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Mineralogical, chemical, and crystallographic properties of supergene jarosite-group minerals from the Xitieshan Pb-Zn sulfide deposit, northern Tibetan Plateau, China

January 1, 2012

Supergene jarosite-group minerals are widespread in weathering profiles overlying Pb-Zn sulfide ores at Xitieshan, northern Tibetan Plateau, China. They consist predominantly of K-deficient natrojarosite, with lesser amounts of K-rich natrojarosite and plumbojarosite. Electron microprobe (EMP) analyses, scanning electron microcopy (SEM) investigation, and X-ray mapping reveal that the jarosite-group minerals are characterized by spectacular oscillatory zoning composed of alternating growth bands of K-deficient and K-bearing natrojarosite (K2O >1 wt.%). Plumbojarosite, whenever present, occurs as an overgrowth in the outermost bands, and its composition can be best represented by K0.29Na0.19Pb0.31Fe2.66Al0.22(SO4)1.65(PO4)0.31(AsO4)0.04(OH)7.37. The substitution of monovalent for divalent cations at the A site of plumbojarosite is charge balanced by the substitution of five-valent for six-valent anions in XO,4/sub> at the X site. Thermogravimetric analysis (TGA) of representative samples reveal mass losses of 11.46 wt.% at 446.6 °C and 21.42 wt.% at 683.4 °C due to dehydroxylation and desulfidation, respectively. TGA data also indicate that the natrojarosite structure collapses at 446.6 °C, resulting in the formation of NaFe(SO4)2 and minor hematite. The decomposition products of NaFe(SO4) are hematite and Na,2SO4. Powder X-ray diffraction (XRD) analyses show that the jarosite-group minerals have mean unit-cell parameters of a=7.315 ä and c=016.598 ä. XRD and EMP data support the view that substitutions of Na for K in the A site and full Fe occupancy in the B site can considerably decrease the unit-cell parameter c, but only slightly increase a. The results from this study suggest that the observed oscillatory zoning of jarosite-group minerals at Xitieshan resulted mainly from substitutions of K for Na at the A site and P for S at the X site.