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Platinum-group element concentrations in pyrite from the Main Sulfide Zone of the Great Dyke of Zimbabwe

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The Main Sulfide Zone (MSZ) of the Great Dyke of Zimbabwe hosts the world’s second largest resource of platinum-group elements (PGE) after the Bushveld Complex in South Africa. The sulfide assemblage of the MSZ comprises pyrrhotite, pentlandite, chalcopyrite, and minor pyrite. Recently, several studies have observed in a number of Ni-Cu-PGE ore deposits that pyrite may host significant amounts of PGE, particularly Pt and Rh. In this study, we have determined PGE and other trace element contents in pyrite from the Hartley, Ngezi, Unki, and Mimosa mines of the Great Dyke by laser ablation inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry (LA-ICP-MS). Based on the textures and PGE contents, two types of pyrite can be differentiated. Py1 occurs as individual euhedral or subhedral grains or clusters of crystals mostly within chalcopyrite and pentlandite, in some cases in the form of symplectitic intergrowths, and is PGE rich (up to 99 ppm Pt and 61 ppm Rh; 1.7 to 47.1 ppm Ru, 0.1 to 7.8 ppm Os, and 1.2 to 20.2 ppm Ir). Py2 occurs as small individual euhedral or subhedral crystals within pyrrhotite, pentlandite, and less frequently within chalcopyrite and silicates and has low PGE contents (<0.11 ppm Pt, <0.34 ppm Rh, <2.5 ppm Ru, <0.37 ppm Ir, and <0.40 ppm Os). Py1 contains higher Os, Ir, Ru, Rh, and Pt contents than the associated pyrrhotite, pentlandite, and chalcopyrite, whereas Py2 has similar PGE contents as coexisting pyrrhotite and pentlandite. Based on the textural relationships, two different origins are attributed for each pyrite type. Py1 intergrowth with pentlandite and chalcopyrite is inferred to have formed by late, low temperature (<300 °C) decomposition of residual Ni-rich monosulfide solid solution, whereas Py2 is suggested to have formed by replacement of pyrrhotite and pentlandite caused by late magmatic/hydrothermal fluids.

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We would like to thank Dany Savard and Sadia Mehdi for their assistance during the laser ablation analyses. We very much appreciate the comments from the reviewers David Holwell and Marek Locmelis and Associate Editor Marco Fiorentini who significantly improved the manuscript. Editor Bernd Lehmann is acknowledged for his editorial input. The research work was financed by the Spanish research project CGL2010-17668, the Canada Research Chair in Magmatic Metallogeny, and the German Federal Institute for Geosciences and Natural Resources (BGR).

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Correspondence to R. Piña.

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Editorial handling: M. Fiorentini

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Piña, R., Gervilla, F., Barnes, S. et al. Platinum-group element concentrations in pyrite from the Main Sulfide Zone of the Great Dyke of Zimbabwe. Miner Deposita 51, 853–872 (2016). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00126-016-0642-3

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  • Pyrite
  • Base metal sulfides
  • PGE
  • Main sulfide zone
  • Great Dyke
  • Zimbabwe