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Program Studi Teknik Pertambangan,

Universitas Hasanuddin

Nickel production from laterite ore has increased

significantly, as illustration, in 1950, Ni was only
produced as many as 10 % and in 2003 the Ni
production has reached 42 % of total global
production. In 2012, its estimated that Ni
production will reach 51 % (Dalvi et al, 2004).
The majority of Ni production are used in
stainless steel (~65 %), and small amount are
utilized in making rechargeable batteries and
Faktor-faktor yang mempengaruhi
pembentukan endapan Laterit Ni

The occurrence and distribution of Ni laterite

deposits are controlled by :
Bedrocks lithology
Tectonic/structural geology
There is no single factor that is dominant to
influence the development of Ni laterite in a
Characteristic lithology that affect to
development of Ni laterite deposits are
mineralogic composition of ultramafic
rocks, textures, porosity, and degree of
Olivine-rich rocks (peridotite or dunite) are
only suitable for source of Ni laterite
Comparison of Ni laterite profiles developed on serpentinized peridotite
dunite and unserp. Peridotite dunite.
Topography plays an important role in the
formation of Ni laterite deposits, in relation to
structure, drainage and water table position :
In areas of high relief (low water table), zones of
highest enrichment are located on upper hill slope,
crests, plateau and/or terraces. Such situations are
sites for high grade hydrous silicate deposits like
Indonesia and New Caledonia.
In areas of low relief, drainage is impeded, and water
table is high. The reduced water flow slows the
leaching rate and removal of weathering solution.
These conditions are suitable for low grade smectite
deposits formation or oxides type such as Murin-
murin and Cawse, Australia.
Deposits Classification in relation to topography

In the local/deposit scale, Ni laterite may be

classified into 3 types according to their
topographic setting (Elias, 2002):
Plateau Deposits are affected by active drainage
process but less erosion.
Slope Deposits are affected more by erosion and
oxide zone is poorly developed or absent.
Terrace Deposits are relics of earlier peneplains or
erosion surfaces and indicate a temporary stop of
tectonic uplift.
Tektonik dan Struktur
Ni laterite can develop over ultramafic complexes from
Pelaeozoic to Recent time in both accretionary and
cratonic terranes.
Tectonic uplift can enhances relief and lowers waters
In the local or mine scale ; thickness, grades and ore
types are considerably influenced by fractures, faults,
and shear zones.
The effect of structures in ultramafic weathering are not
only passive but also tectonic reactivation can cause the
increase of Ni grades by re-precipitation Ni deposits that
previously formed.
Climate mainly temperature and rainfall play an
important role in the formation of Ni laterite deposits.
Most deposits are formed in savanna (e.g., New
Caledonia, Cuba) or humid tropical (rainforest) climates
(e.g., Colombia, Indonesia).
Temperature affects the types and chemical reaction
rate while the water influences in the chemical process
and physical erosion.
There are also deposits that were found in other climate
regimes. For examples in temperate area : e.g., Ural &
USA or in semi-arid like Central and Western Australia.
But they were possibly formed in the humid tropical-
subtropical climate Mesozoic to Mid Tertiary age.
The distribution of Ni-bearing rocks has exposed since the
Lower Cretaceous such as cratonic rocks in Australia, Ural,
Northern America, and Balkan.
In Greece, laterite developed over ophiolite complexes of
Jurassic to Cretaceous times.
Devonian Serpentinite in Ural was inferred to undergo
weathering in Upper Triassic time and was buried in Mid
In Mid Miocene, slow weathering occurred in Yilgarn
Craton (Australia) due to the change of climate from
tropical to semi-arid, while in Ural the weathering ceased in
Oligocene age.
The weathering continues in tropical areas such as Africa,
South America, and the appearing of some islands in
Caribia and West Pacific (New Caledonia, Philippine, and
Indonesia). Ni laterite deposits in these areas forms
The main period of Ni Laterite Formation
The illustration shows some variables influencing
the regolith formation (Taylor & Eggleton, 2001)
Summary of control on nickel laterite formation

Variable Silicate Clay Oxide

Climate Savanna rain Savanna or Savanna or

forest modified in semi modified in semi
arid climates. arid climates.

Relief High Low High and low

Drainage Free Impeded Free & Impeded
Tectonism Promoted by uplift Probably inhibited Promoted by uplift

Primary Structure Promoted by increased weathering & Ni enrichment along

Open fractures
Primary Lithology Peridotite>dunite Peridotite>>dunite Dunite & Peridotite
Formation mechanism and its modification

Some common conditions that apply to all

deep lateritic regolith :
Long periods of tectonic stability
Moderate relief
Humid tropical to subtropical climate.
Direct formation under rainforest and humid
savanna with high relief
Typical Ni laterite formation of this situation is
found in Sulawesi. Stronger relief cause the high
erosion rate, however its offset by rapid
weathering. On the hills and slopes, water table
remains at or below the weathering front.
Olivine is the first mineral to weather, and its
hydrolysis results in the leaching of Mg and
some Si, precipitating poorly crystalline Fe-
oxides and less Fe-smecite. The possible
reactions are follow :
(Fe,Mg)2SiO4 + 5H H4SiO4 (aq) + FeOOH + Mg2+
olivine silicic acid goethite

4 Fe2SiO4 + 8 H+ + 4 O2 Fe2Si4O10(OH)2 + 6 FeO(OH)

(fayalite) (Fe-smectite) (goethite)

Mg2SiO4 + 2 H+ SiO2 + 2 Mg2+ + H2O

(forsterite) (quartz)

Fe2SiO4 + 2H+ + O2 SiO2 + 2 FeO(OH)

(fayalite) (quartz) (goethite)
Hydrolysis of pyroxene and serpentine begins after
olivine has disappeared, the products commonly being
smectites and Fe-oxides :
2(MgFe)2Si2O5(OH)4 + 3H2O Mg3Si4O10(OH)2.4H2O +
serpentine saponite
2Mg2+ + FeO(OH) + 3OH-
Nickel released by weathering of olivine and serpentine
is mainly retained in the profile, mostly co-precipitated
with goethite and some hosted by saponite.
Thick vegetation and organic soils produce lower pH
solution, resulting dissolved goethite and leached Ni :
FeOOH(Ni)(OH)2 + 2H+ FeOOH + Ni2+ + 2H2O
Goethite (Ni)
The released Ni is transported deeper into the profile to
form some granierites and other secondary hydrous Mg
Mn-oxides also concentrate in the lower horizon of
limonite, coprecipitating with Ni and Co.
The released Ni may also substitute for Mg in serpentine
to form partly weathered serpentine :
Mg3Si2O5(OH)4 + Ni2+ Mg2NiSi2O5(OH)4 + Mg2+
Lizardite Nickeloan lizardite
These processes result in deposits having oxide and
hydrous silicate components.
Direct formation under rainforest and humid
savanna with moderate to low relief
In the areas of low relief water table is high with
seasonal fluctuation. Rate of erosion is slow and tectonic
is stable. This situation produce thick regolith because
water flow is slow.
Weathering tend to slow and form ferrugenous materials.
However, on the top of oxide horizon, seasonal
saturation and dehydration cause nodule formation,
replacement of goethite by hematite, and development of
highly ferruginous duricrust.
Ni concentration is largely residual and confined to the
oxide zones.
Evolution of oxide deposit to hydrous Mg silicate deposits following
uplift (top) in humid savanna climate and to siliceous oxide deposits
(bottom) in semi arid climate
Schematic the formation of Ni ore in laterite profile over the ultramafic
rocks (Darjanto, 2000).

CO2-rich rainwater from atmosphere

-Less leaching of limonite zone in rainy season

-Evaporation and precipitation of Si and Al during the summer.
LIMONITE -Residual concentration of Fe and Cr.
ZONE (Fe-hydroxide, Al hydroxide, Clay minerals, Mn-hydroxide+Co, Cr-Spinel
-Raising of water table due to capillary action
Decreasing of LEACHING ZONE Increasing of
Ni, Mg, and Si Silicate containing Ni break down Ni,Mg, and Si
Bearing solution Bearing Solution
Mg, Si, and Ni are dissolved
SAPROLITE Reprecipitation partly of Ni, Mg, and Si in fractures
ZONE e.g., ganierite and crysoprase.

BED Some of Mg reprecipitate in bedrock fractures;

ROCK e.g., garnierite, serpentine Peridotite-Serpentinite


Ultramafic Rock
Implikasinya terhadap eksplorasi Ni
Morphological analysis should be carried out in order to
define landscape that favorable for development of Ni
Lithologic variation (olivine and pyroxene compositions),
including serpentinization degree should be mapped with
suitable scale.
Structures and tectonic deformation are very important role
in weathering process so that they are necessary to
delineate acurately.
Due to many factors controlling the Ni laterite formation
result in very heterogenous ore zones both in laterally and
vertically. Therefore its need to collect huge samples for
In detail exploration, it is commonly applied to take
samples (core drilling) with spacing between 50 to 100 m
(Ahmad, 2005).
Ni laterite deposit is only derived from olivine-
rich rocks (peridotite and dunite) and its
derivative, serpentinite.
On the basis of its topography, Ni laterite deposit
is divided into three types : plateau, slope, and
terrace deposits.
Structures mainly fault and joint/fracture may
enhance the leaching process and weathering
intensity. They can also contribute for
precipitating rooms of nickel silicate (garnierite).