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Chromite deposits of the north-central Zambales Range, Luzon, Philippines

January 1, 1994

Peridotite and gabbro form an intrusive complex which is exposed over an area about 35 km wide and 150 km long in the center of the Zambales Range of western Luzon. The Zambales Complex is remarkable for its total known resources, mined and still remaining, of about 15 million metric tons of chromite ore. Twenty percent of Free World production was obtained from this area between 1950 and the end of 1964; in 1960 production reached a high of 606,103 metric tons of refractory-grade ore, mostly from the Coto mine near Masinloc, and 128,426 metric tons of metallurgical ore from the Acoje mine. The United States imports 80 to 90 percent of its refractory-grade chromite from the Philippines, and its basic refractory technology has been designed upon the chemical and physical characteristics of Coto high-alumina chromite ore. Continuation of this pattern will depend upon discovery of additional ore reserves to replace those depleted by mining.

The Zambales Ultramafic Complex is of the alpine type in which lenticular or podiform deposits of chromite lie in peridotite or dunite, mostly near Contacts with gabbroic rocks. Layered structures, foliation, and lineation commonly are well developed and transect boundaries between major rock units, including chromite deposits, at any angle. Accordingly, these structures cannot be used as guides in exploration and mining as they are used in stratiform complexes such as the Bushveld, where chromite layers extend for many miles. Probably 90 percent of the known deposits in the Zambales Complex are located in two belts in its northern part. One zone containing high-aluminua refractory-grade deposits extends northeast from the Coto mine and Chromite Reservation No. I along a peridotite contact with olivine gabbro, and another of high-chromium metallurgical grade chromite extends south through the Zambales and Acoje properties, and swings westward around the south side of Mount Lanai along a peridotite contact with norite. The textures of ores, association of chromite with dunite as gangue and as halos, and the transecting nature of the layering, foliation, and lineation in relation to chromite, are similar in all deposits regardless of composition of the chromite mineral itself. Textures in chromite ores, and structural relationships between chromite deposits and country rocks, show that layering and related foliation and lineation were formed or modified by flowage. Gabbro is believed to form the upper part of the Complex in general.

Geophysical methods have been rather unsuccessful in finding chromite in the Zambales Complex. Gravity surveys, in order to be successful, must correct for all features influencing gravity except for the chromite itself. Too often the uncertainties in position of rock units and in knowledge of rock densities or position of hidden geologic features (dikes, zones of alteration) preclude the possibility of making adequate corrections. Magnetic surveys have failed to reveal any magnetic patterns attributable to the presence of chromite.

Exploration for chromite should be guided by the knowledge that chromite occurs only in certain geologic environments. Thus because nearly all known chromite deposits in the Zambales Complex lie in peridotite near the gabbro contact, search for chromite should be concentrated there. Likewise it is evident from structural evidence presented here that there is little relation between layering and distribution of either major rock units or chromite deposits. Thus one is not justified in using the layered structure to predict either the position or attitude of major rock unit contacts, or presence or position of chromite deposits.

In such a productive complex it is geologically certain that unknown deposits still remain undiscovered. The most promising areas for exploration are near known groups of large deposits like Acoje and Chromite Reservation No. 1. Underground drilling has been very successful in finding buried tabular

Citation Information

Publication Year 1970
Title Chromite deposits of the north-central Zambales Range, Luzon, Philippines
DOI 10.3133/ofr70281
Authors D. L. Rossman
Publication Type Report
Publication Subtype USGS Numbered Series
Series Title Open-File Report
Series Number 70-281
Index ID ofr70281
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization