Detection of Trace Elements/Isotopes in Olympic Dam Copper Concentrates by nanoSIMS

Mark Rollog, Nigel J. Cook, Paul Guagliardo, Kathy Ehrig, Cristiana L. Ciobanu, Matt Kilburn

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Citations (Scopus)


Many analytical techniques for trace element analysis are available to the geochemist and geometallurgist to understand and, ideally, quantify the distribution of trace and minor components in a mineral deposit. Bulk trace element data are useful, but do not provide information regarding specific host minerals-or lack thereof, in cases of surface adherence or fracture fill-for each element. The CAMECA nanoscale secondary ion mass spectrometer (nanoSIMS) 50 and 50L instruments feature ultra-low minimum detection limits (to parts-per-billion) and sub-micron spatial resolution, a combination not found in any other analytical platform. Using ore and copper concentrate samples from the Olympic Dam mining-processing operation, South Australia, we demonstrate the application of nanoSIMS to understand the mineralogical distribution of potential by-product and detrimental elements. Results show previously undetected mineral host assemblages and elemental associations, providing geochemists with insight into mineral formation and elemental remobilization-and metallurgists with critical information necessary for optimizing ore processing techniques. Gold and Te may be seen associated with brannerite, and Ag prefers chalcocite over bornite. Rare earth elements may be found in trace quantities in fluorapatite and fluorite, which may report to final concentrates as entrained liberated or gangue-sulfide composite particles. Selenium, As, and Te reside in sulfides, commonly in association with Pb, Bi, Ag, and Au. Radionuclide daughters of the U-238 decay chain may be located using nanoSIMS, providing critical information on these trace components that is unavailable using other microanalytical techniques. These radionuclides are observed in many minerals but seem particularly enriched in uranium minerals, some phosphates and sulfates, and within high surface area minerals. The nanoSIMS has proven a valuable tool in determining the spatial distribution of trace elements and isotopes in fine-grained copper ore, providing researchers with crucial evidence needed to answer questions of ore formation, ore alteration, and ore processing.

Original languageEnglish
Article number336
Number of pages25
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2019


Dive into the research topics of 'Detection of Trace Elements/Isotopes in Olympic Dam Copper Concentrates by nanoSIMS'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this