Precambrian Research: Origin of the J-M Reef and lower banded series, Stillwater Complex, Montana, USA

Christopher Jenkins, James E. Mungall, Michael L. Zientek, Gelu Costin, and Zhuo-Sen Yao

The origin and parental magma for layered cumulates in the Lower Banded series (LBS) and the J-M Reef Pd-Pt deposit of the Stillwater Complex remains poorly constrained. We present whole-rock lithogeochemistry and mineral chemistry from LBS rocks collected from drill holes and surface samples from the Mountain View area of the complex that in total span nearly the entirety of the LBS stratigraphy. Excess S, Pt, and Pd in the noritic and gabbronoritic cumulates of the LBS indicate that small amounts of high tenor sulfide liquid generated at very low degrees of sulfide oversaturation were ubiquitous parts of the cumulate assemblage. We show that a simple two-stage thermodynamic model of assimilation-batch crystallization of a komatiitic parental magma in the lower crust produces a close match to a common suite of fine-grained gabbronorite dikes and sills that intrude both the complex and its footwall. After fractionating ultramafic cumulates in the lower crust, the model contaminated komatiitic liquid produces upper crustal cumulates by batch crystallization en route to or at the level of the
intrusion. The modeled rocks have compositions and mineral assemblages closely resembling pyroxenite of the Bronzitite zone and both norite and gabbronorite cumulates in the lower LBS. The trends from the Bronzitite zone through Norite zone I and Gabbronorite zone I can be understood as the result of deposition of crystals from successive batches of the same contaminated parental magma, with an upward trend toward greater amounts of cooling before the separation of crystals from liquid. The olivine-bearing suite of Olivine-bearing zone I, which includes the J-M Reef, can be modeled by partial remelting of the same norite and gabbronorite cumulates due to a temporarily increased flux of hot, moderately less contaminated LBS parental magma that infiltrated partially molten cumulates because its density exceeded that of the interstitial liquid. This model suggests that infiltration of hot Mg-rich parental liquid into moderately PGE-enriched footwall cumulates may be fundamental to the formation of the extremely high tenor sulfide mineralization in the J-M Reef ore zone, and perhaps other reef type deposits worldwide. The same metal tenors that would require silicate/sulfide mass ratios (i.e., R-factors)
of 105 to 106 in a single stage of equilibration would be attained during this second stage of interaction by the incremental infiltration and passage of LBS parental magma through previously sulfide saturated cumulate mush.

Jenkins CM, Mungall JE, Zientek ML, Costin G, Yao ZS (2021): Origin of the J-M Reef and lower banded series, Stillwater Complex, Montana, USA. Precambrian Research, Volume 367, 106457, ISSN 0301-9268, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.precamres.2021.106457

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