Abstract

The remobilization of metals during postdeposition hydrothermal alteration of magmatic sulfide ores has the potential to result in large haloes, the recognition of which could potentially enlarge the detectable footprint of this ore type. The Miitel komatiite-hosted nickel sulfide deposit in Western Australia was used as a case study to investigate the nature and 3-D geometry of the geochemical halo created by the remobilization of base metals, gold, and platinum group elements (PGE) into the rocks surrounding the mineralization. At Miitel, anomalous metal enrichment is found in the country rocks surrounding the massive sulfides, up to 250 m away from the ore. This enrichment, detected using portable X-ray fluorescence (pXRF) and backed up by laboratory analyses, occurs in the Mount Edwards footwall basalt within decimeters of the contact with the overlying Widgiemooltha komatiites. It is associated with the presence of nickel arsenides. Gersdorffite and minor nickeline are concentrated within small quartz and carbonate veinlets, and are interpreted to form during the circulation of arsenic-rich hydrothermal fluids. Results of lead fire assay analyses and in situ laser ablation-inductively coupled plasma-mass spectrometer (LA-ICP-MS) analyses indicate high PGE concentrations (Pd and Pt) and minor gold associated with the observed nickel and arsenic enrichment. Results from a larger, regional-scale study, combined with this PGE enrichment, suggest that the massive nickel sulfides from the Miitel ore are the source of the remobilized nickel in the country rocks. The presence of Pd- and Pt-enriched trace arsenide phases in country rocks and shear zones may be a generally applicable proximity indicator for nickel sulfides in hydrothermally altered terranes.

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