Komatiite Volcanology and the Volcanogenic Setting of Associated Magmatic Nickel Deposits*

Barnes SJ, ; Perring CS,
Organization: The Australasian Institute of Mining and Metallurgy
Pages: 6
Publication Date: Jan 1, 1996
The nickel exploration boom of the late-1960s and early-1970s led to the discovery of numerous komatiite-hosted nickel sulphide deposits, associated with variably serpentinised bodies of olivine-rich cumulates. Subsequent research has shown the importance of volcanological processes to understanding the genesis of these deposits. Crucial developments have come through consideration of the fluid dynamics of magmas and magma-crystal mixtures, through observation of the dynamics and geometry of modern day basaltic lava flows, through application of theory and experimentation on the kinetics of crystal growth from magmas, and most importantly from extensive detailed field mapping of komatiitic sequences in the Yilgarn Block and elsewhere. From these studies has emerged a new integrated view of the volcanological setting of komatiite-hosted deposits, and a recognition that a complete continuum of deposit types exists. Nevertheless, komatiite associated magmatic nickel deposits generally fall into two overall types based on the nature of the sulphide ore. In the first type the bulk of the ore is either massive Fe-Ni-Cu sulphide or a variable mixture of massive sulphide and an ore characterised by olivine crystals in a continuous matrix of sulphide occupying between 30 and 75 per cent by volume of the rock (called Matrix Ore). Nickel grades of massive sulphide ore range from 2 - 20 wt% and those of the matrix ore generally fall in the range 1 - 5 wt% (average 2.5 wt%) Ni/Cu ratios of the sulphide fraction are generally >10.
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