Abstract

In most documented occurrences, violarite (FeNi2S4) occurs as a product of the supergene alteration of primary pentlandite or millerite. Earlier experimental phase relations studies predicted the possible existence of a stable violarite–pentlandite tie line, though there has been little field evidence supporting this hypothesis, and the preferred topology in the Ni-Fe-S system involves a pyrite–millerite tie line. This paper documents the occurrence of violarite-pentlandite±pyrite assemblages which, on the basis of mineral chemistry and textural evidence, appear to be hypogene. Primary cobaltian violarite (with 2.1–13.2 wt.% Co) occurs as lamellae in pentlandite in the MKD5 nickel sulphide orebody at Mount Keith, central Western Australia. These lamellae are interpreted to be of exsolution origin. Cobalt is preferentially partitioned into violarite, resulting in high Ni:Co ratios in the associated pentlandite relative to pentlandite in violarite-free assemblages. Hypogene violarite-millerite±pentlandite assemblages were also noted. In all hypogene assemblages, violarite differs in both textural and mineral chemical characteristics from supergene violarite from the upper portions of the MKD5 orebody. The implications of the assemblages for the known low-temperature phase relations in the Ni-Fe-S-(Co) system are discussed.

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