Publication Type:Journal Article
Source:Ore Geology ReviewsOre Geology Reviews (2017)
Keywords:Chromite, Fe-Ni-Cu-PGE, Ore localization, Sulfide, Sulfide transport, xenoliths, Xenomelts
Most sulfide-rich magmatic Ni-Cu-(PGE) deposits form in dynamic magmatic systems by partial melting S-bearing wall rocks with variable degrees of assimilation of miscible silicate and volatile components, and generation of barren to weakly-mineralized immiscible Fe sulfide xenomelts into which Ni-Cu-Co-PGE partition from the magma. Some exceptionally-thick magmatic Cr deposits may form by partial melting oxide-bearing wall rocks with variable degrees of assimilation of the miscible silicate and volatile components, and generation of barren Fe ± Ti oxide xenocrysts into which Cr-Mg-V ± Ti partition from the magma. The products of these processes are variably preserved as skarns, residues, xenoliths, xenocrysts, xenomelts, and xenovolatiles, which play important to critical roles in ore genesis, transport, localization, and/or modification. Incorporation of barren xenoliths/autoliths may induce small amounts of sulfide/chromite to segregate, but incorporation of sulfide xenomelts or oxide xenocrysts with dynamic upgrading of metal tenors (PGE > Cu > Ni > Co and Cr > V > Ti, respectively) is required to make significant ore deposits. Silicate xenomelts are only rarely preserved, but will be variably depleted in chalcophile and ferrous metals. Less dense felsic xenoliths may aid upward sulfide transport by increasing the effective viscosity and decreasing the bulk density of the magma. Denser mafic or metamorphosed xenoliths may also increase the effective viscosity of the magma, but may aid downward sulfide transport by increasing the bulk density of the magma. Sulfide wets olivine, so olivine xenocrysts may act as filter beds to collect advected finely dispersed sulfide droplets, but other silicates and xenoliths may not be wetted by sulfides. Xenovolatiles may retard settling of – or in some cases float – dense sulfide droplets. Reactions of sulfide melts with felsic country rocks may generate Fe-rich skarns that may allow sulfide melts to fractionate to more extreme Cu-Ni-rich compositions. Xenoliths, xenocrysts, xenomelts, and xenovolatiles are more likely to be preserved in cooler basaltic magmas than in hotter komatiitic magmas, and are more likely to be preserved in less dynamic (less turbulent) systems/domain/phases than in more dynamic (more turbulent) systems/domains/phases. Massive to semi-massive Ni-Cu-PGE and Cr mineralization and xenoliths are often localized within footwall embayments, dilations/jogs in dikes, throats of magma conduits, and the horizontal segments of dike-chonolith and dike-sill complexes, which represent fluid dynamic traps for both ascending and descending sulfides/oxides. If skarns, residues, xenoliths, xenocrysts, xenomelts, and/or xenovolatiles are present, they provide important constraints on ore genesis and they are valuable exploration indicators, but they must be included in elemental and isotopic mass balance calculations.