In this study, we reassess crustal contamination and sulfide ore-forming processes in some of the largest magmatic ore deposits, using published Re-Os isotope data and a modeling methodology that incorporates the R factor, defined as the effective mass of silicate magma with which a given mass of sulfide magma has equilibrated, in an Re-Os isotope mixing equation. We show that there is less disparity between conclusions based on Re-Os isotope data compared to other isotopic systems if the R factor is considered, Komatiite-associated Ni sulfide ore systems typically have high Os concentrations, low Re/Os ratios, and near-chondritic initial Os isotope compositions. For magmatic sulfide ores that are interpreted to have experienced relatively low R factors (<500), such as those at Kambalda, this severely limits the amount of wholesale crustal contamination as well as selective contamination of komatiitic magma by sedimentary sulfide components. The Re-Os geochemistry of these ores is most consistent with derivation from uncontaminated komatiites unless R factors are much higher (>2,000). Sulfide saturation in these ore systems may, therefore, have been achieved via changes in intensive parameters of the komatiite lavas (cooling or decompression) or changes in compositional parameters transparent to the Re-Os isotope system (e.g., fo2/fs2/fH2O)- Basalt-gabbro-associated Cu-Ni sulfide ore systems at Duluth, Sudbury, and Stillwater are quite distinct from those at Kambalda by having comparatively low Os concentrations, high Re/Os ratios, and high initial Os isotope compositions, These chemical and isotopic characteristics are indicative of significant interactions between their parental basaltic magmas and old crust because there are no known mantle reservoirs with such extreme geocheinical characteristics. Our modeling suggests that for Cu-Ni sulfide ores at Duluth, Sudbury, and Stillwater to maintain the observed high initial Os isotope compositions inherited from a crustal contaminant, R factors for these systems must have been low (< 10,000), consistent with their low metal concentrations. Thus, we interpret this style of base metal sulfide mineralization to be derived from crustally contaminated but less dynamic magmatic systems that did not permit extensive equilibration of sulfide magma with silicate magma, For basalt-gabbro-associated Cu-Ni-PGE-rich sulfide ore systems that have Re-Os geochemical characteristics more similar to those associated with komatiites, R factors must have been high (??? 10,000 for Noril'sk-Talnakh and the J-M reef, Stillwater Complex). In these very dynamic magmatic ore systems, crustal contamination processes are more difficult to assess using Re-Os isotopes as the effects of contamination are masked by the R factor process in which sulfide magma equilibrates with extensive amounts of asthenospheric mantle-derived magma. Sulfide protore for these systems may, then, have been very radiogenic and of crustal origin prior to R factor processes that occurred during transport in feeder conduits and in upper crustal magma chambers. This study, therefore, highlights the need for caution when interpreting the Re-Os isotope geochemistry of sulfide ores from dynamic magmatic systems. The results of our reinvestigation of these giant ore deposits suggest that geodynamic processes associated with large magmatic systems, including major lithospheric pathways to the surface, changes in flow regime, coupled magma flow-through and magma mixing (providing enhanced R factors), may be critical to our understanding of the emplacement, localization, and quality of magmatic sulfide deposits. Thus, the timing and exact mechanism of sulfide saturation may be subordinate to dynamic magmatic processes in the localization of economic concentrations of magmatic sulfides.
Additional publication details
Geodynamics of magmatic Cu-Ni-PGE sulfide deposits: new insights from the Re-Os isotope system