Abstract

Back-scattered electron imaging with a scanning electron microscope was applied to the intimate association of fine chalcopyrite grains and sphalerite ("chalcopyrite disease") in synthesized products and natural specimens, in order to distinguish between diagnostic features of two formation mechanisms: replacement and coprecipitation. In the synthetic chalcopyrite disease in Fe-bearing sphalerite formed by a replacement reaction, chalcopyrite occurs as fine lamellae, which are also observed in relatively Fe-rich growth bands of the natural zoned sphalerite. Ellipsoidal to lens-like habits of chalcopyrite appear in sphalerite that has undergone extensive replacement reactions. These textures may have grown steadily from the lamellar chalcopyrite by consuming the FeS component dissolved in the sphalerite. All the sphalerite samples formed by the coprecipitation mechanism are Fe-poor, hosting triangular or irregularly bleb-like inclusions of chalcopyrite. This variety of chalcopyrite morphology could be attributed to diffusion rates and variations in fluid saturation, and their effect on the rate of crystal growth. Thus, in both replacement and coprecipitation the chalcopyrite habit depends strongly both on the FeS content of the host sphalerite and on kinetic factors, and is significant when interpreting chalcopyrite disease textures in natural samples.

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