Contributions to Mineralogy and Petrology

, Volume 94, Issue 2, pp 193–204 | Cite as

Sulfide and platinum mineralization in the Merensky Reef: evidence from hydrous silicates and fluid inclusions

  • Christian G. Ballhaus
  • Eugen F. Stumpfl


The base metal sulfides of the Merensky Reef are associated with hydrous silicates and intense deuteric hydrous alteration of cumulus and postcumulus silicates. Biotite and phlogopite crystallized in the vicinity of sulfides from a volatile-enriched highly fractionated intercumulus melt. Amphibole, chlorite, and talc are later alteration phases of cumulus pyroxene and intercumulus plagioclase. Biotite is often accompanied by zircon, rutile, and quartz. Accessory quartz hosts a complex suite of H2O-NaCl-(CaCl2)-CO2-CH4 fluid inclusions which have thus far not been described from the Merensky Reef. The earliest fluid inclusion compositions are NaCl-(H2O) with less than 10 vol.% water; CO2 coexisting with a halite daughter crystal and brine; and polyphase inclusions with up to six daughter and accidental phases and high contents of divalent cations. The maximum trapping temperature is around 730° C at 4 to 5 kb pressure. Later inclusion generations are H2O-NaCl, CO2-H2O, and pure CO2 and CH4. The presence of Cl-rich fluids during the intercumulus stage of the crystallizing Merensky Reef is directly related to the mode of sulfide precipitation. Prior to sulfide unmixing in a hydrous magma sulfur is likely to be present as H2S. Sulfur saturation causes reaction of H2S with oxides of the silicate melt to form a sulfide melt plus water. During reaction the magma is enriched in water until a separate fluid unmixes. It carries all compounds with high fluid/melt partition coefficients, as well as metals capable of forming OH- and Cl-complexes. Precious metals are assumed to have fractionated into the Cl-rich fluid as Cl-complexes rather than being dissolved in the sulfide melt. During the cooling evolution of the fluid the precious elements precipitate around the periphery of sulfide melt droplets. The model proposed explains the distribution pattern of platinum-group minerals in the Merensky Reef better than any orthomagmatic mineralization concept offered so far.


Fluid Inclusion Base Metal Sulfide Hydrous Silicate Daughter Crystal Hydrous Magma 
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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 1986

Authors and Affiliations

  • Christian G. Ballhaus
    • 1
  • Eugen F. Stumpfl
    • 1
  1. 1.Institute of Mineralogy and PetrologyMining UniversityLeobenAustria

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