In the Great Dyke mafic/ultramafic layered intrusion of Zimbabwe, economic concentrations of platinum-group elements (PGE) are restricted to sulfide disseminations in pyroxenites of the Main Sulfide Zone (MSZ). Oxidized ores near the surface constitute a resource of ca. 400 Mt. Mining of this ore type has so far been hampered due to insufficient recovery rates. During the oxidation/weathering of the pristine ores, most notably, S and Pd are depleted, whereas Cu and Au are enriched. The concentrations of most other elements (including the other PGE) remain quite constant. In the oxidized MSZ, PGE occur in different modes: (1) as relict primary PGM (mainly sperrylite, cooperite, and braggite), (2) in solid solution in relict sulfides (dominantly Pd in pentlandite, up to 6,500 ppm Pd and 450 ppm Pt), (3) as secondary PGM neoformations (i. e., Pt-Fe alloy and zvyagintsevite), (4) as PGE oxides/hydroxides that replace primary PGM as the result of oxidation, (5) hosted in weathering products, i. e., iron oxides/hydroxides (up to 3,600 ppm Pt and 3,100 ppm Pd), manganese oxides/hydroxides (up to 1.6 wt.% Pt and 1,150 ppm Pd), and in secondary phyllosilicates (up to a few hundred ppm Pt and Pd). In the oxidized MSZ, most of the Pt and Pd are hosted by relict primary and secondary PGM; subordinate amounts are found in iron and manganese oxides/hydroxides. The amount of PGE hosted in solid solution in sulfides is negligible. Considerable local variations in the distribution of PGE in the oxidized ores complicate a mineralogical balance. Experiments to evaluate the PGE recovery from oxidized MSZ ore show that using physical concentration techniques (i. e., electric pulse disaggregation, hydroseparation, and magnetic separation), the PGE are preferentially concentrated into smaller grain size fractions by a factor of 2. Highest PGE concentrations occur in the volumetrically insignificant magnetic fraction. This indicates that a physical preconcentration of PGE is not feasible and that chemical, bulk-leaching methods need to be developed in order to successfully recover PGE from oxidized MSZ ore.
Bibliographical noteErratum can be found in Mineralium Deposita, Volume 45(1), 111,
- Great Dyke
- main sulfide zone
- PGE oxides
- platinum-group minerals