Magmatic Controls on the Genesis of Ni-Cu-PGE Sulphide Mineralisation on Mars

Wednesday, 17 December 2014: 1:55 PM
Raphael Johannes Baumgartner1, Marco Fiorentini1, David Baratoux2, Steven Micklethwaite1, Kerim Sener3 and Campbell McCuaig1, (1)University of Western Australia, Crawley, WA, Australia, (2)Observatory Midi-Pyrenees, Toulouse, France, (3)Matrix Exploration Pty Ltd, Perth, Australia
Widespread igneous activity, which shows striking mineralogical, petrographical and chemical similarities with terrestrial komatiites and ferropicrites, intensely affected, reshaped and buried the primordial Martian crust. This study evaluates for the first time whether the broad igneous activity on Mars may have led to the formation of orthomagmatic Ni-Cu-PGE sulphide mineralisation similar to that associated with terrestrial komatiites and ferropicrites. Particular focus is laid on two different components of the Martian Ni-Cu-PGE sulphide mineral system: 1) the potential metal and sulphur fertility of source regions, and 2) the physical/chemical processes that enable sulphide supersaturation and metal concentration into an immiscible sulphide liquid.

We show that potentially metal-rich Martian mantle melts likely reach sulphide saturation within 20-35 wt% of simple silicate fractionation; a value that is comparable to that of the terrestrial equivalents (i.e. ferropicrites and komatiites). However, the majority of terrestrial world-class Ni-Cu-PGE sulphide deposits originated by the assimilation of crustal sulphur-rich country rocks, allowing the attainment of sulphide supersaturation and liquid segregation during early stages of magma evolution. The high sulphur content in Martian crustal lithologies, ranging from sulphide bearing magmatic rocks to sulphate-rich regoliths and sedimentary deposits, imply that mantle melts potentially assimilated significant amounts of crustal sulphur during their ascent and emplacement. As a main outcome we show that channelled and fluid lava flows, which potentially emplaced and incised into these sulphur-rich crustal lithologies, are the most promising systems that may have led to the formation of Ni-Cu-PGE sulphide mineralisation on Mars.