soil (at > 20 cm depth) and C-horizon soil (both developed in till) are not affected. Glacial dispersal from Ni-Cu-PGE mineralization is apparent in C-horizon till samples analyzed in this study. Compared to the background concentrations, the unaffected C-horizon till samples collected immediately down-ice of the low-sulfide, high precious metal (LSHPM) Vermilion Cu-Ni-PGE deposit are enriched over 20 times in Pt (203 ppb), Au (81 ppm) and Cu (963 ppm), and over 30 times in Ni (1283 ppm).
Scientific editing by Scott Alan Wood