Sulfide emplacement and migration in the nova-bollinger Ni-Cu-Co deposit, Albany-Fraser Orogen, Western Australia

Stephen J. Barnes, Valentina Taranovic, John M. Miller, Glenn Boyce, Steve Beresford

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

26 Citations (Scopus)


The Nova-Bollinger Ni-Cu sulfide deposit is associated with a small chonolith (tube-shaped) intrusion emplaced at lower crustal depths into granulite facies migmatite gneisses. The deposit comprises disseminated and net-textured ores within the intrusions and a high proportion of massive, semimassive, and breccia exocontact ores within the underlying country rocks. Internally disposed endocontact ores show typical magmatic textures including conventional net texture, leopard net texture characterized by the presence of centimeter-sized clots of olivine and intercumulus phases, and globular ores. Some of the globular ores show an association of sulfide blebs with clinopyroxene-carbonate intergrowths that may represent infilling of original CO2-rich vapor bubbles. The exocontact ores have an assemblage of textures indicative of emplacement into hot, soft country rocks at a large-scale melting-infiltration front. Characteristic features range from hard-walled extensional vein arrays to complex infiltrations of disseminated sulfide within chaotically folded paragneiss. Sulfide infiltration was accompanied by partial melting of the country rock, producing felsic leucosomes, some of them strongly enriched in garnet, mainly occupying vein walls and interpreted as the result of counterflow of displaced silicate partial melt. Coarse-grained pentlandite-chalcopyrite-pyrrhotite loop textures are characteristic of all ore types, down to the scale of the infiltrating sulfides within the gneisses, and are regarded as diagnostically magmatic textures generated by sulfide liquid fractionation and growth of high-temperature pentlandite by peritectic reaction between fractionated sulfide melt and early crystallized monosulfide solid solution. The highly distinctive features of the Nova-Bollinger ores are a consequence of their emplacement in the mid to lower crust under peak granulite facies conditions. Under these unusual conditions the timescales for cooling between the silicate solidus and sulfide solidus temperatures were of the order of millions of years, being controlled by the temperature-time path for the exhumation of the orogen as a whole. Sulfides solidified over a time period three orders of magnitude greater than the thousand-year timescale for the solidification of the host silicate magmas. Furthermore, timescales for deformation matched those for cooling and solidification, allowing the country rocks to undergo deformation during ore emplacement. Fluctuating strain rates during and after initial emplacement of the carrier magmas into the host intrusion caused episodes of brittle extension, allowing unusually efficient penetration of partially molten sulfide into heterogeneous, partially molten silicate country rock, resulting in an unusually extensive thermomechanical aureole compared with other mafic intrusion-hosted nickel systems globally.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1749-1776
Number of pages28
JournalEconomic Geology
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2020


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