: Received: 7 December 2021 / Approved: 9 December 2021 / Online: 9 December 2021 (14:40:08 CET)
: Received: 27 January 2022 / Approved: 27 January 2022 / Online: 27 January 2022 (12:43:44 CET)
Aquino, K.A.; Arcilla, C.A.; Schardt, C.; Tupaz, C.A.J. Mineralogical and Geochemical Characterization of the Sta. Cruz Nickel Laterite Deposit, Zambales, Philippines. Minerals2022, 12, 305.
Aquino, K.A.; Arcilla, C.A.; Schardt, C.; Tupaz, C.A.J. Mineralogical and Geochemical Characterization of the Sta. Cruz Nickel Laterite Deposit, Zambales, Philippines. Minerals 2022, 12, 305.
While there are extensive studies on the mineralogy and geochemistry of laterites worldwide, the temporal and spatial mineralogical development of a typical nickel laterite profile is still poorly constrained. In this study, we present a detailed mineralogical and geochemical characterization of samples systematically collected from a nickel laterite profile at the Sta. Cruz nickel laterite deposit, Zambales, Philippines, to describe the temporal and spatial development of the laterite profile. Wavelength-dispersive X-ray fluorescence spectroscopy (WDSXRF), mass balance-element mobility calculations, transmitted and reflected light microscopy, and previously reported results from coupled X-ray diffraction (XRD) and Rietveld refinement analyses, reveal that the laterite profile investigated is composed of two main horizons: the limonite and saprolite zones, separated by a thin transitional zone. The main zones are further subdivided into subzones based primarily on the mineral assemblage and major element chemistry: upper limonite, lower limonite, transitional zone, upper saprolite, and lower saprolite. Late-stage Ni-rich serpentine veins were observed cutting the upper and lower saprolite subzones. Investigation of the structure of goethite within the limonite zone via Rietveld refinement show that the crystallinity of goethite decreases with increasing Ni content and increasing crystallite size. This suggests that upwards through the limonite zone, as goethite ages, its crystallinity increases which possibly results in the removal of Ni from its crystal structure and eventual remobilization to the lower laterite zones. We propose a genetic model of the formation of the Sta. Cruz laterite consisting of four stages: (1) early-stage alteration, (2) continued serpentinization and volume expansion, (3) late stage serpentinization, dissolution, and incipient oxide formation, and (4) goethite ageing and Ni-rich serpentine vein formation. Overall, our results suggest that serpentinization is an important aspect of Ni laterite formation, both before and after the emplacement of the peridotite protolith.
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