Process Mineralogy of Samples from the Wellgreen Cu-Ni-Pt-Pd Deposit, Yukon
The mineralogy of samples from the Wellgreen Cu-Ni-Pt-Pd deposit, Yukon Territory, is complex and the metals of interest are contained within fine-grained minerals which vary in size and mineral associations from sample to sample.
The major Ni carriers are pentlandite and violarite; the major Cu carrier is chalcopyrite. About 70% of the major Ni carriers and 78% of the major Cu carrier will be liberated at a grind of 80% -26.7 /on (-500 mesh) for typical low-grade gabbro (West zone, sample No. 1). For typical "clinopyroxenite" (West zone, sample No. 2) and typical "clinopyroxene-rich peridotite" (East zone, sample No. 3) the liberation would be 71% and 65% for Ni, 74% and 60% for Cu, respectively. Fine grinding, however, cannot liberate the Ni contained in silicates and pyrrhotite, estimated to total 24.5% for typical low-grade gabbro (West zone, sample No. 1), 15% for typical "clinopyroxenite" (West zone, sample No. 2), and 12% for typical "clinopyroxene-rich peridotite" (East zone, sample No. 3).
The principal Pt carrier (sperrylite) varies considerably in grain-size between samples and fine grinding, required to liberate the major Ni and Cu carriers, may be counterproductive in samples where sperrylite is relatively coarse-grained, as some would then be unrecovered (e.g. sample No. 1). In addition, sperrylite in samples No. 2 and No. 3 is closely associated with magnetite.
Palladium occurs in diverse ways. It occurs in the form of several Pd minerals (e.g. sudburyite, testibiopalladite, merenskyite), as a replacement for Ni in several tellurides, antimonides and tel-lurantimonides (e.g. melonite), or as very low concentrations in pentlandite (up to 34 ppm), chalcopyrite (up to 9 ppm), and pyrrhotite (up to 5.6 ppm). Palladium minerals and Pd-bearing minerals are strongly associated with chalcopyrite in sample No. 1 and will thus report to a Cu concentrate. However, 22% of the total Pd is in solid solution in pentlandite in this sample and will thus report to the Ni concentrate. In samples No. 2 and No. 3, less Pd occurs in solid solution in pentlandite, and the PGM are distributed mainly among pentlandite, chalcopyrite, and magnetite in sample No. 2, and among pentlandite, pyrrhotite, chalcopyrite, and magnetite in sample No. 3. Therefore, the feasibility of magnetic concentration should be investigated for samples like No. 2 and No. 3, in order to improve Pt and Pd recoveries.
Rhodium was found to occur as rare hoUingworthite, in sparse cobaltite (up to 2.7%) and, as low concentrations in chalcopyrite (to 10 ppm) and pentlandite (to 12 ppm) by proton microprobe. . Ruthenium was determined by proton microprobe analyses to occur in pentlandite (up to 13 ppm) and chalcopyrite (up to 10 ppm), in addition to rare laurite and Re alloy.