Atypical stratiform sultide-poor platinum-group element mineralisation in the Agnew - Wiluna Belt komatiites, Wiluna, Western Australia

Marco Fiorentini, S.W. Beresford, B. Grguric, S.J. Barnes, Bill Stone

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    Abstract

    A new style of komatiite-associated sulfide-poor platinum-group element (PGE: Os, Ir, Ru, Rh, Pt, Pd) mineralisation has been identified at Wiluna in the strongly nickel sulfide (NiS) mineralised Agnew-Wiluna Greenstone Belt, Western Australia. The komatite sequence at Wiluna is similar to 200 m thick and comprises a basal pyroxenite layer, a thick ortho-to-mesocumulate-textured peridotite core, which is overlain by rhythmically layered wehrlite, oikocrystic pyroxenite and thick upper gobbroic margins. Pegmatoid and dendritic (harrisitic) domains are common features, whereas spinifex-textured horizons and flow-top breccias are absent. The presence of anomalous PGE-enriched horizons (Sigma Pt-Pd = 200-500 ppb) in the oikocrystic pyroxenite and in the layered melagabbro and gabbronorite horizons directly overlying the wehrlite unit is due to the presence of fine-grained (1 - 10 mu m) platinum-group minerals (PGMs). More than 70 PGM grains were identified, and a considerable mineralogical variability was constrained. However, only Pd-Pt-bearing phases were identified, whereas no Ir-Ru-bearing PGMs were found in any of the sections examined. Interestingly, all PGMs are not in paragenetic association with sulfides, and only sulfide-poor/free intervals contain significant PGM concentrations. The whole-rock PGE sequence largely reflects the PGM distribution. It is hypothesised that the Pd-Pt enrichment in the oikocrystic pyroxenite and melagabbros and the overall Ir-Ru depletion in the upper mafic section of the sequence are the result of extensive olivine and chromite crystallisation in the basal ultramafic section. PGE saturation was driven by extensive crystallisation of silicate and oxide phases in a sulfide-undersaturated environment. The crystallisation of clinopyroxene in the oikocrystic pyroxenite horizon may have triggered the formation of Pt-Pd-bearing alloys and arsenides, which were the first PGMs to form. Stratiform sulfide-poor PGE mineralisation at Wiluna is more similar in stratigraphic setting, style and composition to PGE-rich sulfide-poor mineralisation zones in thick differentiated intrusions, rather than to other DGE-enriched zones in komatlite-hosted systems, where PGE enrichment is directly associated with accumulations of magmatic sulfides.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)801-824
    JournalAustralian Journal of Earth Sciences
    Volume54
    Issue number6
    DOIs
    Publication statusPublished - 2007

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