Crystal chemical control on intra-structural copper isotope fractionation in natural copper-iron-sulfur minerals
AuthorYoung, Steven E.
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PublisherThe University of Arizona.
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AbstractThe nature of Cu isotope fractionation in natural Cu-Fe-S minerals was investigated through acid ferric sulfate leaching of copper ore from Morenci, Arizona. Copper isotope composition of the derived solutions varies from δ⁶⁵Cu = 0.47‰ to 5.21‰ over the course of progressive copper extraction. High δ⁶⁵Cu values characterize solutions collected in the first half of the leach, while the solutions collected between 35% and 45% copper recovery exhibit lower δ⁶⁵Cu values. This general pattern was observed for both bacterially-mediated and abiotic leaching. Sulfate solutions derived from dissolving pure djurleite show variable Cu isotope compositions as well, although the range is protracted from δ⁶⁵Cu = 0.01‰ to 1.21‰. As the Cu:S ratio of the remaining sulfide decreases, crystal structure parameters change as mineralogy passes through a series of nonstoichiometric copper sulfides. Mineralogy converges to yarrowite near 44% copper dissolution. Crystal chemical studies show that distribution of the two copper-sulfur bond coordination geometries, triangular planar and tetrahedral, in the copper sulfides, approximately corresponds to changes in δ⁶⁵Cu of the leachates. In particular, the proportion of CuS3 relative to CuS4 groups decreases from Cu/S = 2.00 (chalcocite) to 1.40 (geerite). Between Cu/S = 1.40 to 1.00 (covellite), the relative proportion of CuS3 groups increases slightly. Connection between coordination number and Cu isotope fractionation implies affinity of CuS₃ groups for the heavier, ⁶⁵Cu, isotope. This can be justified through bond length-bond strength arguments. Solutions from bornite dissolution vary from δ⁶⁵Cu = -0.79‰ to 1.14‰, with the largest values associated with solutions from early stage of reaction (up to 15% copper removal). Around 25% dissolution, δ⁶⁵Cu of the solution approaches that of the original bornite (δ⁶⁵Cu = 0.02‰). This is explained by disappearance of all remaining CuS₃ groups. Sulfur isotope compositions of solutions and sulfides derived from djurleite leaching were determined to investigate the possibility of intra-mineral fractionation. Very soon after reaction initiation, δ³⁴S of both sulfur reservoirs reach a steady-state with sulfate solutions about 2‰ enriched in ³⁴S relative to residual sulfide. Unlike the case of Cu isotopes, the main partitioning affecting S isotopes is exchange between sulfate and sulfide.
Degree ProgramGraduate College