In-situ Pb isotope analysis of Fe–Ni–Cu sulphides by laser ablation multi-collector ICPMS: New insights into ore formation in the Sudbury impact melt sheet

James Darling, Craig Storey, C. Hawkesworth, P. Lightfoot

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    Laser-ablation (LA) multi-collector inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry (MC-ICPMS) is ideally suited to in situ determination of isotope ratios in sulphide minerals. Using samples of magmatic sulphide ore from the Sudbury impact structure, we test LA-MC-ICPMS analytical protocols that aim to meet a range of analytical challenges in the analysis of Pb isotopes. These include: potential matrix sensitive isotopic fractionation; interferences on Pb isotopes; low melting points of many sulphide minerals; the availability of standards. Magmatic sulphides of wide ranging mineralogy (pyrrhotite, pentlandite, chalcopyrite, pyrite and sphalerite) were analysed for Pb isotopic composition, using the silicate glass NIST SRM 610 as an external standard to correct for instrumental mass-fractionation. Despite matrix sensitive melting and re-deposition around ablation pits, several lines of evidence indicate that all analyses are accurate, within typical analytical uncertainties of 0.003–2% (2σ), and that the defined approach is insensitive to compositional diversity in sample matrix: (a) laser ablation and dissolution based measurements of sulphide powders are in agreement; (b) analyses from each sample define isochron ages within uncertainty of the known crystallization age (1850 Ma); (c) the results of sulphide measurements by laser ablation are consistent with age-corrected feldspar analyses from the same samples. The results have important implications for ore formation in Sudbury. The Pb isotope data regressions are consistent with age corrected feldspar analyses from each respective sample, which together with time integrated Th/U ratios that match whole rock values (3.1, 4.0 and 6.1 for the Worthington, Copper Cliff and Parkin Offset Dykes, respectively) indicate chemical equilibrium between the silicate and sulphide systems during ore formation. The sulphides within each respective sample have indistinguishable model initial Pb isotope ratios (207Pb/204Pbm), irrespective of mineralogy or texture, indicating a common origin for ores within each of three different Offset Dykes. Furthermore, variations between Offset Dykes (e.g., 207Pb/204Pbm = 15.514 ± 0.012, 15.399 ± 0.009 and 15.275 ± 0.003) show that the ores have differing crustal sources on previously unrecognized scales. Mass balance considerations, particularly for MgO, Ni and Cu, indicate that the spatial distribution of mafic target rocks played a significant role in controlling the mineralization potential in different parts of the melt sheet.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)1-17
    Number of pages17
    JournalGeochimica et Cosmochimica Acta
    Publication statusPublished - 15 Dec 2012


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