Platinum group minerals in the Duluth Complex and their beneficiation behaviors

Sabelin, T. ; Iwasaki, I. ; Reid, K. J.
Organization: Society for Mining, Metallurgy & Exploration
Pages: 4
Publication Date: Jan 1, 1987
Introduction Occurrences of platinum group minerals (PGM) in mafic and ultramafic rocks in association with Cu-Ni mineralization are well known. Yet for the Duluth Complex, a large body of dominantly mafic igneous rocks in northeastern Minnesota with significant Cu-Ni mineralization (Bonnichsen, 1972; Boucher, 1975; Watowich, 1978; Weiblen and Morey, 1980), little has been published concerning its platinum group element (PGE) contents and mineralogy. In a previous study of massive sulfide rock, sperrylite (PtAs2) was found in nickel arsenide and recovery of arsenide minerals by flotation has been investigated (Iwasaki et al., 1986; Ryan and Weiblen, 1984). Recently, an announcement was made of the discovery of significant quantities of platinum and palladium [peak assay values of 9 g/t (0.27 oz per st)] in an interval of a drill core with disseminated sulfide mineralization 16 km (10 miles) southeast of Ely, MN (Anon, 1985; Sabelin, 1985). This paper describes PGM from the Pt-Pd-enriched zone and evaluates their potential for concentration. Geologic setting The Pt-Pd zone occurs in the South Kawishiwi in¬trusion near its basal contact at 734 to 737 m (2408 to 2418 ft) depth. The South Kawishiwi is one of several minor mafic intrusions that constitute the western margin of the Duluth Complex near Ely, MN (Fig. 1). It is com¬prised of a 70.1- to 350.5-m (230- to 1150-ft) thick sul¬fide-bearing basal unit of troctolite with minor amounts of anorthosite, norite, picrite, and oxide layers overlain by a troctolite unit with interlayered anorthosite (Bonnichsen et al., 1980; Foose, 1984; and Foose and Weiblen, 1986). The basal unit, in which the Pt-Pd zone is found, is markedly heterogeneous in rock type, lacking any coherent internal stratigraphy, and shows evidence of both pre- and post-consolidation faulting (Foose and Weiblen, 1986). Geochemistry Chemical analyses were made on 0.3-m (1-ft) intervals of crushed drill core material (1/4 core, BX size) at 731.5 to 740.7 m (2400 to 2430 ft) depth and the results are presented in Fig. 2. The analytical techniques used were atomic absorption spectrometry for silver, chromium, copper, and nickel; a coulometric titration method for sulfur; and a combined fire assay-DC plasma technique for gold, palladium, and platinum. Figure 2 shows the significant enrichment of platinum and palladium at 734 to 737 m (2408 to 2418 ft) depth; it corresponds to a stratigraphic interval rich in oxide minerals. Average values for platinum and palladium contents over the 3-m (10-ft) interval are 2520 and 2580 ppb, respectively, or 5.1 g/t (0.15 oz per st) platinum plus palladium. Platinum plus palladium contents from individual 0.3-m (1-ft) intervals are as high as 9120 ppb or 9.1 g/t (0.27 oz per st) and average 7.4 g/t (0.22 oz per st) in a 1.5-m (5-ft) interval in the richest part of the zone. The Pt-to-Pd ratio is nearly 1:1 over the entire 9.1-m (30-ft) interval and the platinum and palladium correlate closely with chromium, which ranges from 1.9% to 5.3%. Copper, nickel, and sulfur contents for the drill core interval are also given in Fig. 2. In¬terestingly, the Pt-Pd high corresponds to a depletion in copper, nickel, and sulfur. Mineralogy of the Pt-Pd zone The Pt-Pd zone occurs within an oxide-rich zone or layer that consists essentially of oxide minerals, plagioclase, and olivine. The oxides may constitute as
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