Abstract

Petrographic and mineralogical studies of samples of the Normal (or undisturbed) Merensky Reef from Frank Shaft No.1 at Rustenburg Platinum Mine revealed the presence of a Pt-Fe-alloy, probably isoferroplatinum (58 vol.% of total precious metal minerals), arsenides (21 vol.%), bismuthotellurides (10 vol.%), electrum (9 vol.%) and platinum group element- (PGE-) sulfides and stannides (2 vol.%), associated predominantly with base-metal- and iron-sulfides. A Pt-Fe-alloy-dominated facies has been known for considerable time from potholes and discordant bodies and has been attributed to fluid activity with high forumla and low forumla. Our petrographic results indicate that the normal thin reef has also undergone hydrothermal alteration. For the first time, the rare mineral troilite (stoichiometric FeS) was found as intergrowths with masses of Pt-Fe-alloy, together with Fe-rich pyrrhotite, secondary hydrous silicates, magnetite and calcite. The observed mineral assemblage and texture is interpreted as the product of partial desulfurization, caused by migrating S-undersaturated fluids, which led to the exsolution of Pt-Fe-alloy from pyrrhotite (Fex–1S) with the latter approaching a stoichiometric composition. Overall our new observations provide convincing support for the importance of metasomatism in the secondary modification of ore mineralogy and textures even in the undisturbed Merensky Reef.

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