Paper No. 11
Presentation Time: 9:00 AM-6:00 PM


AIRD, Hannah M. and BOUDREAU, Alan E., Earth & Ocean Sciences, Duke University, Old Chemistry Building, Box 90227, Durham, NC 27708,

The processes involved in the petrogenesis of the sulphide-hosted platinum-group-element (PGE) deposits of the Stillwater Complex are controversial, with theories ranging from the purely magmatic to those involving an aqueous fluid. To further constrain these models, we have been examining the trace phase assemblages in rocks away from the ore zones.

High-temperature carbonates have been observed in association with sulphide minerals below the platiniferous J-M Reef of the Stillwater Complex. The carbonate assemblage consists of dolomite with exsolved calcite and is found in contact with sulphide minerals: chalcopyrite and pyrrhotite in the Peridotite Zone; and pyrrhotite with pentlandite, pyrite and chalcopyrite in Gabbronorite I of the Lower Banded Series.

The minimal silicate alteration and the lack of greenschist minerals in association with the mineral assemblage are consistent with a high-temperature origin for the carbonates. The calcite-dolomite geothermometer yields a minimum formation temperature of ~900°C for the unmixed assemblages. A reaction rim surrounds the carbonate-sulphide assemblages, showing an alteration of the host orthopyroxene to a more Ca-enriched, Fe-depleted composition. This is consistent with diffusive exchange between carbonates and pyroxenes at high temperatures, mediated by an aqueous fluid. The highly variable molar MnO/FeO ratios in both the high-temperature carbonates and their associated altered pyroxene rims also imply their interaction with a fluid.

The carbonate assemblages are consistent with Stillwater fluid inclusion studies, showing that fluids comprising coexisting Cl-rich brine and carbonic fluid were trapped in pegmatitic quartz at 700-715°C, some of which also contained “accidental” calcite inclusions. The high Cl-content of apatite found below the platiniferous J-M Reef is further evidence that a Cl-rich fluid was migrating through the rocks beneath the Reef. Carbonates have been shown to be stabilized by Cl-rich fluids.

The association of high-temperature carbonates with sulphides beneath the J-M reef supports the hydromagmatic theory which involves a late-stage chloride-carbonate fluid percolating upwards, dissolving PGE and sulphides and redepositing them at a higher stratigraphic level.

  • Aird GSA Poster 2012.pdf (1.3 MB)