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Magmatic sulfide-rich nickel-copper deposits related to picrite and (or) tholeiitic basalt dike-sill complexes-A preliminary deposit model

September 17, 2010

Magmatic sulfide deposits containing nickel (Ni) and copper (Cu), with or without (?) platinum-group elements (PGEs), account for approximately 60 percent of the world's Ni production and are active exploration targets in the United States and elsewhere. On the basis of their principal metal production, magmatic sulfide deposits in mafic rocks can be divided into two major types: those that are sulfide-rich, typically with 10 to 90 percent sulfide minerals, and have economic value primarily because of their Ni and Cu contents; and those that are sulfide-poor, typically with 0.5 to 5 percent sulfide minerals, and are exploited principally for PGE. Because the purpose of this deposit model is to facilitate the assessment for undiscovered, potentially economic magmatic Ni-Cu?PGE sulfide deposits in the United States, it addresses only those deposits of economic significance that are likely to occur in the United States on the basis of known geology. Thus, this model focuses on deposits hosted by small- to medium-sized mafic and (or) ultramafic dikes and sills that are related to picrite and tholeiitic basalt magmatic systems generally emplaced in continental settings as a component of large igneous provinces (LIPs). World-class examples (those containing greater than 1 million tons Ni) of this deposit type include deposits at Noril'sk-Talnakh (Russia), Jinchuan (China), Pechenga (Russia), Voisey's Bay (Canada), and Kabanga (Tanzania). In the United States, this deposit type is represented by the Eagle deposit in northern Michigan, currently under development by Kennecott Minerals.