Mineralium Deposita

, 43:695 | Cite as

Laser ablation ICP-MS study of platinum-group elements in sulphides from the Platreef at Turfspruit, northern limb of the Bushveld Complex, South Africa

  • D. HutchinsonEmail author
  • I. McDonald


The Platreef unit of the northern Bushveld Complex comprises a diverse package of pyroxenites, peridotites and mafic lithologies with associated Ni–Cu–platinum-group element (PGE) mineralisation. Base metal sulphides (BMS) are generally more abundant in the Platreef than in other Bushveld PGE deposits, such as the Merensky Reef and the UG2 chromitite, but the Platreef, though thicker, has lower overall PGE grades. Despite a commonly held belief that PGEs are closely associated with sulphide mineralisation, a detailed study by laser ablation ICP-MS (LA-ICP-MS) on a core through the Platreef at Turfspruit suggests that this is not strictly the case. While a significant proportion of the Pd, Os and Ir were found to be hosted by BMS, Pt, irrespective of its whole-rock concentration, was not. Only at the top of the Platreef is Pt directly associated with sulphide minerals where Pt–Pd–(±Sb)–Te–Bi-bearing inclusions were detected in the chalcopyrite portions of large composite sulphides. In contrast, Pd, Os, and Ir occur in solid solution and as discrete inclusions within the BMS throughout the core. For Os and Ir, this is usually in the form of Os–Ir alloys, whereas Pd forms a range of Pd–Te–Bi–(Sb) phases. Scanning electron microscope observations on samples from the top of the core revealed the presence of ≤0.2-mm-long (PtPd)2(Sb,Te,Bi)2 michenerite–maslovite laths within the chalcopyrite portions of large composite sulphides. Additional Pt-bearing minerals, including sperrylite and geversite, and a number of Pd(–Te–Bi–Sb) minerals were observed in, or close to, the alteration rims of these sulphides. This textural association was observed throughout the core. Similar platinum-group minerals (PGMs) were observed within the felsic assemblages composed of quartz, plagioclase, alkali feldspar and clinopyroxene produced by late-stage felsic melts that permeated the Platreef. Many of these PGMs occur a significant distance away from any sulphide minerals. We believe these features can all be linked to the introduction of As, Sb, Te and Bi into the magmatic system through assimilation of sedimentary footwall rocks and xenoliths. Where the degree of contamination was high, all of the Pt and some of the Pd formed As- and Sb-bearing PGM that were expelled to the edges of the sulphide droplets. Many of these were redistributed where they came into contact with late-stage felsic melts. Where no felsic melt interactions occurred, the expelled Pt- and Pd-arsenides and antimonides remained along the margins of the sulphides. At the top of the Platreef, where the effects of contamination were relatively low, some of the Pt remained within the sulphide liquids. On cooling, this formed the micro-inclusions and blade-like laths of Pt–Pd–(Sb)–Bi–Te in the chalcopyrite.


Platinum-group elements Sulphide mineralisation Laser ablation ICP-MS Bushveld complex Platreef 



This project was sponsored by Ivanhoe Nickel and Platinum Ltd. and undertaken at the University of the Witwatersrand. Special thanks go to Professor Judith Kinnaird at the University of the Witwatersrand for financial support, to Dr Louis Schürmann and Ivanhoe Nickel and Platinum Ltd. for their continued funding and support for this project, and to THRIP for their financial aid. We would also like to thank the staff at Moruo Minerals and Spectrau (University of Johannesburg) for their assistance with the SEM and microprobe data. Reviews and comments by Thomas Oberthur, Sarah Barnes, Bernd Lehmann and Madelein Gerber significantly improved the paper.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of GeosciencesUniversity of the WitwatersrandJohannesburgSouth Africa
  2. 2.School of Earth, Ocean and Planetary SciencesCardiff UniversityCardiffUK
  3. 3.CODES, ARC Centre of Excellence in Ore DepositsUniversity of TasmaniaHobartAustralia

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