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Mechanisms of Ni-Co enrichment in paleo-karstic bauxite deposits: An example from the Maochang deposit, Guizhou Province, SW China TEXT SIZE: A A A

Many paleo-karstic bauxite deposits contain elevated concentrations of Ni and Co. It has been known that Co and Ni are dominantly hosted in sulfides, but it remains unclear how Ni and Co were incorporated into sulfides and what kind of physiochemical conditions were involved. The Maochang bauxite deposit, as one of the large Ni -and Co-bearing paleo-karstic bauxite deposits in Guizhou Province, southwest China, was selected to tackle these questions. Detailed mineralogical and sulfur isotopic analyses using integrated EBSD, EPMA, LA-ICPMS, and LA-MC-ICPMS methods revealed three stages of sulfide mineralization: stage I with pyrite (PyI), stage II with pyrite (PyII), millerite, sphalerite, chalcopyrite and violarite, and stage III with pyrite (PyIII), chalcopyrite and galena. The fine-grained, euhedral PyI has up to 0.79 wt% Ni and up to 0.53 wt% Co. In contrast, PyII, which replaced or overgrew PyI, exhibits high but variable Ni, Co and As contents, and is further divided into three sub-types: Ni-rich PyII-a (up to 16.54 wt% Ni, 0.94 wt% Co, and 0.38 wt% As) and PyII-b (up to 3.30 wt% Ni, 1.41 wt% Co, and 0.36 wt% As), and Co-rich PyII-c (up to 0.99 wt% Ni, 7.57 wt% Co, and 1.81 wt% As). PyIII is Ni-and Co-poor. Ni increases from PyI to PyIIa and PyIIb, and then decreases to PyIIc and PyIII, whereas Co remains at similar levels for PyI, PyIIa and PyIIb, significantly increases to PyIIc, and then drops abruptly to PyIII. 834SV-CDT values vary dramatically from negative values for PyI (-6.9 to -16.6%0) to positive values for PyII-b (+19.4 to +22.8%0), sphalerite (+17.2 to +19.7%0), and PyIII (+25.3 to +32.3%0). Based on these results, and considering that the protoliths of the bauxites were likely Ni-and Co-rich black shales according to previous studies, a four-step model is proposed to explain the enrichment of Ni and Co in the bauxites: 1) during weathering and bauxite formation on the surface, Ni and Co were leached from the black shale together with sulfate; the metals were dissolved in the solution and partly adsorbed by Fe-oxides/hydroxides under moderate to high fO2; 2) during early diagenesis, the sulfate was partially reduced to sulfide via the bacterial sulfate reduction (BSR) process and formed PyI; much of the Ni and Co, together with sulfate, remained in the solution; 3) with increasing burial, temperature increased and fO2 decreased, and the remaining sulfate (with elevated 834SV-CDT) was reduced to sulfide via the same BSR process and formed PyII; Ni was largely consumed and incorporated into PyIIa and PyIIb, whereas Co remained in the solution until precipitation of PyIIc; 4) by the time of PyIII precipitation, both Ni and Co had been taken by PyII, leaving a Ni-and Co-poor solution and PyIII. Step 1 occurred in a relatively open system, whereas steps 2-4 likely occurred in a closed system.

Publication name

 Chemical Geology, Volume 613, Article Number 121161, DOI 10.1016/j.chemgeo.2022.121161, Published DEC 20 2022


 Wang, Yufei; Wang, Zhilin; Chi, Guoxiang; Lu, Anhuai; Xu, Deru; Huang, Zhilong; Zou, Shaohao; Deng, Teng; Peng, Erke; LLong, Yongzhen

Corresponding author(s) 

 Wang, Zhilin
 Cent South Univ, Sch Geosci & Info Phys, Key Lab Metallogen Predict Nonferrous Met & Geol E, Minist Educ, Changsha 410083, Peoples R China

Author(s) from IGCAS   Huang, Zhilong

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