The Waterberg platinum deposit is an extraordinary example of a vein-type hydrothermal quartz-hematite-PGE (platinum-group element) mineralization. This study concentrates on the geochemical character of the ores and the platinum-group mineral (PGM) assemblage by application of reflected-light and scanning electron microscopy followed by electron probe microanalysis.
The PGM-bearing quartz veins show multiple banding indicating numerous pulses of fluid infiltration. Mineralization was introduced contemporaneously with the earliest generation of vein quartz and hematite. High oxygen and low sulfur fugacities of the mineralizing fluids are indicated by hematite as the predominant opaque mineral and the lack of sulfides.
The ‘Waterberg type’ mineralization is characterized by unique metal proportions, namely Pt>Pd>Au, interpreted as a fingerprint to the cradle of the metals, namely rocks and ores of the Bushveld Complex, or reflecting metal fractionation during ascent of an oxidized, evolving fluid. The PGM assemblage signifies three main depositional and alteration events. (1) Deposition of native Pt and Pt–Pd alloys (>90% of the PGM assemblage) and Pd–Sb–As compounds (Pt-rich isomertieite and mertieite II) from hydrothermal fluids. (2) Hydrothermal alteration of Pt by Cu-rich fluids and formation of Pt–Cu alloys and hongshiite [PtCu]. (3) Weathering/oxidation of the ores producing Pd/Pt-oxides/hydroxides.
Platinum-group element transport was probably by chloride complexes in moderately acidic and strongly oxidizing fluids of relatively low salinity, and depositional temperatures were in the range 400–200°C. Alternatively, quartz and ore textures may hint to noble metal transport in a colloidal form and deposition as gels.
The source of the PGE is probably in platiniferous rocks or ores of the Bushveld Complex which were leached by hydrothermal solutions. If so, further Waterberg-type deposits may be present, and a prime target area would be along the corridor of the Thabazimbi-Murchison-Lineament where geothermal springs are presently still active.