Mineralium Deposita

, Volume 45, Issue 3, pp 259–280 | Cite as

Trace-element characteristics of different pyrite types in Mesoarchaean to Palaeoproterozoic placer deposits

  • Nikola KoglinEmail author
  • Hartwig E. Frimmel
  • W. E. Lawrie Minter
  • Helene Brätz


A comparative in situ LA-ICP MS trace-element study on pyrite from three different, variably auriferous, Archaean to Palaeoproterozoic palaeoplacer deposits in the Ouro Fino Syncline (Quadrilátero Ferrífero; Brazil), the Elliot Lake area north of Lake Huron (SE Canada) and several deposits within the Witwatersrand Basin (South Africa) revealed systematic differences between morphologically different pyrite types and between the various palaeoplacer deposits. Especially the Ni and Au concentrations as well as Co/Ni and Mo/Ni ratios were found to be systematically different in detrital compact, detrital porous and post-sedimentary/hydrothermal pyrite grains from different source areas. High Co/Ni ratios and low Au concentrations are typical of post-sedimentary pyrite, which is hydrothermal in origin. In contrast, relatively low Co/Ni ratios and high Au contents characterise detrital porous banded and concentric pyrite grains (Au > 1 ppm), which are syn-sedimentary in origin. In the Elliot Lake area and the Witwatersrand Basin, detrital compact rounded pyrite is characterised by high Co/Ni ratios, which is in agreement with derivation from a hydrothermal source. Low Au concentrations in this pyrite type support the contention of the gold and the pyrite in these deposits coming from different source rocks. In contrast, derivation from an originally diagenetic pyrite is suggested for the detrital compact pyrite in the Ouro Fino Syncline because of low to intermediate Co/Ni ratios. High Au contents may indicate a genetic relationship between pyrite and gold there. Systematic differences exist between the three areas with respect to Au, Ni, Co, Mo and Cu distributions in detrital pyrite, which reflects differences in the provenance. A predominantly mafic/ultramafic source is indicated for the Ouro Fino, a felsic source for the Elliot Lake, and a mixed felsic–mafic provenance for the Witwatersrand pyrite populations. Independently of pyrite type, the higher Au endowment of the studied Witwatersrand and Ouro Fino conglomerates are also reflected by an overall higher Au concentration in the respective pyrite grains compared to the relatively Au-poor samples from Elliot Lake. In general, a strong positive correlation between Au and Pb levels in the various pyrite grains is noted. Analogous to Pb, which is well known for not being easily accommodated in the pyrite crystal lattice but occurring as discrete PbS phases, Au is considered to be present mainly in the form of discrete Au phases in minute pores and interstices of the pyrite grains rather than within the pyrite lattice.


Pyrite Palaeoplacer Gold Archaean Witwatersrand Ouro Fino Elliot Lake 



A. R. Cabral, Y. Morishita and B. Lehmann are thanked for their constructive critical reviews. R. Klemd kindly provided access to the analytical facilities in Erlangen. Financial support from the German Research Foundation (Grant FR 2183/3-2) is gratefully acknowledged. This is a contribution to IGCP540.

Supplementary material

126_2009_272_Fig12_ESM.gif (109 kb)
Supplemental Figure 1

Co, Mo, Cu, Ag versus Ni contents for different pyrite types from the analysed reefs of the Witwatersrand Basin (GIF 108 kb)

126_2009_272_Fig1_ESM.tif (16 mb)
High resolution image (TIFF 16379 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • Nikola Koglin
    • 1
    Email author
  • Hartwig E. Frimmel
    • 1
    • 2
  • W. E. Lawrie Minter
    • 2
  • Helene Brätz
    • 3
  1. 1.Geodynamics and Geomaterials Research Division, Institute of GeographyUniversity of WürzburgWürzburgGermany
  2. 2.Department of Geological SciencesUniversity of Cape TownRondeboschSouth Africa
  3. 3.Lithosphere Dynamics SectionGeo-Center of Northern BavariaErlangenGermany

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