Abstract

Australia's nickel sulfide industry has had a fluctuating history since the discovery in 1966 of massive sulfides at Kambalda in the Eastern Goldfields of Western Australia. Periods of buoyant nickel prices and high demand, speculative exploration, and frenetic investment (the 'nickel boom' years) have been interspersed by protracted periods of relatively depressed metal prices, exploration inactivity, and low discovery rates. Despite this unpredictable evolution, the industry has had a significant impact on the world nickel scene with Australia having a global resource of nickel metal from sulfide ores of not, vert, similar 12.9 Mt, five world-class deposits (> 1 Mt contained Ni), and a production status of number three after Russia and Canada. More than 90% of the nation's known global resources of nickel metal from sulfide sources were discovered during the relative short period of 1966 to 1973. Australia's nickel sulfide deposits are associated with ultramafic and/or mafic igneous rocks in three major geotectonic settings: (1) Archean komatiites emplaced in rift zones of granite-greenstone belts; (2) Precambrian tholeiitic mafic-ultramafic intrusions emplaced in rift zones of Archean cratons and Proterozoic orogens; and (3) hydrothermal-remobilized deposits of various ages and settings. The komatiitic association is economically by far the most important, accounting for more than 95% of the nation's identified nickel sulfide resources. The ages of Australian komatiitic- and tholeiitic-hosted deposits generally correlate with three major global-scale nickel-metallogenic events at not, vert, similar 3000 Ma, not, vert, similar 2700 Ma, and not, vert, similar 1900 Ma. These events are interpreted to correspond to periods of juvenile crustal growth and the development of large volumes of primitive komatiitic and tholeiitic magmas caused by large-scale mantle overturn and mantle plume activities. There is considerable potential for the further discovery of komatiite-hosted deposits in Archean granite-greenstone terranes including both large, and smaller high-grade (5 to 9% Ni) deposits, that may be enriched in PGEs (2 to 5 g/t), especially where the host ultramafic sequences are poorly exposed. Analysis of the major komatiite provinces of the world reveals that fertile komatiitic sequences are generally of late Archean (not, vert, similar 2700 Ma) or Paleoproterozoic (not, vert, similar 1900 Ma) age, have dominantly Al-undepleted (Al2O3/TiO2 = 15 to 25) chemical affinities, and often occur with sulfur-bearing country rocks in dynamic high-magma-flux environments, such as compound sheet flows with internal pathways facies (Kambalda-type) or dunitic compound sheet flow facies (Mt Keith-type). Most Precambrian provinces in Australia, particularly the Proterozoic orogenic belts, contain an abundance of sulfur-saturated tholeiitic mafic ± ultramafic intrusions that have not been fully investigated for their potential to host basal Ni-Cu sulfides (Voisey's Bay-type mineralization). The major exploration challenges for finding these deposits are to determine the pre-deformational geometries and younging directions of the intrusions, and to locate structural depressions in the basal contacts and feeder conduits under cover. Stratabound PGE-Ni-Cu ± Cr deposits hosted by large Archean-Proterozoic layered mafic-ultramafic intrusions (Munni Munni, Panton) of tholeiitic affinity have comparable global nickel resources to many komatiite deposits, but low-grades (< 0.2% Ni). There are also hydrothermal nickel sulfide deposits, including the unusual Avebury deposit in western Tasmania, and some potential for 'Noril'sk-type' Ni-Cu-PGE deposits associated with major flood basaltic provinces in western and northern Australia.
Google map showing geographic bounding box with values North bound -9.0 East bound 156.0 West bound 110.0 South bound -44.0
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Product Type/Sub Type

dataset - External Publication - Scientific Journal Paper

Constraints

license
Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Australia Licence

IP Owner

Commonwealth of Australia (Geoscience Australia)

Author(s)

Date (publication)

2006

Product Type

dataset

Topic Category

geoscientificInformation

Keywords

External Publication
Scientific Journal Paper
Earth Sciences

Resource Language

English

Resource Character Set

utf8

Resource Security Classification

unclassified

Geographic Extent

North bound
-9.0
East bound
156.0
West bound
110.0
South bound
-44.0

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Unknown

Digital Transfer Options

onLine

Distributor

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distributor
Organisation Name
Geoscience Australia
City
Canberra
Administrative Area
ACT
Postal Code
2601
Country
Australia
Email Address

Metadata File Identifier

a05f7892-fa9b-7506-e044-00144fdd4fa6

Metadata Standard Name

ANZLIC Metadata Profile: An Australian/New Zealand Profile of AS/NZS ISO 19115:2005, Geographic information - Metadata

Metadata Standard Version

1.1

Metadata Date Stamp

2010-11-16

METADATA SECURITY CLASSIFICATION

unclassified

Metadata Contact

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pointOfContact
Organisation Name
Geoscience Australia
City
Canberra
Administrative Area
ACT
Postal Code
2601
Country
Australia
Email Address
Related Links
For information on acquiring this product,
please contact the Geoscience Australia Sales Centre via:

fax:
+61 2 6249 9960; or
phone:
1800 800 173 (within Australia);
 
+61 2 6249 9966 (outside Australia).

Please note that support hours are 9 am to 5 pm weekdays