Abstract

A descriptive petrographic study was carried out on the chromitites (LG-6 to UG-3a) of a single borehole from the Winterveld Chrome Mine, Eastern BC, along with analysis by both EPMA and LA-ICP-MS of the PGE contents of base metal sulphides (BMS) found within these layers. EPMA measurements were optimized to measure trace amounts of PGE by increased probe current and counting time, yielding very low detection limits for this method (12 to 38 ppm). However, analytical error proved to be very high (over ~30%) in samples that showed PGE values below 100 ppm. Also, the possibility of interference on PGE spectra by other elements, especially on Rh, is high. Therefore, these measurements can only be considered semi-quantitative indicators of elemental PGE concentration. Our findings confirmed that pentlandite of the BC chromitites contains Pd and Rh, probably in solid solution. Pt was found in discrete minerals (braggite, cooperite) throughout the sequence, and Ru, Ir and Os were found as early-stage minerals such as laurite, associated with chromite rather than sulphide. The PPGE increase upwards in the chromitite layers relative to the IPGE. An immiscible sulphide phase contributed to collection of the PGE in the chromitites of the MG-4 and above. The chromitites of the LG-6 to MG-1 show less evidence of hosting an immiscible sulphide phase, and pentlandite of these layers does not appear to host Rh, although Pd was found. Although this borehole is located only 1.5 km away from the centre of the Steelpoort Fault Zone, a possible feeder zone for the BC, large-scale disruption of the chromitite layers was not observed. An intrusive pegmatoidal pyroxenite was found to occur beneath the LG-6, and contained PGE-bearing sulphides, although the origin of this mineralization is most likely from the LG-6 chromitite itself. A sulphide vein occurring in silicate was also analysed and was found to be PGE-deficient compared to the sulphides of the chromitite layers.

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