ABSTRACT

The exploration of podiform chromites in the Indus Yarlong Zangbo suture zone of southern Tibet has proved difficult because most known deposits pinch out and then reappear in the same direction. Several ground-based geophysical approaches such as gravity, magnetic, and controlled-source audio-frequency magnetotelluric (CSAMT) methods have been applied to explore for these chromite deposits but have mostly failed to delineate prospective areas. We have evaluated a successful podiform chromite exploration case history that is based on AMT. More than 8000 AMT stations were used in this study within a 10  km2 area of the ophiolite belt. Line separations were 80 or 40 m, and the station separation was 20 m. We implemented Bostick conversion and nonlinear conjugate gradient inversions for data interpretation, whereas 2D resistivity sections and 3D resistivity imaging were used to elucidate the inner structure and distribution of rock faces within the Luobusa ophiolite. Results from rock physics and drilling further indicate that resistivity-anomaly domains from these AMT results are correlated with rock faces in terms of fresh harzburgite, altered harzburgite and dunite, and they can thus be connected to concealed deposits. Therefore, we have developed three resistivity-anomaly models for chromite exploration, and we delineated several prospective regions containing exploitable deposits within the Luobusa ophiolite. Seven of the nine verified boreholes discussed in this paper intersected with chromite deposits; one comprises the largest and highest grade chromite deposit in China to date. Our AMT results provide the impetus for future chromite exploration in Tibet and enable a refined understanding of the structure and distribution of rock faces within the Luobusa ophiolite.

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