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

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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 komatiite sequence at Wiluna is ∼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 gabbroic 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 (ΣPt - 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 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 PGE-enriched zones in komatiite-hosted systems, where PGE enrichment is directly associated with accumulations of magmatic sulfides.
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Keywords: Agnew - Wiluna Greenstone Belt; Archaean; komatiite; nickel sulfides; platinum-group elements

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: School of Earth and Geographical Sciences, University of Western Australia, Crawley, WA, Australia 2: Department of Earth Science, Monash University, Vic., Australia,BHP Billiton Mineral Exploration, Perth, WA, Australia 3: BHP Billiton Mineral Exploration, Perth, WA, Australia 4: CSIRO Exploration & Mining, Bentley, WA, Australia 5: School of Earth and Geographical Sciences, University of Western Australia, Crawley, WA, Australia,Nevada Star Resource Corp, Vancouver, BC, Canada

Publication date: August 1, 2007

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