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The Fate of Platinum-Group Minerals in the Exogenic Environment—From Sulfide Ores via Oxidized Ores into Placers: Case Studies Bushveld Complex, South Africa, and Great Dyke, Zimbabwe

Bundesanstalt für Geowissenschaften und Rohstoffe (BGR), Stilleweg 2, D-30655 Hannover, Germany
Minerals 2018, 8(12), 581; https://doi.org/10.3390/min8120581
Received: 14 August 2018 / Revised: 1 December 2018 / Accepted: 4 December 2018 / Published: 9 December 2018
Diverse studies were performed in order to investigate the behavior of the platinum-group minerals (PGM) in the weathering cycle in the Bushveld Complex of South Africa and the Great Dyke of Zimbabwe. Samples were obtained underground, from core, in surface outcrops, and from alluvial sediments in rivers draining the intrusions. The investigations applied conventional mineralogical methods (reflected light microscopy) complemented by modern techniques (scanning electron microscopy (SEM), mineral liberation analysis (MLA), electron-probe microanalysis (EPMA), and LA-ICPMS analysis). This review aims at combining the findings to a coherent model also with respect to the debate regarding allogenic versus authigenic origin of placer PGM. In the pristine sulfide ores, the PGE are present as discrete PGM, dominantly PGE-bismuthotellurides, -sulfides, -arsenides, -sulfarsenides, and -alloys, and substantial though variable proportions of Pd and Rh are hosted in pentlandite. Pt–Fe alloys, sperrylite, and most PGE-sulfides survive the weathering of the ores, whereas the base metal sulfides and the (Pt,Pd)-bismuthotellurides are destroyed, and ill-defined (Pt,Pd)-oxides or -hydroxides develop. In addition, elevated contents of Pt and Pd are located in Fe/Mn/Co-oxides/hydroxides and smectites. In the placers, the PGE-sulfides experience further modification, whereas sperrylite largely remains a stable phase, and grains of Pt–Fe alloys and native Pt increase in relative proportion. In the Bushveld/Great Dyke case, the main impact of weathering on the PGM assemblages is destruction of the unstable PGM and PGE-carriers of the pristine ores and of the intermediate products of the oxidized ores. Dissolution and redistribution of PGE is taking place, however, the newly-formed products are thin films, nano-sized particles, small crystallites, or rarely µm-sized grains primarily on substrates of precursor detrital/allogenic PGM grains, and they are of subordinate significance. In the Bushveld/Great Dyke scenario, and in all probability universally, authigenic growth and formation of discrete, larger PGM crystals or nuggets in the supergene environment plays no substantial role, and any proof of PGM “neoformation” in a grand style is missing. The final PGM suite which survived the weathering process en route from sulfide ores via oxidized ores into placers results from the continuous elimination of unstable PGM and the dispersion of soluble PGE. Therefore, the alluvial PGM assemblage represents a PGM rest spectrum of residual, detrital grains. View Full-Text
Keywords: Bushveld Complex; South Africa; Great Dyke; Zimbabwe; platinum-group minerals; primary ores; oxide ores; placers; allogenic; authigenic Bushveld Complex; South Africa; Great Dyke; Zimbabwe; platinum-group minerals; primary ores; oxide ores; placers; allogenic; authigenic
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Oberthür, T. The Fate of Platinum-Group Minerals in the Exogenic Environment—From Sulfide Ores via Oxidized Ores into Placers: Case Studies Bushveld Complex, South Africa, and Great Dyke, Zimbabwe. Minerals 2018, 8, 581.

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