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Minerals 2019, 9(1), 51; https://doi.org/10.3390/min9010051

Weathering of Ophiolite Remnant and Formation of Ni Laterite in a Strong Uplifted Tectonic Region (Yuanjiang, Southwest China)

1
Guangxi Key Laboratory of Hidden Metallic Ore Deposits Exploration, Guilin University of Technology, Guilin 541004, China
2
Center for Earth Environment & Resources, Sun Yat-sen University, Guangzhou 510275, China
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Received: 30 November 2018 / Revised: 2 January 2019 / Accepted: 10 January 2019 / Published: 16 January 2019
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Serpentine Group Minerals)
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Abstract

The Yuanjiang Ni deposit in southwestern margin of the Yunnan Plateau is the only economically important lateritic Ni deposit in China. It contains 21.2 Mt ore with an average grade of 1.05 wt % Ni and has been recognized as the second largest Ni producer in China following the Jinchuan super-large magmatic Ni–Cu deposit. This Ni deposit is hosted within the lateritic regolith derived from serpentinite within the regional Paleo-Tethyan Ophiolite remnants. Local landscape controls the distribution of the Ni mineralized regolith, and spatially it is characterized by developing on several stepped planation surfaces. Three types of lateritic Ni ores are identified based on Ni-hosting minerals, namely oxide ore, oxide-silicate mixed ore and silicate ore. In the dominant silicate ore, two phyllosilicate minerals (serpentine and talc) are the Ni-host minerals. Their Ni compositions, however, are remarkably different. Serpentine (0.34–1.2 wt % Ni) has a higher Ni concentration than talc (0.18–0.26 wt % Ni), indicating that the serpentine is more significantly enriched in Ni during weathering process compared to talc. This explains why talc veining reduces Ni grade. The geochemical index (S/SAF value = 0.33–0.81, UMIA values = 17–60) indicates that the serpentinite-derived regolith has experienced, at least, weak to moderate lateritization. Based on several lines of paleoclimate evidence, the history of lateritization at Yuanjiang area probably dates to the Oligocene-Miocene boundary and has extended to the present. With a hydrology-controlled lateritization process ongoing, continuous operation of Ni migration from the serpentinite-forming minerals to weathered minerals (goethite and serpentine) gave rise to the development of three types of Ni ore in the regolith. Notably, the formation and preservation of the Yuanjiang lateritic Ni deposit has been strongly impacted by regional multi-staged tectonic uplift during the development of Yunnan Plateau. This active tectonic setting has promoted weathering of serpentinite and supergene Ni enrichment, but is also responsible for its partial erosion. View Full-Text
Keywords: lateritic Ni deposit; lateritization process; serpentine; paleoclimate; tectonic uplift; China lateritic Ni deposit; lateritization process; serpentine; paleoclimate; tectonic uplift; China
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Fu, W.; Feng, Y.; Luo, P.; Zhang, Y.; Huang, X.; Zeng, X.; Cai, Q.; Zhou, Y. Weathering of Ophiolite Remnant and Formation of Ni Laterite in a Strong Uplifted Tectonic Region (Yuanjiang, Southwest China). Minerals 2019, 9, 51.

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