Mineralium Deposita

, Volume 46, Issue 8, pp 841–857 | Cite as

Temporal and spatial controls on the formation of magmatic PGE and Ni–Cu deposits

  • Wolfgang D. MaierEmail author
  • David I. Groves


Magmatic PGE and Ni–Cu deposits form in contrasting geologic environments and periods. PGE deposits predominantly occur in large layered intrusions emplaced during the late Archean and early Proterozoic into stabilized, relatively S-poor cratonic lithosphere that provides enhanced preservation potential. The magmas ascend through intracratonic sutures where extension and rifting is limited. Crystallization under conditions of low regional stress, with limited magma-induced sagging due to underlying thick buoyant sub-continental mantle lithosphere, is consistent with their laterally continuous layering. Most of the global resources occur in three large intrusions: Bushveld, Great Dyke and Stillwater. Due to the large size (tens of kilometres) and limited complexity of the deposits, they are relatively easy to locate and delineate. As a result, the search space is relatively mature and few new discoveries have been made in the last few decades. The parental magmas to the intrusions are predominantly derived from the convecting mantle but, in addition, the involvement of the sub-continental lithospheric mantle is suggested by the relative Pt enrichment of most of the major deposits. In contrast to the PGE deposits, Ni–Cu deposits form throughout geologic time, but with the largest deposits being younger than ca. 2 Ga. The sulfide ores are concentrated under highly dynamic conditions within lava channels and magma conduits. The deposits are preferentially located near craton margins towards which mantle plumes have been channelled and where mantle magmas can readily ascend through abundant trans-lithospheric structures. Magma flow is focused and locally enhanced by shifting compressive–extensional tectonic regimes, and abundant S-rich crustal rocks provide an external S source that is required for the majority of deposits. The igneous bodies hosting the deposits tend to be irregular and small, tens to hundreds of metres in width and height, and are difficult to locate. As a result, the search space remains relatively immature. Understanding their tectonic setting helps reduce the prospective search space for world-class examples.


Mantle Plume Layered Intrusion Sulfide Liquid Bushveld Complex Kaapvaal Craton 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



The ideas presented in the present paper were developed over a period of many years during which we benefited from discussions with numerous colleagues, particularly Sarah-Jane Barnes, Steve Barnes, Chusi Li, Ed Ripley, Hugh Eales, Sybrand de Waal, Marco Fiorentini, Petri Peltonen, and Thomas Oberthür. The paper further benefited from the thorough reviews of AJ Naldrett and A Yakubchuk.


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© Springer-Verlag 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of GeosciencesUniversity of OuluOuluFinland
  2. 2.Centre for Exploration TargetingUniversity of Western AustraliaPerthAustralia

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