Oberthur T.,Bundesanstalt fur Geowissenschaften und Rohstoffe BGR |
Junge M.,Bundesanstalt fur Geowissenschaften und Rohstoffe BGR |
Rudashevsky N.,CNT Laboratories |
de Meyer E.,Sylvania Platinum Ltd. |
Gutter P.,Sylvania Platinum Ltd.
The chromitites of the Bushveld Complex in South Africa contain vast resources of platinum-group elements (PGE); however, except for the economic upper group (UG)-2 chromitite seam, information on the distribution of the PGE in the ores and on the mineralogical nature, assemblages, and proportions of platinum-group minerals (PGM) is essentially missing. In the present geochemical and mineralogical study, PGE concentrates originating from the lower group (LG)-6 and middle group (MG)-1/2 chromitites were investigated with the intention to fill this gap of knowledge. Chondrite-normalized PGE patterns of bulk rock and concentrates are characterized by a positive slope from Os to Rh, a slight drop to Pt, and an increase to Pd again. The pronounced similarities of the PGE patterns indicate similar primary processes of PGE concentration in the chromitites, namely “sulfide control” of the PGE mineralization, i.e., co-precipitation of chromite and sulfide. Further, the primary control of PGE concentration in chromitites appears to be dual in character: (i) base-level concentrations of IPGE (up to ∼500 ppb) hosted within chromite and (ii) co-precipitation of chromite and sulfide, the latter containing virtually the entire remaining PGE budget. Sulfides (chalcopyrite, pentlandite, and pyrite; pyrrhotite is largely missing) are scarce within the chromitites and occur mainly interstitial to chromite grains. Pd and Rh contents in pentlandite are low and erratic. Essentially, the whole PGE inventory of the ores occurs in the form of discrete PGM. The PGM are almost always associated with sulfides. The dominant PGM are various Pt-Pd-Rh sulfides (cooperite/braggite [(Pt,Pd)S] and malanite/cuprorhodsite [CuPt2S4]/[CuRh2S4]), laurite [RuS2], the main carrier of the IPGE (Os, Ir, Ru), sulfarsenides [(Rh,Pt,Ir)AsS], sperrylite [PtAs2], Pt-Fe alloys, and a large variety of mainly Pd-rich PGM. The LG and MG chromitites have many characteristics in common and define a general, “typical” PGM spectrum of Bushveld chromitites. This PGM assemblage is characterized by the predominance of PGE-sulfides including elevated proportions of malanite, variable proportions of (sulf) arsenides, and Pt-Fe alloys in conjunction with a paucity of (bismutho)tellurides. The formation of this specific PGM spectrum is related to the distinct chromitite environment and its depositional and post-depositional history, whereby desulfurization reactions have probably played an important role. The LG-6 samples have higher contents of PGE-sulfides, including extraordinary high proportions of malanite but low PGE-arsenide and PGE-sulfarsenide contents compared to the MG-1/2 samples. This indicates a higher availability of arsenic either in the stratigraphically higher MG-1/2 samples (compared to the LG-6) or regionally in the chromitites south of the Steelpoort lineament. © 2015 Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg Source