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New mineralogical and isotopic constraints on main zone-hosted PGE mineralisation at Moorddrift, northern Bushveld complex

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  • Earth Science
  • Geography


The northern limb of the Bushveld Complex, South Africa contains a number of occurrences of platinum-group element (PGE) mineralisation within Main Zone rocks, whereas the rest of the complex has PGE-depleted Main Zone units. On the farm Moorddrift, Cu–Ni–PGE sulphide mineralisation is hosted within the Upper Main Zone in a layered package of gabbronorites, mottled anorthosites and thin pyroxenites. Our observations indicate that a 10-m-thick, ‘reef-style’ package of mineralisation has been extensively ‘disturbed’, forming a mega breccia which in some localities may distribute mineralised rocks over intersections of over 300 m. The sulphides are made up of pyrrhotite, pentlandite and chalcopyrite, heavily altered around their margins and overprinted by secondary pyrite. Platinum-group mineral assemblages typical of primary magmatic deposits, with Pt and Pd tellurides and sperrylite, are present in the ‘reef-style’ package, whereas there is a decrease in tellurides and an increase in antimonides in the ‘disturbed’ package, interpreted to be related to hydrothermal recrystallization during veining and brecciation. Sulphur isotopes show that all sulphides within the mineralised package on Moorddrift have a crustal signature consistent with local country rock sediments of the Transvaal Supergroup. We interpret the mineralisation at Moorddrift as a primary sulphide reef, likely produced as a result of the mixing of crustally contaminated magmas in the Upper Main Zone, which has been locally disrupted post-crystallisation. At present, there are no firm links between Moorddrift and the other known PGE occurrences in the Main Zone at the Aurora and Waterberg projects, although the stratigraphic position of all may be similar and thus intriguing. Nonetheless, they do demonstrate that the Main Zone of the northern limb of the Bushveld Complex, unlike the eastern and western limbs, can be considered a fertile unit for potential PGE mineralisation.

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