Mineralium Deposita

, Volume 51, Issue 7, pp 919–935 | Cite as

Tracing sources of crustal contamination using multiple S and Fe isotopes in the Hart komatiite-associated Ni–Cu–PGE sulfide deposit, Abitibi greenstone belt, Ontario, Canada

  • R. S. Hiebert
  • A. Bekker
  • M. G. Houlé
  • B. A. Wing
  • O. J. Rouxel


Assimilation by mafic to ultramafic magmas of sulfur-bearing country rocks is considered an important contributing factor to reach sulfide saturation and form magmatic Ni–Cu–platinum group element (PGE) sulfide deposits. Sulfur-bearing sedimentary rocks in the Archean are generally characterized by mass-independent fractionation of sulfur isotopes that is a result of atmospheric photochemical reactions, which produces isotopically distinct pools of sulfur. Likewise, low-temperature processing of iron, through biological and abiotic redox cycling, produces a range of Fe isotope values in Archean sedimentary rocks that is distinct from the range of the mantle and magmatic Fe isotope values. Both of these signals can be used to identify potential country rock assimilants and their contribution to magmatic sulfide deposits. We use multiple S and Fe isotopes to characterize the composition of the potential iron and sulfur sources for the sulfide liquids that formed the Hart deposit in the Shaw Dome area within the Abitibi greenstone belt in Ontario (Canada). The Hart deposit is composed of two zones with komatiite-associated Ni–Cu–PGE mineralization; the main zone consists of a massive sulfide deposit at the base of the basal flow in the komatiite sequence, whereas the eastern extension consists of a semi-massive sulfide zone located 12 to 25 m above the base of the second flow in the komatiite sequence. Low δ56Fe values and non-zero δ34S and Δ33S values of the komatiitic rocks and associated mineralization at the Hart deposit is best explained by mixing and isotope exchange with crustal materials, such as exhalite and graphitic argillite, rather than intrinsic fractionation within the komatiite. This approach allows tracing the extent of crustal contamination away from the deposit and the degree of mixing between the sulfide and komatiite melts. The exhalite and graphitic argillite were the dominant contaminants for the main zone of mineralization and the eastern extension zone of the Hart deposit, respectively. Critically, the extent of contamination, as revealed by multiple S and Fe isotope systematics, is greatest within the deposit and decreases away from it within the komatiite flow. This pattern points to a local source of crustal contamination for the mantle-derived komatiitic melt and a low degree of homogenization between the mineralization and the surrounding lava flow. Coupled S and Fe isotope patterns like those identified at the Hart deposit may provide a useful tool for assessing the potential of a komatiitic sequence to host Ni–Cu–(PGE).


Komatiite Nickel Isotope Sulfur Iron Geochemistry 



We would like to express our appreciation to Northern Sun Mining Corp. (formerly Liberty Mines Ltd.) for their logistical support, access to properties, information, and discussions with staff throughout this project. Discussions with, and advice from, Dr. C. Michael Lesher (Laurentian University) during the course of this study are greatly appreciated. We also greatly appreciate the helpful reviews by S.J. Barnes and M. Fiorentini, whose comments significantly added to this contribution, and editorial suggestions by Georges Beaudoin. Financial support for this project has been provided by the Targeted Geoscience Initiative 4 of the Geological Survey of Canada and Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) Discovery and Accelerator Grants to AB. OR acknowledges the technical support of Y. Germain and E. Ponzevera (Ifremer) and funding from LabexMer (ANR-10-LABX-19-01). The McGill Stable Isotope Laboratory is supported by NSERC through Research Tools and Infrastructure and Discovery Grants to BAW as well as operating funds from FQRNT through the GEOTOP research center. We thank Thi Hao Bui for technical assistance in the McGill Stable Isotope Laboratory.

Supplementary material

126_2016_644_MOESM1_ESM.xlsx (32 kb)
ESM 1 (XLSX 32 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • R. S. Hiebert
    • 1
  • A. Bekker
    • 1
    • 2
  • M. G. Houlé
    • 1
    • 3
  • B. A. Wing
    • 4
  • O. J. Rouxel
    • 5
  1. 1.Department of Geological SciencesUniversity of ManitobaWinnipegCanada
  2. 2.Department of Earth SciencesUniversity of CaliforniaRiversideUSA
  3. 3.Geological Survey of CanadaQuébecCanada
  4. 4.Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences and GEOTOPMcGill UniversityMontréalCanada
  5. 5.IFREMER, Centre de BrestUnité Géosciences MarinesPlouzanéFrance

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