At temperatures prevailing near the Earth's surface, metastable co-existence of chemical substances is common because chemical reactions that would directly lead to the attainment of thermody-namically most stable equilibria are often blocked by high activation energy barriers. The persistency of a metastable assemblage is then governed by alternative reaction paths that provide lower activation energy barriers. Comparison of observed mineral assemblages in the supergene oxidized and enriched sulfide ores with corresponding stability Eh-pH diagrams reveals that the supergene assemblages are mostly metastable due primarily to the persistency of sulfide minerals beyond stability boundaries. A new set of diagrams called persistency-field Eh-pH diagrams has been constructed for binary metal sulfides on the basis of electrochemical and other experimental data. Each diagram delineates the persistency field, which is a combined field of thermodynamic stability and reaction path-controlled metastability, for a specific sulfide mineral. When applied to the supergene assemblages, these new diagrams show much better correspondence to the field observations. Although there may still be room for further refinement, the new diagrams appear to provide a strong visual aid to the understanding of the behavior of sulfide minerals in the supergene conditions. ?? 1992.
Additional publication details
Persistency-field Eh-pH diagrams for sulfides and their application to supergene oxidation and enrichment of sulfide ore bodies