©2013 Society of Economic Geologists, Inc.

Economic Geology, v. 108, pp. 337–354

Deformed Chromitite Layers in the Coobina Intrusion, Pilbara Craton,
Western Australia*
1 CSIRO Earth Science and Resource Engineering, 26 Dick Perry Avenue, Kensington, Perth, Western Australia 6151
2 Consolidated Minerals Pty. Ltd., Perth, Western Australia

The Archean Coobina intrusion contains a number of tectonically dislocated and folded chromitite seams
within a strongly deformed ultramafic-mafic layered intrusion. The intrusion consists of predominantly ser-
pentinized olivine cumulates, overlain by gabbroic rocks. The entire sequence, along with the overlying green-
stone belt sediments and volcanic rocks, shows evidence for multiple episodes of ductile deformation and a
later phase of shearing associated with the Capricorn orogen. This history has resulted in isoclinal folding and
boudinage of the chromite layers and disruption of original lateral continuity. This deformation appears to have
been accommodated by micrometer-scale microshears within the massive chromitites rather than by penetra-
tive fabric development. The Coobina chromitites have compositions at the more Cr-rich end of the range ob-
served in layered intrusions worldwide. Chrome contents and Cr/Al ratios are indicative of a parent magma of
komatiitic affinity. Mg/Fe ratios vary unsystematically and have probably been modified by varying degrees of
subsolidus exchange of Mg and Fe with surrounding olivine-rich cumulates. Chromitites are consistently Pt
and Pd poor, have typical 100-ppb levels of Ru and Ir, and show no systematic relationship to stratigraphy or
major element chromite chemistry. The lack of Pt and Pd enrichment is attributed to formation from uniformly
S-undersaturated magmas, consistent with evidence for high temperatures of formation. Crystal sizes in the
Coobina chromites show linear trends on crystal-size distribution plots. Such trends are considered to be char-
acteristic of homogeneous populations of growing crystals. There is no evidence of grain-size sorting that might
be expected from crystal settling processes, and a mechanism of in situ nucleation and growth is inferred.
Chromite seams are interpreted as the result of magma-mixing processes during magma chamber recharge, but
with mixing taking place entirely between olivine-saturated magmas, accounting for the lack of pyroxene-bear-
ing cumulates in the sequence, and the higher than usual Cr/Al ratios.

Introduction individual chromite seams through the strongly folded, sheared,
THE ARCHEAN Coobina intrusion is a deformed layered intru- and disrupted ultramafic body. Typically one chromite seam
sion located within the Archean Sylvania inlier in the Pilbara in a layered intrusion looks much like another, and the com-
region of Western Australia (Fig. 1). It contains a number of position of the chromite itself does not always vary substan-
tectonically dislocated and folded chromitite seams within a tially between seams. However, detailed studies of chromite
strongly deformed ultramafic-mafic layered intrusion. These seams in both the Bushveld and Stillwater have shown that
seams have been mined since 2002 by Consolidated Minerals particular seams can be distinctive in specific features such as
Ltd. in numerous small pits and the current JORC compliant chromite composition and platinum group element (PGE)
resource (for the Newlands and Wrights deposits) is 1.5 mil- contents, in particular the ratio of Pt + Pd to Ir + Ru + Rh
lion metric tons (Mt) at 29.4% Cr (as at 30 June, 2011). Fur- (Scoon and Teigler, 1994; Naldrett et al., 2009, 2011). This
ther drilling is required to establish JORC compliant re- contribution describes the results of a comprehensive sam-
sources for the other pits. pling and analytical program designed to fingerprint the
Coobina is the only economic chromite deposit in Australia Coobina seams and to evaluate the structural history, mag-
and is a rare example of a chromite-bearing intrusion in- matic evolution, and geochemical affinity of the host intrusion.
truded into an Archean greenstone belt. In this respect it has Regional Geology
similarities with the komatiite-associated chromite deposits of
the Zimbabwean craton (Prendergast, 2008) and the Black- The Coobina chromite mine is located in the southern Pil-
bird deposit of northeastern Ontario, but the 1- to 2-m thick- bara, about 50 km southeast of Newman (Fig. 1), within the
ness of the seams and the range of chromite compositions is Sylvania inlier. The chromite is hosted by a large ultramafic
more typical of layered intrusions such as the Great Dyke and intrusion emplaced along the southeastern contact of the Jim-
Stillwater Complex. blebar greenstone belt and foliated granite of the Sylvania
This study was designed to improve the structural model of inlier. The Jimblebar belt comprises low- to medium-grade
the Coobina resource by identifying a method to correlate mafic and ultramafic volcanics, clastic metasediments, cherts,
and banded iron-formation (BIF), intruded by a number of
mafic to ultramafic sills including the Coobina intrusion
† Corresponding author: e-mail, Steve.barnes@csiro.au
(Williams and Tyler, 1991).
**Current address: St Barbara Ltd., Perth, Western Australia.
*A digital supplement to this paper is available at http://economicgeol- A number of regional fold and thrust events have affected this
ogy.org/ and at http://econgeol.geoscienceworld.org/. area during the Archean and Proterozoic, and the Jimblebar
Submitted: February 1, 2012
0361-0128/13/4094/337-18 337 Accepted: May 30, 2012

and an underlying peridotite dominated unit. with the collision and suturing between the southern Pilbara gional younging direction to the north and northwest. 1c). 0361-0128/98/000/000-00 $6. which hosts the vania inlier.338 BARNES AND JONES FIG. The Coobina ultramafic sill is lo.00 338 . through the deformed intrusion. cutting across the stratigraphy. body.. A feeder dike to the ultra- mafic sill extends to the east. Coobina Ultramafic Intrusion Following the regional folding events. The and northern Yilgarn cratons (Cawood and Tyler. 2004. Location map—regional geology of the Sylvania inlier and the Coobina intrusion modified from Williams and Tyler (1991). several hundreds of meters thick. terozoic Capricorn orogeny (ca. greenstone belt now forms a series of stacked north-south. A series of major E-W-trending shears extend chromite lenses. through the region and are probably related to the early Pro- oriented synclines (Fig. 1. Oc- current outcrop at Coobina represents a vertical section chipinti et al. the area was intruded The Coobina ultramafic intrusion comprises a serpentinite by extensive granitic rocks which make up the bulk of the Syl. 2004). 1830−1780 Ma) associated cated on the eastern limb of a major syncline with the re.

The intrusion has been referred The serpentinite is generally massive and locally silicified and to consistently in the literature as the Coobina ultramafic sill. DEFORMED CHROMITITE LAYERS. and Cr sample locations.00 339 . internal company report. structure. An overlying leucogabbro unit is likely to represent the sill-like. internal company report) and S. PILBARA CRATON. 2). uppermost unit of the body. 2. It predominantly comprises NW Prospect 7400000N Finucane East Finucane Finucane Extension Wrights N Wrights S Skywest Blatchfords\ NW Falcon Blatchfords Main Newlands Wedgetail 7399000N N Central 5 Newlands Creek Spinifex Min e le ase 500 m 221000E 222000E Major Dc shears Coobina Ultramafic Sill Undivided greenstone Leucogabbro Upper sedimentary sequence Dc sinistral shears Cr-bearing Serpentinite Basalt Dc dextral shears Peridotite and serpentinite Lower sedimentary sequence with chert D1g-2g thrust faults Undivided granite Younging direction Cr sample locality FIG. WA 339 mapped by B. 0361-0128/98/000/000-00 $6. Geology by Jef- frey (2003. Coobina ultramafic sill with premining Cr seams. Jeffrey (2003. Jones. unpub. the actual geometry of the body as a whole may not be strictly Fig. forms large blocky outcrops in the northern and northwest- and this terminology is retained here whole recognizing that ern parts of the ultramafic body. COOBINA INTRUSION. pit outlines.

to centimeter-scale variation in olivine to terized by tremolite pseudomorphs after original pyroxene chromite ratio (Fig. Unusual parallel chromite-serpentinite layers in Newlands pit. Parallel NE-trending chromite seams in Newlands Creek pit. are present but uncommon. (a). (e). Contin- uous moderately W-dipping chromite seams in the Falcon pit. (f). with original olivines up to 3 and up to 350 m in length (Fig. Primary layering within and around chromite seams in Falcon pit. (d). away from the chromite the ser- oikocrysts. (c). by millimeter. 3a-d). 3e-f).340 BARNES AND JONES serpentine. Poikilitic harzburgites. and chlorite Abundant subparallel chromite lenses are observed and formed as pseudomorphic replacement of dunite. Shearing along steeply dipping chromite seams in Blatchfords Northwest pit. pentinite is massive (Fig. Relic throughout the serpentinite and range from 2 cm to 2 m wide cumulate textures are common. (b). The boundaries of the FIG. Isoclinally folded chromite lenses from Newlands pit. charac. opaques (chromite and magnetite). Primary layering is defined to 4 mm in size (Tyler.00 340 . 1991). 3). 3. 0361-0128/98/000/000-00 $6.

Chromium contents are vari. An anorthositic metagabbro to leucogabbro found along the Coobina D1g structures northern part of the ultramafic body may represent the up. it is not sheared. In this A bedding-parallel foliation (S1g) and isoclinal rootless study the contact was observed to be strongly sheared with in. 2). but Tyler (1991) isoclinal folding associated with strong shearing. and was interpreted as a feeder Coobina D2g structures dike by Tyler (1991) largely on the basis of its geometry. also a well-developed foliation/schistosity parallel to the W-trending moderately S-dipping shear zones. Upright tight to close N-NE-oriented fine-grained pyroxene after olivine (Tyler. (Fig. This fabric (S1g) ap- The northern and southern contacts of the Coobina ultra. a peridotite-dom. Shear the sheared contacts. Large areas of the ultramafic sill S-SW-plunging fold axis that is consistent with measured fold are now obscured by extensive granitic intrusions which dom. and chlorite schist) of the shearing in the Proterozoic Capricorn orogeny (Dc. At Coobina the F2g folds are typically inclined and z-asymme- Chromitite is absent in the peridotite feeder dike. axes in the banded chert (Fig. instead try dominates with vergence to the north. and Tyler. 0. The layer-parallel S1g fabrics most likely formed during be a differentiated part of the Coobina sill. shortening during D2g produced S-SW-plunging folds. WA 341 chromite lenses are sharp to diffuse and massive chromite. 4a). cutting across the stratigraphy (Fig. considered the gabbro to be a much later intrusion. However. NE-trending isoclinal folds and strongly boudinaged chromite ing serpentinite body. with the D1g-3g events denoting rich lenses (comprising 85% chromite) commonly grade into Archean deformation. in the chromite seams and the banded chert is strongly controlled Skywest and Blatchfords areas and parts of the Falcon area by D2g folding. extends up to 10 km boudinage of chromite seams may have predated the D2g to the east. corn orogen-related deformation. siltstone. and the Dc event referring to Capri- zones of disseminated chromite. but in many places the contact is quite rite schist to the west of the Coobina ultramafic sill. may represent a reactivation of the early S1g fabric. b). Abundant quartz veins and pegmatites zones that developed at the margins of the chromite seams are also observed along the contacts. E-SE−W-NW property. 1991). A layer- gradational. to the western and northern contacts. 4c-e). COOBINA INTRUSION. This suggests that the orientation of the nantly steeply dipping and trend northeast. DEFORMED CHROMITITE LAYERS. reoriented during the D2g event. tion is observed in the overlying metasedimentary rocks. Mullion structures are also commonly 0361-0128/98/000/000-00 $6. and sheared (Fig.or funnel-like layered intrusion. 1991). an ultramafic sill with minor chromite Poles to bedding in the banded chert that is located imme- lenses is exposed and may represent the western end of the diately to the west of the ultramafic sill define a moderately Coobina body (Tyler. This unit is F2g folds were produced during this event and the Coobina also generally massive and forms large blocky outcrops where sill is located on the eastern limb of a regional D2g syncline. ported the boundary to be gradational and the leucogabbro to 1991). About 5. Deformation of the Coobina Sill The chromite lenses display a much greater variation in ori- The intrusion is intensely deformed. chromite seams which may have formed during D1g.00 341 . Williams adjacent Jimblebar greenstone belt. The folding events were followed by intense canic rocks (banded chert. ranging from 1. and. There is mafic sill and the surrounding granite are defined by major E. units (Fig.5-km wide. PILBARA CRATON.7. resulting in fold axis calculated for bedding in the adjacent sedimentary complex outcrop patterns. internal company report) originally re. 3). upright the chromite lenses and pods are observed only in the overly. consistent with the leucogabbro representing the parallel schistosity was also noted in the ultramafic unit. pears to be folded about S-SW-trending D2g folds. folds and warps.5 km to the west.3 to 1.2. the seams change orientation to a NW trend and dip A steep NE-oriented foliation (S2g) is best developed in moderately to the south-southwest. 4). 1991). allel foliation (S1g) coinciding with greenschist facies meta- Baxter (1978. boudinaged. is contiguous with the chromite-bearing ultramafic body. with Cr2O3 content ranging from 39 to 44% comprises early D1g. (1975) also considered that some of the bedding-parallel inant dike-like body. Williams and Tyler (1991). The D1g event produced a widespread pervasive layer-par- permost unit of a large sill. stratigraphic level. Bye At the eastern contact or base of the sill. morphism throughout the Jimblebar greenstone belt (Tyler. al- ture cleavage is developed in the granite slightly oblique to though it is now most likely a composite S1g-2g fabric. A strong frac. ous in the adjacent ultramafic units and chromite seams but tight to close S-SW–plunging folds are observed (Fig. It The dominant NE trend of the chromite seams at Coobina contains coarse-grained (up to 1cm) tremolite crystals in a reflects the strong E-SE−W-NW-directed shortening during groundmass of serpentine and chlorite that pseudomorphs the D2g event (Fig. The deformation history able in the lenses. In places. The western contact of the Coobina ultramafic sill is NE-SW shortening during D3g resulted in steep SE-plunging strongly sheared against the metasedimentary and metavol. A NW-younging direc.to 1. Chromite seams are predomi. close uppermost part of the Coobina sill. thrusting and/or isoclinal folding that in some lenses. has gradational contacts with it. Cr/Fe ratios are also highly variable across the produced a variable layer-parallel foliation. unpub. D2g folds are less obvi- inate the Sylvania inlier. at the same folds. folds were noted in the banded chert and interlayered chlo- tensely lineated zones. 1). Chromite seams entations than the banded chert layers but the dominant fold thought to be originally subhorizontal to shallow dipping are axis for the chromite lenses is remarkably similar to the D2g now folded. 4a. representing primary layering in the seams may be related to the D2g event or represent earlier F1g layered intrusion. minor D2g hinge zones as a spaced cleavage that forms an in- Four distinct deformation events have been identified at tense intersection lineation with the bedding planes and bed- Coobina and this paper uses the structural nomenclature of ding-parallel S1g fabrics. This body folding.

5). A stretching and some may have formed during this folding event or dur- lineation (L2g) is observed in places in the chert layers and in ing the earlier D1g shearing (Fig. the leucogabbro near the northern contact with the ultra- mafic body. Isoclinally folded. well developed in the D2g hinge zones (Fig. N-verging folds in chromite seams in the Falcon pit. (c). S-SW-plunging chromite seams in the Newlands pit. (e). Stereoplots illustrate poles to bedding in the banded chert and a calculated fold axis (F2g) that matches mea- sured fold axes. (d). Moderately S- SW-plunging D2g folds in banded chert at the western contact of the ultramafic sill. Chromite NE-SW–directed shortening during the D3g event pro- boudins have a similar orientation to the stretching lineation duced steeply SE-plunging to vertical open folds and warps 0361-0128/98/000/000-00 $6. A similarly oriented calculated fold axis (F2g) is observed from poles to chromite seams. (b). S-SW- plunging chromite seam in the Blatchfords Northwest pit.342 BARNES AND JONES FIG. This lineation is subparallel to the D2g fold hinges Coobina D3g structures and the D2g-(D1g + So) intersection lineation. 5).00 342 . Isoclinally folded. 4. (a).

Intersection lineation (L0−2g) in strongly sheared ultramafic at the northern edge of the sill. The D3g folding strongly dislocating the folded chromite seams (Fig.00 343 . (c). Mullion struc- tures are well developed in moderately to steeply plunging F2g hinge zones. Tyler. and a well-developed moderately SW-dipping S3g cleavage. (b). Occhipinti et al. 5. that is one of a series of deformation chromite seams (Fig. (a). 2004). open F3g folds in the Ma Capricorn orogeny. which follow the steeply plunging.. printing large-scale S-SW-plunging D2g folds. Stretching lineation (L2g) in banded chert to the west of the ultramafic sill. The can be seen in the curvature of the Wrights North and South shears at Coobina are likely to be related to the ~1830 to 1780 pits. WA 343 FIG. (d) Stereoplots illustrate the similar orientations between the different linear fabrics observed at Coobina. Proterozoic Capricorn orogen deformation (Dc) This cleavage is commonly the dominant fabric observed in An anastomosing network of predominantly E-NE. DEFORMED CHROMITITE LAYERS. PILBARA CRATON.and E- the ultramafic units. stone belt. S-SW–trending chromite boudins in massive serpentinite. The present outcrop pattern in the SE–trending. 0361-0128/98/000/000-00 $6. 6). (e). S-dipping shear zones extends across the greenstone belt and the chromite seams in the Coobina sill Coobina ultramafic body and the adjacent Jimblebar green- reflect the interference of SE-plunging D3g structures over. 2004. The shears crosscut the NE-trending D1g-2g fabrics. COOBINA INTRUSION. 2) and in steeply SE-plunging open events associated with the collision and suturing of the Yilgarn folds and crenulations are observed in the metasedimentary and Pilbara cratons during the Proterozoic (Cawood and rocks to the west of the ultramafic sill.

344 BARNES AND JONES FIG. S-dipping shear zone in the Skywest pit displays a sinistral reverse sense of displace- ment. 0361-0128/98/000/000-00 $6. (c). A series of oblique sinistral-reverse faults offset chromite seams in the Newlands 4 pit. Major E-SE-oriented.00 344 . This suggests that they have formed during the same event. (b). (d). Stereoplots illustrate that structures with an oblique sinistral component dominate and there is a clear separation of faults with a sinistral component from faults with a dextral component of displacement. 6. Stereoplots illustrate that faults and shears measured at Coobina are predominantly subparallel to the S3g cleavage. (a). (e). Normal-sinistral displacement is observed in a series of S-dipping faults in the Blatchfords Northwest pit.

2). Major Dc shear zones are particularly suggests formation during a major sinistral transpressive well developed through the central part of the Coobina ultra. 0361-0128/98/000/000-00 $6. DEFORMED CHROMITITE LAYERS. 6). and are predominantly wavy anastamosing structures. The complete deformation history of the Coobina mafic body (Fig. The shears truncate D2g and D3g folds body is illustrated in Figure 7. WA 345 The dominant E-NE to E-SE trend of the Dc shears is sub. 7. 6). FIG. regime. form- parallel to the dominant foliation through the ultramafic body ing broad schistose zones up to 30 m wide in the ultramafic and suggests that this preexisting fabric is reactivated during rocks (Fig. The geometry and kinematics of the Dc shears the Dc event (Fig. PILBARA CRATON. COOBINA INTRUSION.00 345 . Schematic deformation history of the Coobina ultramafic sill.

1998). but for the most part display well-annealed mesocumu. Grain-size populations in the lyzed in each of 150 samples. All four Coobina samples show log-linear grain-size distribu- Chromite Petrography tions on the crystal-size distribution plot (Fig. or by millimeter. 8b and in samples where frac- Kensington. 9). phase extended the first phase with an additional batch of 116 annealing. 16 of which were submitted Crystal-size distribution curves were measured for a num- for whole-rock PGE analyses and all of which had polished ber of Coobina chromite samples using ImageJ software on blocks prepared for microprobe analysis. but the data Microprobe determinations of chromite compositions were shown in Figure 9 are restricted to samples where clear seg- made using the Cameca SX50 electron microprobe at mentation between grains was obtained.1 mm are subject to measurement artefacts located point per grain. after initial reconnaissance work es. turing of grains was minimal.2 mm in this Spherical silicate inclusions are widespread but not abundant sample is probably an artefact of serpentinization-related within chromite grains. that this sample underwent textural maturation and growth of versally developed in all samples and localities to varying larger grains at the expense of smaller ones. Three of the four inated chromite shows the “chicken-wire” or chain texture samples show fanned patterns implying similar initial nucle- characteristic of chromite-rich rocks in many layered intru. 8). Composite grains were then etry. 8d). (The inflection in the curve at 0. Volume increase during serpentinization has con. the only correction being a linear scaling to account for Barnes. using standard wavelength-dispersive spectrom.. probably enhanced by the presence of The one exception is the unusually coarse-grained sample. ones in massive chromite seams (Marsh. tals characterized by a specific nucleation density (the inter- 46 samples of >2 kg mass were crushed and submitted for cept on the Y axis) and a constant growth rate (Marsh.to centimeter-scale spacing. crystals nucleating and growing in situ. and eliminated by restricting the measured data set to grains with 100-sec counting times. hydrous silicate phases. samples. Fracturing and apparent grain-size re. Crystal settling should give rise to strong grain- modated by shearing at margins of seams. Approximately 10 grains were ana.00 346 . Sample locations are shown in Figure 2. This was a and blanks can be found in the electronic data sets. problem with many of the Coobina samples. and mixing of crystal populations (Higgins. due to the “blow- CSIRO-ARRC (Australian Resources Research Centre).to size sorting and an overabundance of coarse grains over fine centimeter-scale microshears within otherwise igneous-tex. Pt. Ru. duction of chromite. Two-dimensional samples by GeoScience laboratories of the Ontario Geologi. ation densities but varying slopes. A second sampling caused by a variety of processes such as mechanical sorting.7 um/pixel using a data (Ir. chromite-rich samples are unreliable using conventional XRF An issue with all crystal-size distribution measurements is analysis). grab and diamond core samples. in most cases using one centrally range below 0. tablished a high degree of within-grain homogeneity. noted in a comparable dataset for chromite seams in the Rum tributed to separation and in some case fracturing of chromite layered intrusion by O’Driscoll et al.5. measurements were translated into three-dimensional esti- cal Survey in Sudbury. and the feature appears to be uni. Straight-line crystal-size distribution patterns are considered Samples were collected in two phases. which has a much shallower slope and a significantly mosing fractures with millimeter. fragmentation around margins of some grains. grains (Fig. This feature was degrees. This implies variable effec- sions (Jackson.) Whole-rock PGE blocks (Fig. a source of information on crystallization mechanisms. most of Crystal-size distribution plots describe the number of crys- these being massive chromitites. Fig. 2004). 2006) and are characteristic of homogeneous populations of late to adcumulate igneous textures (Fig. with some outcrop The technique has not been widely applied to chromite. 41 were also analyzed for a systematic slight underestimate of grain sizes due to two-di- whole-rock major elements excluding Si (silica analyses on mensional sectioning effects. Significantly. is commonly developed along anasta. 1961). none of the Coobina patterns exhibits strongly concave-up None of the samples studied shows evidence of pervasive distributions and downward slope at the low grain-size end penetrative fabrics developed by chromite grains. and contamination of the dataset by fragmented small grains. Heavily dissem. Rh. 15-KV accelerating voltage. optical images of entire thin sections or 2. size.5-cm polished pendix for full listing of samples and data. precisions. 8f). (2010). and Pd) were determined on a total of 46 Zeiss AxioImager photomosaic microscope. using a specially customized mates using the method of Marsh (1998). The first phase con. Details on analytical detection limits. mond drill core. whole-rock analysis. 1998). despite the that would be expected if gravitational settling had been a sig- intensity of deformation. nificant process. and selected chips prepared as polished Inflections and curvature in crystal-size distribution plots are thin sections for microprobe analysis. 2006).) Combined There is no evidence for preferential development of inclu. usually occurring singly (e. settling was not a major process in chromitite formation. Such distrib- Coobina chromitite ores show a considerable range in grain utions can also be described as self-similar or fractal (Higgins. random error due to grouping of touching grains. and this is taken as the lower size limit in the plots. WS3. circularities of greater than 0. Evidently deformation was accom. lower intercept.346 BARNES AND JONES Sampling and Analytical Methods Crystal-size distributions Approximately 160 samples of chromite-rich rocks. were sampled from open-pit tals per unit volume of a rock within discrete-size bins and are exposures. composite chips from percussion holes. apart” effect illustrated in Fig. 30-nA beam current. Either crystal tured chromitite as illustrated in Figure 8c. or 0361-0128/98/000/000-00 $6. 8) collected at resolutions of 2. mostly from percussion holes. to be diagnostic of homogeneous populations of growing crys- sisted entirely of about 50 outcrop or pit-wall chip samples. (See electronic ap.g. tive residence times for the populations of growing crystals. Of these samples. Canada. with the slightly convex-up shape of the curve this implies sions in particular seams. Due to the equant method of sodium metaphosphate fluxed nickel sulfide fire nature of chromite grains stereological corrections are unnec- assay preconcentration followed by ICP-MS (Bedard and essary. and dia.

matrix of ser- pentinized olivine. Sharp contact between layers of nearly pure adcumulate chromitite and chromite-olivine cumulate. Spinifex pit. 3b). “stripy ore. sample WS3. (c).00 347 . Central Falcon pit. DEFORMED CHROMITITE LAYERS. (e). Coarse-grained strongly annealed massive chromitite showing “blow-apart” texture due to expansion of rock mass during serpentinization. (b). Extremely sharp base of thin massive chromi- tite with minor serpentinized olivine inclusions against serpentinized dunite. (d). Wrights South pit. Newlands Creek pit. COOBINA INTRUSION. PILBARA CRATON. (f). Petrographic features of Coobina chromitites. Typical medium-grained an- nealed fractures showing minor cataclasis along fractures. 8. 0361-0128/98/000/000-00 $6.” Newlands pit (as in Fig. WA 347 FIG. Disseminated chromite showing chain texture. Massive chromitite showing predominantly euhedral grains with numerous small spherical inclusions. Wrights South pit. (a).

given that most seams are represented by individual Some variability is evident within individual samples (Fig.05 in Cr number and 0. and almost exactly on top of the mode for komatiites. These trends are evident in the clustering of data points in Figure 11 and are attributable to Chromite Compositions the subsolidus exchange of Mg and Fe between chromite and Figure 10 shows Coobina chromite data plotted in projec. and one sample of chain-textured olivine-chromite cumulate (FT4).348 BARNES AND JONES 14 Ln (n) Crystal Size. Crystal-size distribution (CSD) plots for selected samples of massive chromitite (WS3. In some cases (Wrights seam 1) the Cr dataset and significantly more Cr enriched than Bushveld number remains relatively constant through the seam while chromitites. samples. 11). 9. and in one case (Newlands 4) both the undepleted komatiites (Fig. Naldrett et al. Cr-poor (Barnes and Roeder. (2009. giving rise to linear arrays of decreasing Mg numbers Mg number should be assumed for all sample average data 0361-0128/98/000/000-00 $6. a characteristic trend observed tribution populations. 2001). and also observed within tites. It is hard to see how accumulation of within layered intrusion chromites. the Mg number varies. Coobina chromites fall at Mg and Cr numbers vary between samples.00 348 . 1988). The exchange coefficient for this reaction tions of the standard “spinel prism” compared with data den. ores (Barnes and Roeder. m-thick seam in Finucane Extension pit) the samples are es- trusions and ophiolites and for disseminated chromite in Al.to 3-m seams from various lo- with but tending to higher Cr contents than the Great Dyke calities (Fig. Trend” (Barnes and Roeder 2001). especially in disseminated open clusters of crystals could have given rise to pure chromi. giving rise to this distinctive “Rum Stilllwater data broken out.grains per cm3 per cm size range 12 10 FT1 8 FT4 6 FE3 4 FT4 WS3 FE3 2 0 0 0. + Fe2+) on Cr number” (molar Cr/[Cr + Al]). This chromitites. with Bushveld . is a very strong function of the Cr/Al ratio of the chromite.5 Chromite CSD mm FIG.5 2 2. and FE3) from cen- ters of seams. 2001). and the data support a mechanism of in situ nucleation specific packages of seams within the Bushveld Complex by and growth as favored by O’Driscoll et al. Trivalent ion proportions are plotted in compari. sity field for chromitites from layered intrusions worldwide with Mg having a higher affinity for the more Al-rich. Grain sizes expressed as equivalent sphere diameter. sidering the within-sample variability across the complex. Extended” (a 2- son with data density fields for chromitites from layered in. usually wide area on the plot of Mg number (molar Mg/(Mg Samples were taken from different points (top. within the field for ophiolitic chromitite but at within-seam variability should be borne in mind when con- slightly higher Fe3+ contents than the main ophiolite mode. An uncertainty of ±0. overlapping and bottom) of five thick 2.5 1 1. middle. with increasing Cr numbers. 10b-d). 2011). settling involved clusters of grains with linear crystal-size dis. in the case of “Fin. FT1. along a trend the most Cr-rich end of the range of natural layered-intrusion steeper than the trend within individual samples. and spinel (Allen et al. Coobina chromites occupy an un.1 in 11). sentially identical. Great Dyke. coexisting olivine.. (2010).

Overall Pt and Pd levels are very con. chromitites from all layered intrusions (c). variability.6 0. plotted in Cr vs. a trend of high Cr number seams can be traced presence of Pt as sparse scattered grains of a very heteroge. COOBINA INTRUSION. Coobina data grouped into Central (Finucane. (d).7 Bushveld MG3-UMG2 Bushveld LG5-MG2 Bushveld LG1-LG4 Mg/(Mg+Fe2) 0. Wedgetail. ppb Ru.5 0. Skywest. 2008). atic spatial distribution of Ru-rich and Ru-poor chromite.65 0. 12) and consistent show any predictable or consistent stratigraphic or spatial positive Ru anomalies.85 0. with strong appears that the PGE contents of Coobina chromites do not correlations between these elements (Fig.4 0. and Spinifex) trends. Stillwater data from Campbell and Murck (1993) for G and H chromitites.3 Layered Intrusions 0.2 0.6 0.8 Stillwater Great Dyke a Coobina sample averages 0. Falcon) and Eastern (Blatchfords. and Bushveld and Great Dyke data in particular. It tively high iridium-series PGEs (Ir. though with very limited continuity.8 0. (b). DEFORMED CHROMITITE LAYERS. from the Finucane East area south through SkyWest to Fal- neously distributed phase. Platinum and Pd are highly erratic. Similar compositions are observed at Blatchfords al- low. points from the standpoint of how representative they are of There is a hint of two distinct groupings: one with 40 to 90 the sampled seam. 10.55 0. Western (Finucane Extension. This is a con. Central 5. Projection into trivalent ion plot of spinel prism. Chromite data (a) sample averages. and also for Archean komatiite-associated chromitites from the Zimbabwean craton (Prendergast. and a second with 100 to 180 ppb Ru. Finucane East. mainly from the Blatchfords and Newlands Creek groupings. but the Ru Platinum-group element variation in chromitites distribution is not distinctly bimodal. The next most consistent 0361-0128/98/000/000-00 $6. and there is no system- Platinum-group elements (PGEs) show patterns of rela.5 0.7 0. Bushveld fields from Naldrett et al. Based on the Cr number several cases disagree by factors of 2 or more.75 0. PILBARA CRATON. implying the variation. even between multiple samples from the same seam.” show- ing Coobina data compared with data density field for all chromitites from layered intrusions. Mg numbers projection of the standard “spinel prism.00 349 . (c). Discussion and Structural Interpretation sequence of the highly erratic and nuggetty distribution of Pt The major element variations in chromite chemistry is in individual samples: replicate analyses of the same sample in shown as a bubble plot in Figure 13. and Rh). WA 349 0. chromite) FIG. and chromitites from ophiolites (d). Ru. Wrights and Newlands pits). showing Coobina sample averages compared with data density field for chromites for disseminated chromite in komatiitic olivine cumulates (b). (2009).9 Cr/(Cr+Al) 3+ Central trend b Fe c d Western trend Eastern area Al Cr Komatiites (AUD) Layered Intrusions Ophiolites (dissem. and particularly in the case of Pt show no consistency.

Sample/(primitive mantle) Central trend Western trend Eastern area FIG. 0361-0128/98/000/000-00 $6.00 350 . PGE abundances for individual chromitite samples. 11. (2006). and Eastern trends as defined in Figure 10. Wrights Molar Cr# Cr/(Cr+Al) FIG. 12.350 BARNES AND JONES Molar Mg# . Individual chromite grain analyses. with multiple samples from five particular thick seam broken out to demonstrate within-seam variability. Extend. showing data for all samples. Central. normalized to concentration in primitive mantle. after Becker et al.Mg/(Mg+Fe2+) Newlands Creek Newlands 6 Newlands 4 Fin. Individual samples show clustering of points along negatively cor- related linear tends. grouped into Western.

71 .0. PILBARA CRATON. WA 351 0 125 250 500 Meters Cr/(Cr+Al) molar 0.76 0. but presence of distinct negative Mg-Cr number cor- the intrusion. This well-known reaction results preted as a tectonic repetition of the Blatchfords and Finu.0.82 .00 351 . which could be taken as an upward The lack of systematic Cr-Mg number variability between evolution toward less primitive chromite compositions within samples.70 0. decreasing Cr numbers. relations within samples (Fig. DEFORMED CHROMITITE LAYERS.0.0. Distribution of Cr numbers in chromite across the Coobina intrusion. This is consistent with the regional younging di.65 .77 . superimposed on geologic and structural elements. and adjacent silicate phases. in chromite becoming more iron rich and coexisting olivine 0361-0128/98/000/000-00 $6. trace of geochemically similar seams is in the Newlands area. 11) implies that considerable rection observed in the adjacent greenstone belt (Fig. cane East-Falcon sections on NE-trending D1−2 thrust faults and from Falcon across to Newlands there is a broad trend of or could be a cyclic variation within the magma chamber.81 0. The subsolidus reequilibration has taken place between chromite presence of high Cr chromites at Blatchfords could be inter. COOBINA INTRUSION.91 7400000 7399000 221000 222000 Chromitite-free Peridotite Basalt Chromitite-bearing Serpentinite Coobina Intrusion Sst-siltstone Greenstone Belt Leucogabbro chert FIG. 13. 2).

13) Ir. represents a vertical trend of decreasing Cr number with standing a factor of three variation in Ru content between height similar to the upper half of the Great Dyke sequence. These cycles are rocks. At Coobina. 2. and Rh show more coherent variation.. this suggests that the compositional field for Coobina printed. Wilson. The exceptionally Cr-rich nature of the Coobina chromites Of the well-studied major layered intrusions containing ex. 1979). This compositional range sets Coobina apart was more evolved. olivine-orthopyroxene.00 352 . there is no coherent pattern of spatial variability in Ru but at overall more Cr-rich compositions. 1977. 2011) and consistent with ex. cyclic repetitions of olivine. 10) and constitute evolved toward pyroxene saturation. or possibly incorporation of IPGE-en. in the case of dergast and Wilson (1989). gressive fractionation within the magma chamber. Roeder within a series of macrorhythmic cycles (Irvine. overall bulk composition of the magma in chamber evolves to The lack of Pt and Pd enrichment is attributed to formation more fractionated compositions with time. the Great Dyke and Stillwater positional field of chromitites in ophiolite complexes and to 0361-0128/98/000/000-00 $6. 8). 1982) involving et al. The variability in PGE contents between seams is not a use. and requires some explanation. 2008). than Great Dyke chromitites (Fig. Coobina chromitites due to metamorphic exchange with sili- neous variability of the Coobina seams may have been over. Ru. Coobina chromites are systematically lower in MgO libration expected in unmetamorphosed intrusions.and Mg-rich Great Dyke in the fact that local correlations between units only appears population. The likely ex. This would account for the lack Coobina chromites are distinctly more enriched in Cr than of correlation between chromite abundance and Mg number. cates. Consequently. beyond which no chromite is place between chromite seams and adjacent chromite-poor found. 2012). While equilibration in The vertical trend of compositions of chromites through ul- the case of unmetamorphosed layered intrusions takes place tramafic interval of the Great Dyke was described by Pren- during the initial cooling of the intrusion. Pt and Pd show essentially random lower Cr chromitites. 8) but overlap in their Cr ity in Mg number between Coobina seams would then reflect contents. 1993). In both intrusions the chromite seams occur of the spinel and olivine solid solutions (Irvine.352 BARNES AND JONES and pyroxene becoming more Mg rich with falling tempera. Campbell and Murck. extending west from Finucane Ex- fluctuations and are dominated by nugget effects. the bulk some of the most Cr-rich chromitites known from this setting. Stillwater chromitites and have a similar range in Mg number which would be expected in the case of the sample-scale equi. The high Cr/Al of the Coobina chromites relative to the in- grees of IPGE enrichment observed are consistent with di. much of the original primary ig. 1965. the magma influx that instigates the next cycle (Irvine. 1982. the pyroxene-bear- Comparison with other layered intrusion-hosted chromitites ing cumulates are absent. 1984. Al) increase through the lower half of the interval by a factor diffusion of Mg and Fe over much larger distances at lower of about 10%. Given the to be manifest in Cr number and not in any other variable. (Fig. 8). Campbell and Murck. the most likely interpretation is that the trend from higher to ful stratigraphic marker. Chromite itic chromites (Locmelis et al. trusions mentioned above is consistent with the olivine-dom- rect magmatic crystallization of IPGE-enriched phases inated nature of the host cumulate sequence. but notwith. system magma chambers (Jackson. Cr2O3 and Cr number Cr/(Cr + Coobina the regional metamorphism may have allowed inter. The consistently observed positive Ru of olivine cumulate intervals that typically give way upsection anomalies may be attributable to a degree of incorporation of to olivine-pyroxene and pyroxene cumulates formed by pro- Ru into solid solution in the chromite. although Coobina chromites show a greater range factors such as thickness of the seam and extent of diffusive or to slightly higher Cr contents overall (Fig. cumulates on a meter scale. tively more primitive than the case where the resident magma trusion settings. and ortho- Subsolidus reaction and exchange of Mg and Fe between pyroxene cumulates. Variabil. seams are interpreted as the result of magma mixing during perimental prediction (Brenan et al. The PGEs tended to Wrights and from Falcon to Newlands (Figs. composition of the chromite-oversaturated hybrid was rela- Mg number values on the other hand are typical of layered in. then drop off again to be close to the original temperatures during prolonged regional metamorphism. water-Great Dyke cycles. of magma were emplaced before the resident magma had fined by Barnes and Roeder (2002. The trivalent components Cr and Al are less likely to has been systematically displaced downward on the Mg-Cr have been modified. fluid-mediated mass transfer between the seam and the coun. as de. in response to the changing thermodynamic properties with Coobina. Complexes are the most obvious benchmark for comparison ture. seams. chromite seams occur near the base riched micronuggets. This trend is driven content of chromitites and no systematic correlation with Cr by a general increase in the Al/Cr ratio of the magma as the number across the intrusion. Raedeke and McCallum. typically close to the base of the olivine chromite and olivine is a ubiquitous phenomenon in plutonic cumulate layer marking the start of the cycle. As a consequence. The moderate de. causes them to overlap with the more Cr-rich end of the com- ploitable chromite seams. Allowing for the systematic lowering of Mg number in try rocks.. and hence the Cr number is the best re. so the question remains why the Coobina dataset seems interpreted as the result of periodic replenishments of open- to indicate a much higher degree of modification of Mg num. from uniformly S-undersaturated magmas. and successive batches centile field for layered intrusion-hosted chromitites. Fig. plenishment took place more rapidly. 1970. but extending to more Cr-rich values... ber values than seen in the Bushveld Complex. spatial relationship of ultramafic to gabbroic rocks at Coobina. This is reflected field overlapping with the more Cr. implying that magma chamber re- The Coobina chromitites fall outside the global 95th per. In typical Still- (Finnigan et al. 10) and originally would have occupied a maining index of original igneous variability. planation is degree of metamorphism. value in the orthopyroxene-rich interval just before the onset Hence it is possible that wholesale exchange may have taken of plagioclase crystallization. number plot (Fig. as observed in komati. 1993).

Mungall. v.. The- have elevated Ru and Ir in the 100-ppb range. pos.. v. Assembling and reactivating the Pro- took place entirely within the olivine phase field and not terozoic Capricorn orogen: Lithotectonic elements. Distinctive nodular tex. 2.. Metals: Melbourne. Finnigan. S.. WA 353 coincide closely with the field for Al-undepleted komatiites magma composition.-J. and a mechanism of in situ nucleation and growth Zimabwean chromitites (Prendergast. P. PILBARA CRATON. Chrome contents and 2279−2302. Pt and Pd be- magma mixing during pulsed magma chamber replenishment tween chromite and silicate melt: Chemical Geology. H. 1993. This implies that the populations of growing crystals. Such distinct from podiform chromites. of sulfur saturation and hence absence of Pt and Pd enrich. events. complexes have not been observed. S. 2004. Cambridge University Press. 0361-0128/98/000/000-00 $6... DEFORMED CHROMITITE LAYERS. Brenan. M.W. There is no evidence of grain- Coobina body probably had komatiitic affinity. p. notwithstanding the high trends are considered to be characteristic of homogeneous degree of superimposed deformation. T. traceable through the exchange with enclosing silicate layers that we infer at Coobina. Brenan. Coobina chromitites are consistently Pt and Pd poor and Irvine. 1975. This history has resulted ing. Australian Institute of Mining and Metallurgy. 205−206. Rh. show fractal frequency distributions evident as observed. 311. along the same lines as the Irvine (1977) model for Bye.. are controlled by Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta. typical layered intrusions worldwide. R. disruption of original lateral continuity. orogenies. 28. Higgins. p. J. C. Cr-rich spinels as petrogenetic tive fabric development. tion conditions rather than having a systematic variation with 127−162. Chromite mineralization within the Coobina ultramafic. given the spatial association with gab. J. and the originally stratiform seam geometries are log-linear trends on crystal-size distribution plots. J.F. v. Frac.. McDonough. 1647–1668.M. 1965. p. 2006.. 1988. The Cr-poor group probably represents a Conclusions higher stratigraphic level. Part I.L. 265 p.M. R.L. shear- associated with the Capricorn orogen. eastern Pa- cific: American Mineralogist. as noted elsewhere for komatiite-associated such as tectonized mantle harzburgites and sheeted dike chromites. Depletion in Pt and Pd implies crystal- (Barnes and Roeder 2001).S. PGEs do not ory: Canadian Journal of Earth Sciences. Economic geology of Australia and Papua New Guinea. 73..J. and cherty sediments. 34. in press. W.. silicate layers. although the size sorting such as might be expected from crystal settling extreme Mg enrichment observed in the komatiite-associated processes. 648−672. anomalies are attributed to incorporation of Ru in the bros.. An ophiolitic association cannot lization from S-undersaturated magmas. and Murck. and McDonough. which would have prevented the extensive Mg-Fe correlative groups: a high Cr group. ——1977.O.J. Higher temperatures may also account for a lack platinum group minerals by local reduction: Journal of Petrology. Quantitative textural measurements in igneous and ment in any of the seams analyzed. v. 2008.-P. counts for the lack of pyroxene cumulate layers within the in. Gao. v. Cawood. p.E.. 23.. 4528−4550. p. basalts. Cr/Al ratios are suggestive of a highly magnesian parent.. 42.. sibly of a komatiitic or komatiitic basalt affinity.. 2006. Dyke and Stillwater settings in that parent magmas were ini. the eastern part of the intrusion spans the whole range and is quence of chromitite layers. The range of spinel compositions in Cr-rich compositions but normal Mg numbers compared with terrestrial mafic and ultramafic rocks: Journal of Petrology. 5. 49. v.. but diagnostic features chromite lattice. M. p. correlations and are probably controlled by local crystalliza. I. C. The extensive folding. REFERENCES shears within the massive chromitites rather than by penetra.S. Crystal sizes in the Coobina chromites. and hence Cr/Fe ratios.F. W. both massive and tures characteristic of ophiolitic chromites have not been disseminated.. 1. in chromite seams in layered intrusions. and signifi- across the olivine-orthopyroxene phase boundary. 128. and Batiza.. ——1982. Origin of chromitite layers in the Muskox intrusion and other provide reliable additional clues for inferring stratigraphic stratiform intrusions: A new interpretation: Geology. v. 201–218. S. p. 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L.P. and successive pulses took place before the resi.. and boudinage of the chromitite layers is primarily re- in isoclinal folding and boudinage of the chromite layers and lated to the thrust stacking of the complex. v. Becker. This deformation ap- pears to have been accommodated by millimeter-scale micro. v. p. ed. Sack. This ac. 2008) is not seen at is inferred. V.H. tite zones in the Mountain View area of the Stillwater Complex.. the and massive adcumulate nature of most of the Zimbabwean Coobina chromitite population falls into two major potentially deposits. J. 741−753. 2001.. 291−316. Ir. COOBINA INTRUSION. Magnesium R.M.. p. indicators: MORB-type lavas from the Lamont seamount chain.00 353 . Finnigan. 70.. central portion of the chromite-bearing part of the intrusion. v. Allen. P. p.F. tially hotter. v. metamorphic petrology: Cambridge. The Coobina chromites are distinctive in having unusually Barnes. Lorand. and Tyler.. 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