Platinum Exploration on the Great Dyke of Zimbabwe

Exploration & Mining Geology, Vol. 3, No. 4, 1994

D.J. BOWEN, Mount Pleasant, Harare, Zimbabwe

The Great Dyke extends for 540 km along strike, to unknown depth, and varies in width from 3 km to 11 km. Rb/Sr age determinations gives values of approximately 2470 Ma. The Dyke consists of a variety of mafic and ultramafic rocks, many altered to serpentinites. These include, from top to bottom, successions of gabbro/norites, pyroxenites, peridotites/harzburgites, and dunites/picrites. The layers dip in from either margin, steepest at the edges (20°) and flattening toward the central sections. Four separate complexes are present. From north to south these are termed the Musengezi, Hartley, Selukwe and Wedza Complexes, and are described as 'boat-shaped' or 'pig-troughed'. All are similar in petrologjcal sequences. Physiographically, the Dyke is spectacular in the north, where as a mountain range it meets the Zambezi Escarpment. Elsewhere in the central parts there is little surface expression and wide open treeless vleis. Dyke rocks cut through granite and schist belt terrain and are termed 'The Magnesia Belt'. Vast mineral resources exist. These include chrome, asbestos, platinoids, nickel, copper and gold. Up to eleven chrome seams numbered from top to bottom occur in the lower ultramafic sequences. Seams are narrow at 10 cm to 30 cm but of high grade. The platinum occurs 10 m to 40 m below the norite/pyroxenite contact. A 60 m wide zone of Light Sulfide Mineralization (LSM) of less than 1% sulfides extends from the lower gabbronorites into the upper pyroxenites. In this LSM, four enriched zones carry up to 5% sulfides. The most widespread is termed the Main Sulfide Zone (MSZ), below which is No. 2, No. 3 and No. 4 Sulfide Zones. The MSZ carrying pyrite, pyrrhotite and chalcopyrite is a multielement ore with components of PGE (Pt-Pd-Rh), nickel, copper and cobalt, and gold and silver. Extensive exploration programs have been carried out and the intention is to begin large-scale mining. However, with Russia supplying metals to the western markets, South Africa's cutback on production, and an end to the Cold War, delays have arisen.