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3-D Distribution of Sulphide Minerals in the Merensky Reef (Bushveld Complex, South Africa) and the J-M Reef (Stillwater Complex, USA) and their Relationship to Microstructures Using X-Ray Computed Tomography

3-D Distribution of Sulphide Minerals in the Merensky Reef (Bushveld Complex, South Africa) and the J-M Reef (Stillwater Complex, USA) and their Relationship to Microstructures Using X-Ray Computed Tomography

Abstract

Large mafic–ultramafic layered intrusions may contain layers enriched in platinum-group elements (PGE). In many cases, the PGE are hosted by disseminated sulphides. We have investigated the distribution of the sulphides in three dimensions in two oriented samples of the Merensky Reef and the J-M Reef. The aim of the study was to test the hypothesis that the sulphides crystallized from a base metal sulphide liquid that percolated through the cumulate pile during compaction. The distribution of sulphides was quantified using: (1) X-ray computed tomography; (2) microstructural analysis of polished thin sections oriented parallel to the paleovertical; (3) measurement of dihedral angles between sulphides and silicates or oxides. In the Merensky Reef and the J-M Reef, sulphides are connected in three dimensions and fill paleovertical dilatancies formed during compaction, which facilitated the downward migration of sulphide liquid in the cumulate. In the melanorite of the Merensky Reef, the sulphide content increases from top to bottom, reaching a maximum value above the underlying chromitite layer. In the chromitite layers sulphide melt connectivity is negligible. Thus, the chromitite may have acted as a filter, preventing extensive migration of sulphide melt downwards into the footwall. This could partially explain the enrichment in PGE of the chromitite layer and the observed paucity of sulphide in the footwall.
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