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Mineralogical Characterization

of Nickel Laterites from New


Caledonia and Indonesia
T.T. Chen1, J.E. Dutrizac1, E. Krause2
and R. Osborne2
1CANMET,

Natural Resources Canada, Ottawa, Ontario


2Inco Technical Services Limited, Mississauga, Ontario

Nickel laterites
Nickel laterite ores were formed by tropical
weathering of precursor (terutama)
ultramafic rocks.

The ores are generally divided into two


types: limonitic and saprolitic.

Some ores formed in situ, whereas others


were transported and deposited in locations
removed from their precursor sites.

New Caledonia
Principal Nickel Laterite Deposits
Poum
Tiebaghi
Etoile du Nord
Tchingou
Koniambo

Moneo
Nepoui
Poro
Louaoua
Me Maoya
Nakety
Tene Bourail
Thio
LEGEND
Residual Nickel Deposit
Sedimentary Nickel Deposit
Ultramafic

Tontouta
NOUMEA

Quinne
PdL Yate
Goro
Pernod
Prony

Indonesia
Principal Nickel Laterite Deposits

SERAWAK
HALMAHERA
SULAWESI

GEBE
WAIGEO IRIAN JAYA
KALIMANTAN
GAG
OBI
PNG
SOROWAKO
BAHODOPI
SENTANI
POMALAA

WEDA BAY

SUMATRA

500km
TIMOR

Samples studied
The samples studied are typical wet nickel
laterites of humid rain forests. They are grab
samples obtained from Inco operations:

Pilot plant autoclave test feed of Goro laterite,


New Caledonia (limonitic, in-situ type).

Plaine des Lacs (PDL) sedimentary material,


New Caledonia (limonitic, transported type).

Reduction rotary kiln feed from PT Inco (PTI)


Sorowako, Indonesia (saprolitic, in-situ type).

Experimental

The as-received Goro sample was dried at


~35oC for two weeks. Drying resulted in the
agglomeration of the materials.

Grinding the as-received dried PTI reduction


kiln feed to <200 m.

All the microprobe analysis data are


considered to be only semi-quantitative, and
are intended to serve only as an indication of
the nickel-carriers.

Chemical analyses (wt %)


Ni
Co
Fe
Mg
Si
Al
Mn
Cr
CO3

Goro
1.73
0.11
41.1
2.73
5.11
2.57
0.68
1.73
0.66

PT Inco
1.99
0.05
20.7
10.1
14.6
1.66
0.36
0.80
-

Goro Nickel New Caledonia

Goro laterite. 1- (Cr,Al,Mg,Fe)3O4, 2- goethite, 3- serpentine,


4- gibbsite, 5- fine-grained matrix

Goro laterite. 1- goethite, 2- serpentine, 3- goethite,


4- quartz, 5- (Cr,Al,Mg,Fe)3O4

Goro laterite

Approximately two-thirds of the particles


are <10 m in size. They consist of
goethite and serpentine, as well as minor
amounts of talc, gibbsite, chlorite, quartz
and clay minerals.

The coarser grains are mainly Cr-spinel,


serpentine, gibbsite and Mn oxide, as well
as trace amounts of forsterite, quartz,
amphibole and enstatite.

Goro laterite

Major - goethite FeOOH.


Minor - lizardite Mg3Si2O5(OH)4 (serpentine),
talc Mg3Si4O10(OH)2, gibbsite Al(OH)3, Crspinel (Cr,Al,Mg,Fe)3O4 and Mn oxide.

Trace - magnetite, chlorite Mg-Fe-Al silicate,


forsterite Mg2SiO4 (olivine), amphibole CaMg-Fe silicate, enstatite MgSiO3 (pyroxene),
quartz and silica SiO2.nH2O.

Goro laterite. 1- grey serpentine, 2- dark serpentine,


3- Mn-Ni-Fe oxide, 4- serpentine, 5- goethite

Goro laterite. 1- Mn oxide, 2- goethite, 3- serpentine,


4- Fe-Mn-Al oxide

Goro laterite. 1- forsterite, 2- serpentine, 3- quartz, 4goethite, 5- siderite, 6- enstatite, 7- gibbsite, 8- magnetite

Approximate average compositions of the Ni-carriers


in Goro laterite, as determined by electron
microprobe analyses (wt %)
Goethite

Grey
Dark
Mn Magnetite Chlorite
serpentine serpentine oxide
Ni
1.5
1.7
2.0
10.2
0.15
0.7
Fe 47.8
6.1
6.1
7.5
68.6
5.0
Mg 0.6
21.1
14.1
0.6
0.3
17.1
Al
2.9
0.4
1.4
4.3
0.1
8.2
Cr
0.8
0.1
0.3
0.2
0.2
0.4
Mn 0.4
0.1
0.1
23.0
0.3
nd
Co
0.1
nd
nd
4.1
0.4
nd
Si
1.6
17.7
14.7
0.5
0.1
13.9
nd- below detection limit (Mn 600-700 ppm, Co 550-600
ppm, Ni 550-600 ppm). Serpentine Mg2-3Si2O5(OH)4.nH2O

P.T. Inco Sorowako East Block

PT Inco reduction kiln feed

The material consists of a mixture of two


principle ores (a unserpentinized ore and a
variably serpentinized ore), together with a
small amount of recycled converter material
and kiln dust.

The ore is saprolitic, containing dominant


amounts of Mg silicate and Mg-Fe silicate
minerals.

PT Inco reduction kiln feed

The ore still contains significant quantities of the


precursor minerals olivine, pyroxene and
amphibole.

Most of the particles exhibit complex alteration


textures. Mineral species and Ni contents vary
from particle to particle.

Because the coarser-grained particles had

been
ground prior to study, the particle sizes shown in
this study do not necessarily represent the ore.

PTI reduction kiln feed. 1- enstatite, 2- Ca-Mg silicate, 3serpentine, 4- Mg-Ca-Al silicate (amphibole), 5- goethite, 6(Al,Cr,Fe,Mg)3O4, 7- Mg-Fe-Al silicate (chlorite)

PTI reduction kiln feed. 1- olivine, 2- diopside, 3- Mg silicate,


4- chlorite, 5- goethite, 6- serpentine, 7- Fe oxide, 8- spheroid

PT Inco reduction kiln feed

Major - serpentine.
Minor to trace - goethite, Cr-spinel, chlorite,
talc, amphibole, pyroxene (enstatite,
diopside), Mn oxide, various Fe-Mg-Al
silicates, Fe-Mg-Ni-Si-O spheroids (recycled
process material), olivine, magnetite and
quartz.

PTI reduction kiln feed. 1- grey serpentine (1.8-2.0% Ni), 2dark serpentine- (2.1-3.0% Ni), 3- goethite (0.4% Ni), 4goethite (0.3-0.5% Ni), 5- goethite (1.0-2.1% Ni), 6- forsterite
(0.2% Ni), 7- Mn oxide (13.8% Ni), 8- enstatite (no Ni)

PTI reduction kiln feed. 1- (Cr,Fe)3O4 (no Ni), 2(Cr,Fe,Al,Mg)3O4 (0.17% Ni), 3- Fe3O4 (1.1% Ni), 4- serpentine
(1.2-2.7% Ni), 5- goethite (1.4% Ni), 6- spheroid (1.2% Ni in MgFe silicate and 2.3% Ni in Fe oxide), 7- NiFe2O4, 8- Mn oxide
(9.6% Ni)

PTI reduction kiln feed. 1- goethite (0.3-0.4% Ni), 2- grey


serpentine (1.5% Ni), 3- dark serpentine (2.2% Ni), 4- dark
serpentine (4.9% Ni), 5- goethite (1.9-2.0% Ni), 6- Mn oxide
(16.3-17.3% Ni)

Approximate average compositions of the Ni-carriers


in the PTI reduction kiln feed, as determined by
electron microprobe analyses (wt %)
Grey
Dark
Forsterite Fayalite Fe-Mg
serpentine serpentine (olivine) (olivine) silicate
Ni
1.2
2.2
0.3
2.2
1.6
Fe
5.4
5.2
7.3
41.1
13.7
Mg
23.1
17.0
32.6
5.8
7.6
Al
0.5
1.0
nd
2.5
0.5
Mn
nd
nd
0.1
0.5
0.1
Co
nd
nd
nd
nd
nd
Si
18.5
15.0
19.4
11.9
22.9
nd- below detection limits (in ppm): Al 600, Mn 600-700,
Co 550-600. Serpentine Mg2-3Si2O5(OH)4.nH2O

Approximate average compositions of the Ni-carriers


in the PTI reduction kiln feed, as determined by
electron microprobe analyses (wt %)
Goethite Magnetite Mn oxide Chlorite Spheroids
Ni
1.4
1.1
15.3
0.9
1.5
Fe
52.8
69.0
7.9
5.7
33.9
Mg
1.5
0.4
1.6
18.9
9.5
Al
2.0
nd
1.5
4.2
2.4
Cr
0.4
0.3
nd
0.8
0.5
Mn
0.6
0.3
27.3
0.1
0.5
Co
nd
0.2
2.3
nd
nd
Si
3.2
0.1
2.1
15.2
13.8
nd- below detection limit (Al 600 ppm, Cr 600 ppm,
Co 550-600 ppm).

Conclusions

The samples studied are from typical wet


nickel laterites of humid rain forests.

The Goro ore is limonitic, in-situ type. Goro ore


is fine-grained (mostly <10 m), and consists
mainly of goethite, serpentine, Cr-spinel,
gibbsite, minor amounts of talc, Mn oxide,
chlorite and various Mg-Fe-Al silicate minerals.

Nickel in the Goro ore occurs mainly in goethite,


serpentine, Fe-Mg silicates and Mn oxide.
Cobalt occurs in goethite and Mn oxide.

Conclusions

The PTI ore is saprolitic and show complex


alteration textures. The ore is rich in Mg
silicate, Mg-Fe silicates and goethite.

Nickel in the PTI ore is present mainly in


serpentine, olivine, chlorite, goethite and Mn
oxide. The Ni contents vary from particle to
particle.

Cobalt is detected in the Mn oxide.

Mineralogical Characterization
of Nickel Laterites from New
Caledonia and Indonesia
T.T. Chen1, J.E. Dutrizac1, E. Krause2
and R. Osborne2
1CANMET,

Natural Resources Canada, Ottawa, Ontario


2Inco Technical Services Limited, Mississauga, Ontario