Skip to main content
U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government

As, Bi, Hg, S, Sb, Sn and Te geochemistry of the J-M Reef, Stillwater Complex, Montana: constraints on the origin of PGE-enriched sulfides in layered intrusions

January 1, 1990

The J-M Reef is an interval of disseminated sulfides in the Lower Banded series of the Stillwater Complex that is enriched in the platinum group elements (PGE). Palladium and Pt occur in solid solution in base-metal sulfides and as discrete PGE minerals. PGE minerals include sulfides, tellurides, arsenides, antimonides, bismuthides, and alloys with Fe, Sn, Hg, and Au. Several subpopulations can be delineated based on whole-rock chemical analyses for As, Bi, Cu, Hg, Pd, Pt, S, Sb and Te for samples collected from and adjacent to the J-M Reef. In general, samples from within the reef have higher Pt/Cu, Pd/Cu, Pd/Pt, Te/Bi and S/(Te+Bi) than those collected adjacent to the reef. Vertical compositional profiles through the reef suggest that Pd/Cu and Pt/Cu decrease systematically upsection from mineralized to barren rock. The majority of samples with elevated As, Sb and Hg occur adjacent to the reef, not within it, or in sulfide-poor rocks. Neither magma mixing nor fluid migration models readily explain why the minor quantities of sulfide minerals immediately adjacent to the sulfide-enriched layers that form the J-M Reef have different element ratios than the sulfide minerals that form the reef. If all the sulfides formed by exsolution during a magma mixing event and the modal proportion of sulfide now in the rocks are simply the result of mechanical processes that concentrated the sulfides into some layers and not others, then the composition of the sulfide would not be expected to be different. Models that rely upon ascending liquids or fluids are incompatible with the presence of sulfides that are not enriched in PGE immediately below or interlayered with the PGE-enriched sulfides layers. PGE-enriched postcumulus fluids should have reacted to the same extent with sulfides immediately outside the reef as within the reef. One explanation is that some of the sulfide minerals in the rocks outside the reef have a different origin than those that make up the reef. The sulfide minerals that form the reef may represent a cumulus sulfide phase that formed as the result of a magma-mixing event, achieved its high PGE contents at that time, and accumulated to form a layer. The rocks outside the reef may contain a large proportion of postcumulus sulfide minerals that formed as the last dregs of intercumulus liquids trapped in the interstitial spaces between the cumulus grains reached sulfur saturation and exsolved a sulfide liquid or precipitated a sulfide mineral. The PGE contents of these sulfides would be expected to be less than the cumulus sulfides that form the reef since they would have equilibrated with a much smaller volume of silicate liquid. Another explanation is that some of the sulfide droplets that formed as a result of the mixing event were trapped as inclusions in silicate minerals soon after they formed. This would reduce the amount of magma these sulfide droplets could equilibrate with and effectively reduce their PGE tenor. ?? 1990.

Citation Information

Publication Year 1990
Title As, Bi, Hg, S, Sb, Sn and Te geochemistry of the J-M Reef, Stillwater Complex, Montana: constraints on the origin of PGE-enriched sulfides in layered intrusions
Authors M. L. Zientek, T. L. Fries, R.W. Vian
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Journal of Geochemical Exploration
Index ID 70016264
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse