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Rapid crystallization of precious-metal-mineralized layers in mafic magmatic systems


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The solidified remnants of mafic magmatic systems host the greatest concentrations of platinum-group metals in the Earth’s crust. Our understanding of precious-metal mineralization in these intrusive bodies is underpinned by a traditional view of magma chamber processes and crystal mush solidification. However, considerable uncertainty remains regarding the physical and temporal controls on concentrating these critical metals, despite their importance to modern society. We present high-precision 87Sr/86Sr analyses of plagioclase and clinopyroxene from within centimetre-thick precious-metal-enriched layers in the Palaeogene open-system Rum layered intrusion (northwest Scotland). Isotopic heterogeneity is present between plagioclase crystals, between clinopyroxene and plagioclase and within plagioclase crystals throughout the studied section. On the basis of these observations, we demonstrate that platinum-group element mineralization formed by repeated small-volume reactive melt percolation events. The preservation of strontium isotope heterogeneities at 10–100?µm length scales implies cooling of the melts that formed the precious-metal-rich layers occurred at rates greater than 1?°C per year, and cooling to diffusive closure within tens to hundreds of years. Our data highlight the importance of cyclic dissolution–recrystallization events within the crystal mush and raise the prospect that precious-metal-bearing mafic intrusions may form by repeated self-intrusion during cooling and solidification.

Acceptance Date Mar 9, 2020
Publication Date Apr 13, 2020
Journal Nature Geoscience
Print ISSN 1752-0894
Publisher Nature Publishing Group
Keywords Economic geology; Geochemistry; Scientific community; Solid Earth sciences
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