Lithogeochemistry in exploration for intrusion-hosted magmatic Ni-Cu-Co deposits

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Steve Barnes


Magmatic Ni-Cu-Co-PGE deposits are notoriously difficult exploration targets owing to a lack of alteration haloes or other extended distal footprints. Success requires prediction of prospective terranes, followed by identification of suitable host intrusions and deposition sites within those intrusions. At the regional scale, potential ore-hosting magmas tend to have lithophile trace element trends falling on mixing lines between primitive or slightly depleted source mantle and typical upper continental crust, with several significant exceptions. Most known deposits have parent magmas that are in the upper range of FeO content for given MgO compared with baseline data sets for continental LIP magmas. At the scale of individual intrusions, the presence of cumulate rocks, both mafic and ultramafic, is key. These can be recognised in regional datasets using combinations of magnesium number (molar MgO/(MgO+FeO), Al2O3, TiO2 and Zr contents. Combinations of alteration-resistant element ratios between Ni, Cr and Ti are also useful and can also be applied to moderately weathered samples. Concentrations and ratios of Cu and Zr are useful in discriminating chalcophile-enriched and depleted magmas suites. In combination, these approaches can be combined to discriminate highly prospective cumulate-dominated magmatic suites and individual intrusions from non-cumulate suites with limited potential.



Physical Sciences and Mathematics


mineral exploration, nickel, copper, lithogeochemistry


Published: 2022-09-09 18:33


CC BY Attribution 4.0 International

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Data Availability (Reason not available):
data will be made available on CSIRO data access portal following full publication

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