Garnierite represents a significant nickel ore in many lateritic Ni deposits worldwide. To gain a better understanding of its nature and origin, a well-developed garnierite-hosting transect from the Kolonodale area of East Sulawesi, Indonesia, has been investigated using field geology, mineralogy and geochemical data. Garnierite occurs mainly in veins in the lower saprolite of a serpentinite-derived regolith. Mineralogically, it can be determined as an intimate mixture of Ni-rich serpentine-like (lizardite-Népouite) and talc-like (kerolite-pimelite) phases. Results of EMP analyses indicate that Ni is preferentially enriched in the talc-like phases rather than the serpentine-like phases. A sequential precipitation of mineral phases progressively enriched in Ni and Si to form garnierite during weathering is suggested. The Ni-lizardite (2.63–8.49 wt% Ni) with elevated Fe (4.02–6.44 wt%) may have been inherited from saprolite in a first instance and enriched in Ni by cation exchange processes. Newly precipitated minerals are kerolite-pimelite (7.84–23.54 wt% Ni) and then followed by Ni-free quartz. Minor amount of Népouite (23.47–28.51 wt% Ni) occur in laths along shrinkage cracks of previously formed minerals, indicating a late stage paragenetic sequence. With emphasis on a hydrologic consideration, indicators of a preferential flow regime are identified in the garnierite-hosting regolith, including: (i) non-uniform pattern of the garnierite field occurrence, (ii) syn-weathering active nature of the garnierite-hosting structures, (iii) close relationship between the garnierite occurrence and vertical Fe–Mn oxides pipes as well as Fe–Mn oxides patched areas, and (iv) specific physico-chemical property of the garnierite location with higher organic matter concentrations but lower pH values compared to surroundings. It is proposed that the origin of garnierite is closely linked to a preferential flow of oversaturated solutions through accessible conduits in the regolith. Garnierite features as colloidal nature, high organic matter and low pH are key-parameters in metal transport and deposition.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Geochemistry and Petrology
- Economic Geology