Precious metal enrichment in the Platreef, Bushveld Complex, South Africa: evidence from homogenized magmatic sulfide melt inclusions

D. A. Holwell, I. McDonald, I. B. Butler

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Magmatic sulfide deposits are the most significant source of platinum-group elements (PGE) in the world. Key to understanding their genesis is determining the processes and timing of sulfide saturation, metal enrichment and crustal contamination. In this study, we have identified droplets of magmatic sulfide from the Platreef, South Africa, where droplets of sulfide have been trapped in the earliest crystallising phase, chromite. Due to their early entrapment at high temperatures, metal concentrations and ratios that they display are indicative of a very early-stage sulfide liquid in the system, as they will have cooled and fractionated within an essentially closed system, unlike interstitial blebs that crystallise in an open system as the magma cools. Analysis of these droplets in an opaque mineral like chromite by LA-ICP-MS is problematic as some of the fractionated inclusion is necessarily lost during cutting and polishing to initially identify the inclusion. This particularly affects the ability to representatively sample the most fractionated phases such as gold and platinum minerals. Here, using a novel technique whereby the inclusions are homogenized and quickly quenched, so that any cutting, polishing and subsequent LA-ICP-MS analysis samples a truly representative portion of the droplet. This has been used to show that early sulfide liquids in the Platreef were highly PGE-rich and had Pt/Pd ratios of close to unity that supports genetic models invoking sulfide saturation and metal enrichment prior to intrusion, with pre-enriched sulfides entrained within the Platreef magma.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1011-1026
Number of pages16
JournalContributions to Mineralogy and Petrology
Issue number6
Early online date10 Sep 2010
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2011


  • Sulfide inclusions
  • Platinum-group elements
  • Laser-ablation ICP-MS
  • Platreef
  • Bushveld Complex

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