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Kambalda, Widgiemooltha, Tramways

Western Australia, WA, Australia

Main commodities: Ni Cu
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The Kambalda nickel mines lie within the south-central section of the Archaean Norseman-Wiluna greenstone belt, 60 to 100 km SSE of Kalgoorlie in Western Australia. More than 22 deposits worked as part of the Kambalda operation, includes those on the flanks of the Kambalda and Widgiemooltha domes, and within the St Ives, Tramway and Golden Ridge - Carnilya Hill belts, and other equivalent exposures of komatiitic flows, as listed below.

The lowest member of the host succession within the Kambaldo Dome sequence is the Lunnon Basalt which is overlain by the host 2710 Ma Kambalda Komatiite, followed by the Devon Consols Basalt and a package of basalts and sediments (slates and greywackes) deposited from 2710 to 2670 Ma. These are intruded by a 2662 Ma granitoid stock which forms the core of the oval shaped Kambalda Dome around which the individual orebodies are distributed in an annular zone of approximately 8 x 3 km, elongated in a NNW direction. Peripheral porphyry dykes associated with the granitoid stock cut both the hosts and ore.

The sill like Kambalda Komatiite, which lies more or less conformably between the two basalts, is composed of the upper Tripod Hill Member and the lower Silver Lake Member, with Fe-Ni mineralisation being generally restricted to the lowermost sections of the latter. In each, flow, lateral and vertical variations in composition, degree of differentiation and distribution of interflow sediments define channel flow and sheet flow facies. Channel flows may be up to 100 m thick, 500 m wide and 15 km long, occupying channel structures in the underlying Lunnon Basalt.

The Fe-Ni sulphides are usually restricted to the base of the lowermost channel flows - contact orebodies - but are occasionally also in higher flows - hangingwall orebodies. The contact orebodies, which have historically accounted for 80% of the reserves, occur as elongate, lensoid and tabular ribbon like bodies up to 3 km long and 300 m wide and usually <5 m thick, containing <0.5 to 10 Mt ore lenses. The individual orebodies grade upwards from the around 2 m thick basal massive (>80%) sulphides to around 2 m of matrix (40 to 80%) sulphide, to disseminated and blebby sulphides.

Deposits around the Kambalda Dome include Lunnon, Hunt, Victor, Long, Gibb, Durkin, Otter-Juan, Gellatly, McMahon, Coronet, Fisher, Ken, Hunt, Alpha and Beta.

Mining commenced in the Kambalda district in 1967, and from 1972 to 1988 exploration maintained resources at an almost constant level of around 25 Mt @ 3.2% Ni.   Total production from 1976 to 1996 was ~34 Mt @ 3.1% Ni and to 2020 was ~51 Mt @ 3.1% Ni. The bulk of the earlier production was from the main Kambalda Dome deposits.

Similar bodies have been outlined and mined in the surrounding district as part of the Kambalda Nickel Operations. These include:   i). the Foster and Jan deposits in the St Ives belt, approximately 10 to 15 km to the south;   ii). the Helmut, Schmitz, Edwin and Lanfranchy deposits in the Tramways belt, 45 km to the south,   iii). the Redross, Mariners, Miitel, Widgie, Mount Edwards and Wannaway deposits on the Widgiemooltha Dome, 30 to 40 km to the SSW,   iv). the Cameron and Stockwell deposits in the Bluebush Line between the Tramway belt and Widgiemooltha Dome, some 40 km to the south, and 10 to 15 km east of the Widgiemooltha Dome,   v). the Blair and Carnilya Hill mines at the Golden Ridge-Carnilya Hill Belt 40 km to the NE of Kambalda. All of the distances are with respect to the Kambalda Dome.

Subsequent to the development of original deposits of the Kambalda Dome and the exhaustion of many, operations have commenced at the Miitel, Mariners, Redross, Wannaway and Carnilya Hill Mines, while Kambalda Dome deposits such as the Coronet/McCloy, Otter-Juan and the McMahon have continued production.

The Mariners, Miitel, Redross and Wannaway deposits, which produced at a rate of around 440 000 tonnes of ore per annum in 2005-06, at grades of 2.2 to 2.9% Ni, occur on the flanks of the Widgiemooltha Dome and have a very similar geology to the deposits of the Kambalda Dome. At Miitel, which is representative of the Widgiemooltha Dome deposits, faulting has repeated the lower contact zone of mineralisation which has a lateral extent of 15 km. The main Miitel deposit is a sheet-like body of sulphides lying on the basalt contact. It consists of three parallel, elongated ore zones which dip at about 80° to the east, and plunge at 35° to the south. The largest and highest grade of these, the central ore zone, has dimensions of approximately 1000 metres along plunge, 50-120 metres in dip-direction, and 1-3 metres thick.

The orebody at Miitel comprises a lower 0.2 to 1.5 m thickness of massive (essentially 100%) sulphides, the most abundant of which are pyrrhotite (~50%), pentlandite (~35%), and minor amounts of pyrite, chalcopyrite, chromite and magnetite, with a grade of 10 to 14% Ni. Lesser millerite zones are also present. The massive sulphides lie directly on basalts and are overlain in turn by up to 1.5 m of matrix sulphides, which consist of a net-textured rock composed of intermixed silicate (mainly olivine) of the host and interstitial sulphides. Grade range from 3 to 8% Ni. The matrix sulphides pass upwards into a zone of disseminated sulphides comprising a fine-grained (0.5 to 2 mm) sprinkling of sulphides scattered throughout the ultramafic host rock carrying 0.5 to 2.0% Ni. This zone usually has a gradational upper boundary with the unmineralised overlying host rock.

The Mariners deposit is longitudinally arcuate and is characterised by a high As content of up to 30 000 ppm and Ni-As sulphides such as gersdorffite and niccolite, as well as PGE group elements, particularly Pd, and has a medium Ni tenor of 8 to 12%. It has an erratic thickness variation and continuity, with a series of pods and the presence of a 25 m thicj pyrrhotitic sedimentary unit in the hangingwall.

At Helmut, in the Tramway Belt, the deposit occurs within talc-magnesite-magnetite altered olivine cumulate rocks located 3 to 7 m above the footwall basalt contact. The host flow is up to 110 m thick and 400 m wide, one of the largest channelised olivine cumulate flows of the Kambalda district. It is overlain by interflow sulphidic to carbonaceous to cherty sediments and passes laterally into strongly brecciated flow units of the flanking facies. The ore deposit is predominantly disseminated to matrix mineralisation, with a low Ni tenor, which increases from <5 to 8-12% as the total sulphide content increases. The ore profile is composed of a small core of massive sulphide which passes outwards into matrix and then disseminated sulphide mineralisation.

The Blair deposit in the Golden Ridge-Carnilya Hill Belt, is immediately underlain by up to 15 m of carbonaceous pelites, epidosites and cherts, rather than tholeiitic basalts which are stratigraphically below these sediments. The Carnilya Hill, in the same belt, has a high tenor of 10 to 16% Ni. It comprises massive mineralisation within an up to 20 m thick low Mg amphibole-chlorite altered picrite and pyroxenite unit which underlies across a sharp contact, un-mineralised, high-Mg talc-chlorite altered komatiitic olivine cumulate.

Historical mining and reserve figures for the Kambalda Dome deposits to 1997 and to 2010 are listed above.   In 1997 proven and probable reserves totalled 10.5 Mt while resources amounted to an additional >20 Mt of comparable grades.

To 1999, reserves plus production amounted to 70 Mt @ 2.9% Ni. The 8 biggest orebodies varied in size from 0.9 to 10 Mt at grades of 2.3 to 3.9% Ni. The operation was originally owned by WMC Limited - 100% until acquired by Mincor Resources in 2001.

In June 2004 reserves + resources totalled 3.85 Mt @ 3.2% Ni.

At June 2007, total measured + indicated + inferred resources totalled: 3.72 Mt @ 3.9% Ni.
    This included total proved + probable reserves of 2.243 Mt @ 2.8% Ni. (Source Mincor, 2008)
The resource figures comprised:  Mariners - 0.784 Mt @ 4.0% Ni;  Redross - 0.276 Mt @ 3.7% Ni;  North Doordie - 0.151 Mt @ 1.5% Ni;  Miitel - 1.096 Mt @ 3.6% Ni;  Wannaway - 0.073 Mt @ 2.6% Ni;  Carnilya Hill - 0.230 Mt @ 4.9% Ni (Mincors 70% of total resource);  Otter Juan - 0.404 Mt @ 4.9% Ni;  McMahon/Ken - 0.392 Mt @ 4.0% Ni;  Durkin - 0.285 Mt @ 4.6% Ni;  Gellatly - 0.029 Mt @ 3.4% Ni.

As at 30 June 2012, total measured + indicated + inferred resources totalled: 3.557 Mt @ 3.7% Ni.
    This included total proved + probable reserves of 0.747 Mt @ 3.5% Ni. (Source Mincor, 2013)
The measured + indicated + inferred resource figures comprised:  Mariners - 0.521 Mt @ 4.5% Ni;  Redross - 0.244 Mt @ 3.2% Ni;  Burnett - 0.219 Mt @ 3.6% Ni;  Miitel - 0.771 Mt @ 3.6% Ni;  Wannaway - 0.126 Mt @ 3.1% Ni;  Carnilya Hill - 0.080 Mt @ 3.0% Ni (Mincors 70% of total resource);  Otter Juan - 0.211 Mt @ 3.8% Ni;  McMahon/Ken/Coronet - 0.340 Mt @ 3.6% Ni;  Durkin - 0.366 Mt @ 5.1% Ni;  Gellatly - 0.029 Mt @ 3.4% Ni;  Stockwell - 0.554 Mt @ 3.0% Ni;  Cameron - 0.096 Mt @ 3.3% Ni.

The most recent source geological information used to prepare this summary was dated: 2007.    
This description is a summary from published sources, the chief of which are listed below.
© Copyright Porter GeoConsultancy Pty Ltd.   Unauthorised copying, reproduction, storage or dissemination prohibited.


Kambalda Dome

Widgiemooltha Dome

  References & Additional Information
   Selected References:
Barnes S J, Heggie G J and Fiorentini M L  2013 - Spatial Variation in Platinum Group Element Concentrations in Ore-Bearing Komatiite at the Long-Victor Deposit, Kambalda Dome, Western Australia: Enlarging the Footprint of Nickel Sulfide Orebodies : in    Econ. Geol.   v. 46 pp. 913-933
Barnes, S.J., Beresford, S.W. and Le Vaillant, M.,  2016 - Interspinifex Ni Sulfide Ore from the Coronet Shoot, Kambalda: Characterization Using Microbeam X-Ray Fluorescence Mapping and 3-D X-Ray Computed Tomography: in    Econ. Geol.   v.111, pp. 1509-1517
Begg, G.C., Hronsky, J.A.M., Arndt, N.T., Griffin, W.L., O Reilly, S.Y. and Hayward, N.,  2010 - Lithospheric, Cratonic, and Geodynamic Setting of Ni-Cu-PGE Sulfide Deposits: in    Econ. Geol.   v.105, pp. 1057-1070.
Beresford S, Stone W E, Cas R, Lahaye Y and Jane M,  2005 - Volcanological Controls on the Localization of the Komatiite-Hosted Ni-Cu-(PGE) Coronet Deposit, Kambalda, Western Australia: in    Econ. Geol.   v100 pp 1457-1467
Cowden A  1988 - Emplacement of Komatiite lava flows and associated Nickel Sulfides at Kambalda, Western Australia: in    Econ. Geol.   v83 pp 436-442
Cowden A, Donaldson M J, Naldrett A J, Campbell I H  1986 - Platinum-group elements and Gold in the Komatiite-hosted Fe-Ni-Cu Sulfide deposits at Kambalda, Western Australia: in    Econ. Geol.   v81 pp 1226-1235
Cowden A, Roberts D E  1995 - Komatiite Hosted Nickel Sulphide Deposits, Kambalda: in Hughes F E (Ed),  Geology of the Mineral Deposits of Australia and Papua New Guinea, The AusIMM, Melbourne   v1 pp 567-581
Gresham J J, Loftus-Hills G D  1981 - The geology of the Kambalda Nickel Field, Western Australia: in    Econ. Geol.   v76 pp 1373-1416
Hill R E T, Barnes S J, Gole M J, Dowling S E  1990 - Komatiites in the Kambalda Area: in   Physical Volcanology of Komatiites, A Field Guide to the Komatiites of the Norseman-Wiluna Greenstone Belt, Eastern Goldfields Province, Yilgarn Block, Western Australia Excursion Guide Book No. 1, GSA (WA Division), Perth    pp 20-24
Mamuse A, Porwal A, Kreuzer O and Beresford S,  2010 - Spatial Statistical Analysis of the Distribution of Komatiite-Hosted Nickel Sulfide Deposits in the Kalgoorlie Terrane, Western Australia: Clustered or Not?: in    Econ. Geol.   v105 pp 229-242
Marston R J, Kay B D  1980 - The distribution, petrology and genesis of nickel ores at the Juan Complex, Kambalda, Western Australia: in    Econ. Geol.   v75 pp 546-565
Marston, R.J., Groves, D.I., Hudson, D.R. and Ross, J.R.,  1981 - Nickel sulfide deposits in Western Australia: a review: in    Econ. Geol.   v.76, pp. 1330-1363.
Naldrett A J  1999 - World Class Ni-Cu-PGE Deposits: Key Factors in their Genesis: in    Mineralium Deposita   v34 pp 227-240
Ross J R, Hopkins G M F  1975 - Kambalda Nickel Sulphide deposits: in Knight C L, (Ed.), 1975 Economic Geology of Australia & Papua New Guinea The AusIMM, Melbourne   Mono 5 pp 100-121
Song, X., Wang, Y. and Chen, L.,  2011 - Magmatic Ni-Cu-(PGE) deposits in magma plumbing systems: Features, formation and exploration: in    Geoscience Frontiers   v.2, pp. 375-384.
Stone W E, Archibald N J,  2004 - Structural controls on nickel sulphide ore shoots in Archaean komatiite, Kambalda, WA: the volcanic trough controversy revisited: in    J. of Structural Geology   v26 pp 1173-1194
Stone W E, Beresford S W and Archibald N J,  2005 - Structural Setting and Shape Analysis of Nickel Sulfide Shoots at the Kambalda Dome, Western Australia: Implications for Deformation and Remobilization: in    Econ. Geol.   v100 pp 1441-1455
Stone W E, Masterman E E  1998 - Kambalda Nickel Deposits: in Berkman D A, Mackenzie D H (Eds),  Geology of Australian and Papua New Guinean Mineral Deposits The AusIMM, Melbourne    pp 347-356


Porter GeoConsultancy Pty Ltd (PorterGeo) provides access to this database at no charge.   It is largely based on scientific papers and reports in the public domain, and was current when the sources consulted were published.   While PorterGeo endeavour to ensure the information was accurate at the time of compilation and subsequent updating, PorterGeo takes no responsibility what-so-ever for inaccurate or out of date data, information or interpretations.

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