Millerite

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Millerite is a nickel sulfide mineral, NiS. It is brassy in colour and has an acicular habit, often forming radiating masses and furry aggregates. It can be distinguished from pentlandite by crystal habit, its duller colour, and general lack of association with pyrite or pyrrhotite.

Contents

Paragenesis

Millerite is a common metamorphic mineral replacing pentlandite within serpentinite ultramafics. It is formed in this way by removal of sulfur from pentlandite or other nickeliferous sulfide minerals during metamorphism or metasomatism.

Millerite is also formed from sulfur poor olivine cumulates by nucleation. Millerite is thought to form from sulfur and nickel which exist in pristine olivine in trace amounts, and which are driven out of the olivine during metamorphic processes. Magmatic olivine generally has up to ~4000 ppm Ni and up to 2500 ppm S within the crystal lattice, as contaminants and substituting for other transition metals with similar ionic radii (Fe2+ and Mn2+).

During metamorphism, sulfur and nickel within the olivine lattice are reconsitituted into metamorphic sulfide minerals, chiefly millerite, during serpentinization and talc carbonate alteration. When metamorphic olivine is produced, the propensity for this mineral to resorb sulfur, and for the sulfur to be removed via the concomittant loss of volatiles from the serpentinite, tends to lower sulfur fugacity.

This forms disseminated needle like millerite crystals dispersed throughout the rock mass.

Millerite may be associated with heazlewoodite and is considered a transitional stage in the metamorphic production of heazlewoodite via the above process.

Economic importance

Millerite, when found in enough concentration, is a very important ore of nickel because, for its mass as a sulfide mineral, it contains a higher percentage of nickel than pentlandite. This means that, for every percent of millerite, an ore contains more nickel than an equivalent percentage of pentlandite sulfide.

Millerite forms an important ore constituent of the Silver Swan, Wannaway, Cliffs, Honeymoon Well, Yakabindie and Mt Keith (MKD5) orebodies. It is an accessory mineral associated with nickel laterite deposits in New Caledonia.

Occurrence

Millerite is found as a metamorphic replacement of pentlandite within the Silver Swan nickel deposit, Western Australia, and throughout the many ultramafic serpentinite bodies of the Yilgarn Craton, Western Australia, generally as a replacement of metamorphosed pentlandite.

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