Mineralization of Nickel in saprolitic ore of New Caledonia: Dynamics of metal transfer and modeling of coupled geochemical and hydrodynamic processes

Abstract : New Caledonia hosts significant lateritic nickel reserves, and presently became the fifth largest Ni producer in the world. These deposits are generally thought to be closely as- sociated with the intense chemical and mechanical weathering of peridotite bedrock that is a principal source of nickel. Thus, the main ore genesis model for Ni ores in New Caledonia is based on a single per descensum model where most elements (Mg, Ni, and Si) are leached from the surface, particularly, during lateritic soil development. Nickel is then concentrated either in the fine-grained laterite where goethite is the main Ni bearer, the so-called ’lateritic ore’, or below the laterites, in the saprolite level, where nickel occurs as goethite and several types of Mg-Ni silicates, in particular kerolite. Recent mineralogical and structural observations together with mining data have revealed a lot of different types of heterogeneities associated with the distribution and mineralogy of Ni bearing minerals. Therefore, in depth investigations of Ni mobility, its retardation processes along with its governing chemical and hydrodynamic parameters are of big importance for understanding and subsequent prediction of Ni distribution in profiles of New Caledonia. Such an investigation is an objective of the present work. The concept is based on the development of i) a powerful 1D model with particular emphasis on Ni geochemical behavior during ophiolite weathering, its comparison with in situ observations, and detailed understanding of trace elements mobility, and ii) 2D hydro-geochemical model coupled with complex hydrodynamics, that would additionally provide new insight into the structural control on Ni redistribution and mineralization. While the 1D simulations provide a remarkable result for understanding the chemical features that drive Ni retention processes in a profile, 2D model appears to be a powerful tool for understanding how local Ni-enrichments may form. The results of this model show the reactivation of Ni from upper horizons and its concentration in neo-formed silicates in bottom of the saprolite. The reactivated Ni comes mostly from the saprolite horizon due to the redissolution of previously formed Ni-bearing silicates and still persisting in this olivine zone. Modeling has revealed minor contribution of the laterite horizon (Ni-oxi-hydroxides) into the Ni remobilization. The lateral infiltration of water with remobilized Ni from areas such as topographic highs to downstream slope areas leads to the formation of richest deposits in this lower part of profile. The manner of redistribution is fully governed by the topographic slopes, orientation and position of the fractures. Presented models appear to be of importance in attempt of explanation of Ni mineralization processes, revealing the main keys to understanding the control of trace elements mobility in ultramafic environment. The latter gives new insights into the Ni distribution in present day profiles and, therefore, may greatly help in mineral prospecting and forecasting the distribution of future resources
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http://docnum.univ-lorraine.fr/ulprive/DDOC_T_2017_0277_MYAGKIY.pdf
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https://hal.univ-lorraine.fr/tel-01909333
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Submitted on : Wednesday, October 31, 2018 - 9:16:17 AM
Last modification on : Friday, April 5, 2019 - 8:21:38 PM

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  • HAL Id : tel-01909333, version 1

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Andrey Myagkiy. Mineralization of Nickel in saprolitic ore of New Caledonia: Dynamics of metal transfer and modeling of coupled geochemical and hydrodynamic processes. Earth Sciences. Université de Lorraine, 2017. English. ⟨NNT : 2017LORR0277⟩. ⟨tel-01909333⟩

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