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The Kabanga Ni sulfide deposit, Tanzania: I. Geology, petrography, silicate rock geochemistry, and sulfur and oxygen isotopes

Maier, Wolfgang D. ORCID:, Barnes, Sarah-Jane, Sarkar, Arindam, Ripley, Ed, Li, Chusi and Livesey, Tim 2010. The Kabanga Ni sulfide deposit, Tanzania: I. Geology, petrography, silicate rock geochemistry, and sulfur and oxygen isotopes. Mineralium Deposita 45 (5) , pp. 419-441. 10.1007/s00126-010-0280-0

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The Kabanga Ni sulfide deposit represents one of the most significant Ni sulfide discoveries of the last two decades, with current indicated mineral resources of 23.23 Mt at 2.64% Ni and inferred mineral resources of 28.5 Mt at 2.7% Ni (Nov. 2008). The sulfides are hosted by a suite of ∼1.4 Ga ultramafic–mafic, sill-like, and chonolithic intrusions that form part of the approximately 500 km long Kabanga–Musongati–Kapalagulu igneous belt in Tanzania and Burundi. The igneous bodies are up to about 1 km thick and 4 km long. They crystallized from several compositionally distinct magma pulses emplaced into sulfide-bearing pelitic schists. The first magma was a siliceous high-magnesium basalt (approximately 13.3% MgO) that formed a network of fine-grained acicular-textured gabbronoritic and orthopyroxenitic sills (Mg# opx 78–88, An plag 45–88). The magma was highly enriched in incompatible trace elements (LILE, LREE) and had pronounced negative Nb and Ta anomalies and heavy O isotopic signatures (δ18O +6 to +8). These compositional features are consistent with about 20% contamination of primitive picrite with the sulfidic pelitic schists. Subsequent magma pulses were more magnesian (approximately 14–15% MgO) and less contaminated (e.g., δ18O +5.1 to +6.6). They injected into the earlier sills, resulting in the formation of medium-grained harzburgites, olivine orthopyroxenites and orthopyroxenites (Fo 83–89, Mg# opx 86–89), and magmatic breccias consisting of gabbronorite–orthopyroxenite fragments within an olivine-rich matrix. All intrusions in the Kabanga area contain abundant sulfides (pyrrhotite, pentlandite, and minor chalcopyrite and pyrite). In the lower portions and the immediate footwall of two of the intrusions, namely Kabanga North and Kabanga Main, there occur numerous layers, lenses, and veins of massive Ni sulfides reaching a thickness of several meters. The largest amount of high grade, massive sulfide occurs in the smallest intrusion (Kabanga North). The sulfides have heavy S isotopic signatures (δ34S wr = +10 to +24) that broadly overlap with those of the country rock sulfides, consistent with significant assimilation of external sulfur from the Karagwe–Ankolean sedimentary sequence. However, based partly on the relatively homogenous distribution of disseminated sulfides in many of the intrusive rocks, we propose that the Kabanga magmas reached sulfide saturation prior to final emplacement, in staging chambers or feeder conduits, followed by entrainment of the sulfides during continued magma ascent. Oxygen isotope data indicate that the mode of sulfide assimilation changed with time. The heavy δ18O ratios of the early magmas are consistent with ingestion of the sedimentary country rocks in bulk. The relatively light δ18O ratios of the later magmas indicate less bulk assimilation of the country rocks, but in addition the magmas selectively assimilated additional S, possibly through devolatization of the country rocks or through cannibalization of magmatic sulfides deposited in the conduits by preceding magma surges. The intrusions were tilted at ca. 1.37 Ga, during the Kibaran orogeny and associated synkinematic granite plutonism. This caused solid-state mobilization of ductile sulfides into shear zones, notably along the base of the intrusions where sulfide-hornfels breccias and lenses and layers of massive sulfides may reach a thickness of >10 m and can extend for several 10 s to >100 m away from the intrusions. These horizons represent an important exploration target for additional nickel sulfide deposits.

Item Type: Article
Date Type: Publication
Status: Published
Schools: Earth and Environmental Sciences
Subjects: Q Science > QE Geology
Publisher: Springer Verlag
ISSN: 0026-4598
Last Modified: 25 Oct 2022 08:59

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