Blade-shaped dikes and nickel sulfide deposits: A model for the emplacement of ore-bearing small intrusions
Most of the world's major deposits of nickel and copper were formed as accumulations of magmatic sulfide liquid within small mafic-ultramafic intrusions. Ore-hosting intrusions exhibit a variety of forms but typically show greater horizontal than vertical extents, occurring as tube-shaped chonoliths, narrow elongate sills, boatshaped bodies, or sword blade-shaped dikes with originally horizontal principal axes. Sulfide accumulation at the downward termination of blade-shaped dikes is noted in a number of deposits worldwide. Based on evidence from continental dike swarms, Icelandic fissure eruptions, and active shield volcanoes, we suggest that these blade-shaped bodies formed by magma migration within vertical fractures that propagated laterally rather than vertically. Some examples, notably the bladed dikes of the South Raglan trend, have contact relationships indicating processes of active erosion, assimilation, and replacement of country rock. Where such dikes are injected into mixed volcanic-sedimentary sequences, thermal modeling of interaction with nonrefractory country rock predicts repeated formation and collapse of transient chilled margins against narrow zones of partially molten wall rock. Where the wall rock is sulfide-rich sediment, this generates a slurry of sulfide liquid, country-rock xenoliths, and chilled margin fragments that flows down the wall to accumulate at the bottom edge of the dike. This type of mixture is commonly seen as "sulfide-matrix ore breccias" in intrusion-hosted deposits. Widening of the conduit along zones of easily eroded country rock may result in a transition from a dike-like to a tubular chonolith geometry. Multiple magma pulses within the same magma conduit may give rise to complex superimpositions of ore zones, further complicated by formation of sulfide-silicate melting-infiltration fronts. Hence we argue that the bladed-dike geometry is an end-member type that commonly serves as a precursor form to a range of eventual geometric forms; recognition of this basic geometry provides general insights into the origins of other important deposits.
Barnes, S.J. (Stephen J.), & Mungall, J.E. (2018). Blade-shaped dikes and nickel sulfide deposits: A model for the emplacement of ore-bearing small intrusions. Economic Geology, 113(3), 789–798. doi:10.5382/econgeo.2018.4571