Metal Madness The geology of metallic mineral deposits by rqy18723


									                                                                       Metal compounds

                                                                       Increased usage of metals necessitated the development of
                                                                       smelting methods to separate metals from impure forms.
                                                                       Many metals mined today are derived from metal-bearing
                                                                       mineral compounds (most combined with sulphur or oxygen)
                    Metal Madness:
         The geology of metallic mineral deposits

                                                                     Galena                       Sphalerite                   Magnetite
                                                                     PbS                          ZnS                          Fe3O4
                                                                     (lead sulphide)              (zinc sulphide)              (iron oxide)

                        Native metals
                                                                                                 Classification of Metals
The metals used by early humans were undoubtedly in
pure elemental or native form.                                         Metals are all united by having high electrical conductivity,
                                                                         luster, and malleability/ductility, and the ability of their
The great value of metals in ancient times reflected, in part,           atoms to lose electrons to form positive ions (cations).
the rarity of native metal deposits.
                                                                       In our culture, the term “metal” generally refers to “fusible
                                                                           metals”- metals of moderate hardness and relatively low
                                                                           melting point that can be fused with other metals to form
                                                                           alloys (metal mixtures).

                                                                       In turn, we commonly classify these fusible metals in two
                                                                           main categories:

Native copper       Native gold              Native silver             •     Precious metals
                                                                       •     Base metals


                                                                                       Abundance of Elements in Earth’s Crust
                        Precious metals
                                                                        Most metals (excluding iron and aluminum) that are useful
 Metals of high economic value (often used to make coins                to society occur in very low abundances in Earth’s crust,
 or jewelry due to their high metallic lustre and distinctive           relative to other elements.
                                                                           Approximately 98.5% of Earth’s crust (by weight) is accounted for by
                                                                           only 8 of the 92 naturally occurring elements:
 Examples: Silver, gold, platinum (and other PGEs).                        46.6% Oxygen (O)
                                                                           27.7% Silicon (Si)
 These are typically less reactive than other metals and                   8.1% Aluminum (Al)
 melt at higher temperatures.                                              5.0% Iron (Fe)
                                                                           3.6% Calcium (Ca)
                                                                           2.8% Sodium (Na)
 Many of these metals (with the exception of silver) are                   2.6% Potassium (K)
 desirable for the manufacture of electrical components                    2.1% Magnesium (Mg)
 due to their resistance to corrosion and oxidation.                       All other elements: 1.5 %

                                                                           Note that the majority of the familiar metals used in society (aside from
                                                                           aluminum and iron) don’t even appear on this list

                        Base metals                                                     Abundance of Culturally Significant Metals

 Metals of low inherent value (as compared to precious                  Base metals (other than iron, aluminum and titanium)
 metals).                                                               in weight percent of continental crust.

 Most base metals oxidize readily (rust/tarnish) in air. As             Copper              0.0055 %
 a result of the high reactivity of these metals, most are              Nickel             0.0075 %
 found naturally primarily in the form of ore minerals and              Zinc               0.0070 %
 other compounds.                                                       Lead               0.00125 %
                                                                        Tin                0.00020 %
 The most widely used base metals include iron, lead,
 copper, zinc, and tin.                                                 Precious metals in weight percent of continental crust.

 Cultural Significance of Term: Name derived from the                   Silver             0.000007 %
 practice of alchemists who attempted to make                           Gold               0.0000004 %
 (transmute) gold (and other noble metals) from less                    Platinum           0.0000005 %
 valuable (base) metals.
                         Importance of Enrichment                                        Igneous Processes: Magmatic Cooling

                                                                         Some metals, such as iron and
      Metals do not occur in uniform abundance throughout the            chromium can be concentrated by
      crust.                                                             fractional crystallization and
                                                                         simple gravitational settling of
      There are certain geological circumstances in which                heavy minerals such as
      culturally valuable metals occur in higher concentrations.         magnetite- Fe3O4 and chromite-
                                                                         [(Fe, Mg)Cr2O4] from cooling
      Knowledge of the geological processes that lead to                 magma within an intrusive
      enrichment of metals, and of the geological environments           body.
      in which these processes operate, are essential to the
      discovery of metal-rich deposits.                                  These heavy minerals are
                                                                         formed during the earliest stages
      Geologists impact your life at the most fundamental level !        of cooling and sink to the bottom
                                                                         of the magma chamber.
                                                                                                                 Dark bands: magnetite, chromite, platinum
                                                                                                                 Light bands: silicates

                    The Economics of Metal Extraction                                                          Igneous Processes: Immiscibility
                                                                         The concentrated nickel deposits
  An important cultural aspect in determining the feasibility of         of the Sudbury Igneous Complex
  extracting any given metal is the cost of extraction.                  are thought to be the product of
                                                                         immiscibility – the separation of a
  A mineral body that can be mined at a profit is called an ore.         metal-rich magma from silicate-
                                                                         rich magma (in a similar manner
                                                                         as oil separates from water).
  Economic factors that qualify a mineral body to be called an ore
     are numerous. These factors include the following:                  The Sudbury Basin is believed to
                                                                         be a meteorite impact crater
  •    The concentration of the metal(s) of interest (due to             (circular, later compressed into
       enrichment)                                                       an oval shape by tectonic forces).

                                                                         The impact of a ~10 km bolide
  •    Size of the ore body.                                             penetrated through, or at least
                                                                         heated, the entire crust causing
  •    Cost associated with infrastructure (e.g. cost of mining,         shock melting and mixing of
       transportation and smelting).                                     layers of various compositions.
                                                                         Most of the nickel probably came
  •    Market value of the metal(s) of interest.                         from the lower crust.


                       Igneous Processes: Immiscibility                                           Hydrothermal Processes
                                                                             Among the best-known and most important ore deposits are those
                                                                             formed from hydrothermal (hot-water) solutions.

As the molten material rose                                                  Such solutions may be left-over fluids of cooled magma, or can be
to the surface, metal-rich                                                   generated by the warming of groundwater or seawater that seeps
liquid separated from the                                                    into rock below the surface (the heat source is always assumed to
silicate liquid into density-                                                be magma).
stratified layers.
                                                                             A critical factor in the ability of hot water to dissolve metals appears
The molten metal material                                                    to be its “saltiness” – brine solutions containing dissolved salts are
was concentrated in cracks                                                   able to dissolve metals more readily than pure water.
surrounding the impact
crater (forming a nickel-rich                                                Also, the the higher the water temperature, the greater the amount of
sublayer).                                                                   ions and other substances the water can hold in solution (most
                                                                             compounds are more soluble at higher temperatures).
The crater basin was later
infilled with sediment.                                                      A warm brine containing lots of dissolved metals drops (precipitates)
                                                                             its metals (usually combined with other elements, e.g. sulphur, as
                                                                             ore minerals) when it is cooled, forming a metallic mineral deposit.

                    Igneous Processes: Immiscibility                              Hydrothermal Processes: Convergent Boundaries
                                                                            Recall that magma generated at
  This is a section of a sample of                                          convergent boundaries (by hydration
  nickel ore from Sudbury.                                                  melting) tends to be intermediate to
                                                                            felsic in composition.
  The nickel occurs in the
  rounded bodies of bronze-                                                 Only a little bit of fluid can exists in a
  coloured pentlandite- (Fe,                                                magma chamber when most
  Ni)9S8 that crystallized from the                                         of the silica has crystallized into
  metal-rich melt.                                                          minerals – this fluid is very salty and is
                                                                            also highly concentrated in heavier
  Dark coloured mafic silicate                                              metal ions that can’t easily be
  minerals surround the                                                     incorporated into the common rock-
  pentlandite bodies.                                                       forming minerals.
  The ore also contains lots of
                                                                            This fluid can penetrate cracks around
  copper (in chalcopyrite), iron
                                                                            igneous intrusions– once cooled, metals
  (pyrrhotite) and significant                                              are precipitated out of solution in the
  concentrations of platinum                                                form of mineral compounds or native
  group elements (PGEs).                                                    metals.
                       Disseminated Deposits                                                               Vein (Lode) Deposits
                                      Pressure from the intrusion of
                                      an igneous body can generated many
                                      microscopic cracks into which residual
                                      fluid (thermally buoyant) can penetrate
                                      and cool.

                                      Minerals containing copper,
                                      molybdenum, gold and silver are
                                      distributed throughout the fractured
                                      rock in low concentrations

                                      Although disseminated ore deposits
                                      are of a very low grade (low
                                      concentration of metals), they are
                                      immense in scale and can be mined at
                                      a profit assuming that large volumes of                    Gold-bearing quartz veins (Timmins, Ontario)
                                      rock and the metal can be extracted at
                                      relatively low costs.

                        Vein (Lode) Deposits
                                                                                                           Vein (Lode) Deposits
                                            Fluids superconcentrated in
                                            metals can penetrate larger
                                            fractures, forming mineral-filled

                                            Native gold and silver can be
                                            found in the spaces between
                                            quartz crystals.

                                            Vein deposits are sometimes
                                            called “Lode Deposits” .

                                            The common term “Mother Lode”
                                            refers to a belt of quartz veins in
                                            California that was the source of
                                            the gold in the famous California
                                            gold rush of the mid 1800s.                        “Leaf silver” from vein deposit (Cobalt, Ontario)


       Hydrothermal Processes: Divergent Boundaries
                                                                                             Volcanogenic Massive Sulphide (VMS) deposits
Magma generated at convergent
boundaries (by decompression melting)                                                                                          The heated water, now
tends to be mafic in composition.                                                                                              concentrated in metal ions,
Accordingly, metallic mineral deposits                                                                                         rises to the surface along
in divergent boundary settings tends to                                                                                        fractures and escape through
be associated with mafic igneous                                                                                               volcanic vents called “black
rocks.                                                                                                                         smokers”.

As in convergent settings, metal-                                                                                              When the solution hits cold
bearing brines left over from the cooling                                                                                      water, the metals precipitate
of magma can penetrate cracks in the                                                                                           as sulphide minerals (or in
crust and form metal deposits.                                                                                                 native form in the case of
However, a more important contributor
to the concentration of metals is the                                                                                          Fine crystals of the metallic
interaction of seawater with oceanic                                                                                           sulphides that emanate from
crust.                                                                                                                         black smokers accumulate in
                                                                                                                               pods at the surface below).

       Volcanogenic Massive Sulphide (VMS) deposits                                          Volcanogenic Massive Sulphide (VMS) deposits

                                                      At a midocean ridge,            Black smoker chimneys
                                                      salty seawater flows
                                                                                                                                the “black smoke”
                                                      down into faults and
                                                                                                                                is actually fine-
                                                      other cracks of the
                                                                                                                                grained metal
                                                      ocean floor.
                                                                                                                                sulphide crystals
                                                                                                                                that are
                                                      As it is warmed, it
                                                                                                                                precipitated from
                                                      dissolves sulphide
                                                                                                                                hot vent water.
                                                      ions, and metal ions
                                                      (including iron,
                                                      copper, lead and
                                                      gold).                                          VMS pod surrounding black smokers
                                                                                                           Aqueous Placer Deposits
                                                                                  Many rock fragments eroded from rocks are ultimately affected by running
      Volcanogenic Massive Sulphide (VMS) deposits                                water.

                                                                                  Particles of gold and other heavy minerals can be concentrated in areas
                                                                                  affected by stream currents (remember light particles are preferentially washed
 The resulting pod-like                                                           away, leaving heavy particles behind).
 deposit is called a
 volcanogenic massive                                                             Good prospect areas include point bars, waterfalls and potholes in the stream
 sulphide (VMS) deposit                                                           bed, where fast moving water slows suddenly.
 (so-named because
 their formation is
 associated with seafloor
 volcanism, and the
 orebody is not well-
                                  VMS deposit in Noranda, Quebec
 defined in shape)

      Deposits Associated with Sedimentary Processes                                                                  Panning

 Some metallic mineral deposits can form by simple                                    The sizes of gold particles
 sedimentary processes (erosion, transport, segregated                                transported in running water can
 deposition).                                                                         range from dust-sized (gold dust),
                                                                                      to pea-sized or larger (nugget-
 In some cases, minerals eroded from pre-existing rocks can
 be concentrated via physical transportation and sorting.
                                                                                      The practice of panning uses the
 Such deposits are largely confined to occurrence in                                  same principle as placer
                                                                                      formation (sediment and water
 siliciclastic sediments.
                                                                                      are agitated in the pan and the
                                                                                      suspended sediment is decanted
 However, some metals of interest can also be concentrated                            with the water).
 in chemical sediments.
                                                                                      The “pay dirt” is left behind


              Largest Gold Nugget in the World:                                                          Banded Iron Formation
              "Welcome Stranger" Nugget, Moliagul, Australia                                                                Interlayered with the bands of iron
                                                                                                                                oxide are bands of chert, which
                                                                                                                                was also precipitated as a
Gross weight: 78.4 kilograms.                                                                                                   chemical sediment.

                                                                                                                            Banded iron formation does not form
                                                                                                                               today because
                                                                                                                            •   The oxygen in the atmosphere
                                                                                                                                rusts iron on land (so is
                                                                                                                                precipitated before it can reach
                                                                                                                                the sea).
                                                                                                                            •   Most silica dissolved in the sea
                                                                                                                                is taken up by some organisms
                                                                                         Red bands: hematite                    (e.g. sponges) to make their
   Welcome Stranger Nugget                Replica for Scale                              White bands: chert                     skeletons, so is typically no
                                                                                                                                longer deposited as a true
                                                                                                                                chemical sediment

                                                                                             Deposits Associated With Weathering: Laterites
                  Banded Iron Formation
                                         Much of the iron mined today               Chemical weathering can lead to economically significant
                                         comes from a deposit type                  metal deposits.
                                         called Banded Iron Formation.
                                         During the Proterozoic, iron was           A good example: bauxite (aluminum ore)
                                         dissolved from rocks on
                                                                                    Aluminum is very abundant in continental crust, but is
                                         This iron remained dissolved in            generally so tightly bonded within silicate minerals that it is
                                         river water due to the absence of          very difficult to extract.
                                         oxygen in the atmosphere (and
                                         in turn, in river water) and was
                                         transported to the sea                     Intense chemical weathering over long periods of time
                                                                                    removes aluminum from feldspar and mica and combines it
                                         Oxygen liberated by bacteria in
                                         the sea reached sufficient levels          with water to form the mineral gibbsite – Al2O3.3H2O
Banded Iron Formation                    to allow iron oxides (as
                                         magnetite or hematite) to                  Gibbsite is heated to drive off the water, and further heated
(example from northern Ontario)                                                     to separate pure aluminum metal from bonded oxygen.
                                         precipitate as a chemical
                                         sediment (1.8-2.5 Ga).
Most of the readily dissolved ions are washed away from the
soil,leaving a residue rich in gibbsite
                                                                                                                   Red chalcocite (copper
In effect, bauxite just is a highly weathered soil.                                                                sulphide) crystals in
                                                                                                                   marble skarn.

                                                                                                                   Skarns can also host
                                                                                                                   some unusual silicate
                                                                                                                   minerals due to reaction
                                                                                                                   of hot fluids with the rock
                                                                                                                   into which the intrusion
                                                                                                                   was emplaced.

Field photo of bauxite deposit        Hand sample of bauxite

          Deposits Associated with Metamorphism
                                                                                                  Some Final Comments

                                       Chemical sediments affected by            The examples shown in this lecture are but a few of the
                                       contact metamorphism can host             different ore deposit types of metallic minerals.
                                       deposits called skarns.
                                                                                 Deposit types can be loosely categorized according to their
                                       In this example, the intrusion of
                                       magma into sedimentary rock               main processes of formation, but each has unique features.
                                       layers has metamorphosed
                                       limestone to marble.                      This is where a knowledge of geology is important !
                                       Injection of acidic fluids into
                                                                                 Think about all the products you use that contain metal of
                                       fractures in the country rock open
                                       and expand cavities (through              some sort – you have geologists to thank for these
                                       dissolution) in the marble, and           products.
                                       metallic minerals can precipitate
                                       in these cavities.


                      END OF LECTURE

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