A study of the trace sulfide mineral assemblages in the Stillwater Complex, Montana, USA
The sulfide assemblages of the Stillwater Complex away from the well-studied ore zones are composed mainly of variable proportions of pyrrhotite, chalcopyrite, pentlandite, and ±pyrite. Excluding vein assemblages and those affected by greenschist and lower temperature alteration, the majority can be classified into two broad assemblages, defined here as pristine (multiphase, often globular in shape) or volatile-bearing (multiphase, high-temperature, volatile-rich minerals such as biotite, hornblende, or an unmixed calcite-dolomite assemblage). The volatile-bearing assemblages are mainly found within and below the J-M reef, where native copper and sphalerite are also locally present. Pristine sulfides are found throughout the stratigraphy. Both groups can be affected by apparent S loss in the form of pyrite being converted to magnetite and chalcopyrite to a Cu-Fe-oxide (delafossite), with little to no silicate alteration. An upward trend from pentlandite-rich to pyrrhotite-rich to pyrite-rich assemblages is observed in the footwall rocks in upper GN-I, and the same trend repeats from just below the reef and continues into the overlying N-II and GN-II. Modeling suggests that the sulfide Ni in the Peridotite Zone is largely controlled by silicate Ni. When taken together, observations are most readily explained by the remobilization of selected elements by a high-temperature fluid with the apparent loss of S > Cu > Ni. This could concentrate ore metals by vapor refining, eventually producing a platinum group element-enriched sulfide ore zone, such as the J-M reef.
Aird, HM; Ferguson, KM; Lehrer, ML; Boudreau, AE
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