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Multistage crack seal vein and hydrothermal Ni enrichment in serpentinized ultramafic rocks (Koniambo massif, New Caledonia)

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Sets of fractures and breccia sealed by Ni-rich silicates and quartz occur within saprock of the New Caledonian regolith developed over ultramafic rocks. The crystallization sequence in fractures is as follows: (1) serpentine stage: lizardite > polygonal serpentine > white lizardite; (2) Ni stage: Ni-Mg kerolite followed by red-brown microcrystalline quartz; and (3) supergene stages. The red-brown microcrystalline quartz corresponds to the very last stage of the Ni sequence and is inferred to have precipitated within the 50–95 °C temperature range. It constitutes also the main cement of breccia that has all the typical features of hydraulic fracturing. The whole sequence is therefore interpreted as the result of hydrothermal fluid circulation under medium to low temperature and fluctuating fluid pressure. Although frequently described as the result of a single downward redistribution of Ni and Mg leached in the upper part of the regolith under ambient temperature, the Ni silicate veins thus appear as the result of recurrent crack and seal process, corresponding to upward medium temperature fluid convection, hydraulic fracturing and subsequent fluid mixing, and mineral deposition.

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This work has been carried out thanks to the financial and technical help from Koniambo S.A.S. and Labex Ressources 21 (supported by the French National Research Agency through the national program “Investissements d’avenir,” reference ANR-10-LABX-21-LABEX RESSOURCES 21), with analytical contributions from the UMR GeoRessources No. 7356 laboratory platforms. The field work was introduced by a first 1-day visit at Koniambo in 2011 by C. Couteau and E. Fritsch (field trip organized as part of a CNRT project (French National Centre for Technological Research: “Nickel and its environment”)), and consisted in 2-week stays both in 2012 and 2013 financed by Koniambo within the framework of the B. Quesnel’s PhD thesis. This work was supervised in the field by C. Couteau and Maxime Drouillet from Koniambo S.A.S. Marie-Camille Caumon is acknowledged for her help during RAMAN analyses. The authors are grateful to M. Jébrak, E. Ramanaidou, and B. Orberger for their detailed and constructive reviews.

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Correspondence to Michel Cathelineau.

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Editorial handling: B. Orberger

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Cathelineau, M., Myagkiy, A., Quesnel, B. et al. Multistage crack seal vein and hydrothermal Ni enrichment in serpentinized ultramafic rocks (Koniambo massif, New Caledonia). Miner Deposita 52, 945–960 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00126-016-0695-3

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  • Breccia
  • Serpentine
  • Hydraulic Fracture
  • Sepiolite
  • Fracture Filling