Nickel laterites are supergene deposits derived from the weathering of ± serpentinized ultramafic rocks and they commonly accounts for over 70% of world land-based Ni resources. Serpentinized ultramafic rocks outcrop extensively in Iran as result of collision between Afro-Arabian and Iranian micro-plate during the Late Cretaceous. Two Ni-bearing laterite belts developed on the ultramafic rocks of the Neyriz ophiolite have been recently discovered in the Bavanat region (South Iran). The Chah-Gheib deposit, as the biggest Ni-bearing laterite in the Bavanat area, hosts a total estimated reserve mineralization of about 102,000 tons of ore at 0.92% Ni and 180,000 tons at 1.63% Cr. This study focuses on elemental fractionation and mineralogical control of major, trace and rare earth elements in a selected profile from the Chah-Gheib Ni-laterite, in order to assess the conditions of ore formation and its paleo-environmental significance. Four distinct horizons, including saprolite, lower limonite, upper limonite, and lateritic duricrust, have been recognized from the bottom to the top of the studied profile. Iron oxy-hydroxides are the dominant phases found in the laterite profile. Overall, Fe and other first raw transition metals (i.e. Cr, Ni, V, Co, Cu, and Zn) show abundances higher than those of the bedrock. The main Fe and Cr carriers in the laterite deposit are Fe oxyhydroxides and chromite, respectively, although authigenic Ni- and Cr-bearing palygorskite is also common throughout the profile. Elemental mobility, estimated using Th as immobile element, showed that the major oxides are largely depleted with the exception of Fe 2 O and CaO. Among trace elements, Cr is the element resulting strongly enriched in those levels where large chromite crystals occurs while V, Co, Ni, and Zn are enriched only in some levels of the upper limonite horizon and in the lateritic duricrust, likely as adsorbed cations onto iron oxy-hydroxides and as a consequence of an alkaline pH environment. Alkaline pH conditions can also explain the Cu depletion observed throughout the profile. Such a condition during lateritization appears further supported by both the occurrence of carbonates and palygorskite and by the distribution of the Ba/Sr ratio. Carbonates and palygorskite, as well as secondary quartz, require dry climate to form and alternating wet-dry climate may allow lateritization. This study suggests that the Chah-Gheib laterite formed in a subtropical climate, possibly during the Late Cretaceous-Late Paleocene period, in a roughly 25°–35° latitude range, promoting Si and Mg mobilization during the wet season and carbonates, quartz, and Mg-rich silicate precipitation during the drier periods.

Mineralization and element redistribution in the Chah-Gheib Ni-laterite ore zone, Bavanat, Zagros Belt, Iran

Giovanni Mongelli
Writing – Original Draft Preparation
;
Rosa Sinisi;
2019

Abstract

Nickel laterites are supergene deposits derived from the weathering of ± serpentinized ultramafic rocks and they commonly accounts for over 70% of world land-based Ni resources. Serpentinized ultramafic rocks outcrop extensively in Iran as result of collision between Afro-Arabian and Iranian micro-plate during the Late Cretaceous. Two Ni-bearing laterite belts developed on the ultramafic rocks of the Neyriz ophiolite have been recently discovered in the Bavanat region (South Iran). The Chah-Gheib deposit, as the biggest Ni-bearing laterite in the Bavanat area, hosts a total estimated reserve mineralization of about 102,000 tons of ore at 0.92% Ni and 180,000 tons at 1.63% Cr. This study focuses on elemental fractionation and mineralogical control of major, trace and rare earth elements in a selected profile from the Chah-Gheib Ni-laterite, in order to assess the conditions of ore formation and its paleo-environmental significance. Four distinct horizons, including saprolite, lower limonite, upper limonite, and lateritic duricrust, have been recognized from the bottom to the top of the studied profile. Iron oxy-hydroxides are the dominant phases found in the laterite profile. Overall, Fe and other first raw transition metals (i.e. Cr, Ni, V, Co, Cu, and Zn) show abundances higher than those of the bedrock. The main Fe and Cr carriers in the laterite deposit are Fe oxyhydroxides and chromite, respectively, although authigenic Ni- and Cr-bearing palygorskite is also common throughout the profile. Elemental mobility, estimated using Th as immobile element, showed that the major oxides are largely depleted with the exception of Fe 2 O and CaO. Among trace elements, Cr is the element resulting strongly enriched in those levels where large chromite crystals occurs while V, Co, Ni, and Zn are enriched only in some levels of the upper limonite horizon and in the lateritic duricrust, likely as adsorbed cations onto iron oxy-hydroxides and as a consequence of an alkaline pH environment. Alkaline pH conditions can also explain the Cu depletion observed throughout the profile. Such a condition during lateritization appears further supported by both the occurrence of carbonates and palygorskite and by the distribution of the Ba/Sr ratio. Carbonates and palygorskite, as well as secondary quartz, require dry climate to form and alternating wet-dry climate may allow lateritization. This study suggests that the Chah-Gheib laterite formed in a subtropical climate, possibly during the Late Cretaceous-Late Paleocene period, in a roughly 25°–35° latitude range, promoting Si and Mg mobilization during the wet season and carbonates, quartz, and Mg-rich silicate precipitation during the drier periods.
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Utilizza questo identificativo per citare o creare un link a questo documento: https://hdl.handle.net/11563/138539
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