The Munali Ni sulfide deposit, southern Zambia: a multi-stage, mafic-ultramafic, magmatic sulfide-magnetite-apatite-carbonate megabreccia
journal contributionposted on 23.03.2017, 14:51 by David A. Holwell, Chloe L. Mitchell, Grace A. Howe, David M. Evans, Laura A. Ward, Richard Friedman
The Munali Intrusive Complex (MIC) is a flattened tube-shaped, mafic-ultramafic intrusion located close to the southern Congo Craton margin in the Zambezi belt of southern Zambia. It is made up of a Central Gabbro Unit (CGU) core, surrounded by a Marginal Ultramafic-mafic Breccia Unit (MUBU), which contains magmatic Ni sulfide mineralisation. The MIC was emplaced into a sequence of metamorphosed Neoproterozoic rift sediments and is entirely hosted within a unit of marble. Munali has many of the characteristics of craton-margin, conduit-style, dyke-sill complex-hosted magmatic sulfide deposits. Three-dimensional modelling of the MUBU on the southern side of the MIC, where the Munali Nickel Mine is located, reveals a laterally discontinuous body located at the boundary between footwall CGU and hangingwall metasediments. Mapping of underground faces demonstrates the MUBU to have intruded after the CGU and be a highly complex, multi stage megabreccia made up of atypical ultramafic rocks (olivinites, olivine-magnetite rocks, and phoscorites), poikilitic gabbro and olivine basalt/dolerite dykes, brecciated on a millimetre to metre scale by magmatic sulfide. The breccia matrix is largely made up of a sulfide assemblage of pyrrhotite-pentlandite-chalcopyrite-pyrite with varying amounts of magnetite, apatite and carbonate. The sulfides become more massive towards the footwall contact. Late stage, high temperature sulfide-carbonate-magnetite veins cut the rest of the MUBU. The strong carbonate signature is likely due, in part, to contamination from the surrounding marbles, but may also be linked to a carbonatite melt related to the phoscorites. Ductile deformation and shear fabrics are displayed by talc-carbonate altered ultramafic clasts that may represent gas streaming textures by CO2-rich fluids. High precision U-Pb geochronology on zircons give ages of 862.39 ± 0.84 Ma for the poikilitic gabbro and 857.9 ± 1.9 Ma for the ultramafics, highlighting the multi-stage emplacement but placing both mafic and later ultramafic magma emplacement within the Neoproterozoic rifting of the Zambezi Ocean, most likely as sills or sheet-like bodies. Sulfide mineralisation is associated with brecciation of the ultramafics and so is constrained to a maximum age of 858 Ma. The Ni- and Fe-rich nature of the sulfides reflect either early stage sulfide saturation by contamination, or the presence of a fractionated sulfide body with Cu-rich sulfide elsewhere in the system. Munali is an example of a complex conduit-style Ni sulfide deposit affected by multiple stages and sources of magmatism during rifting at a craton margin, subsequent deformation; and where mafic and carbonatitic melts have interacted along deep seated crustal fault systems to produce a mineralogically unusual deposit.