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Geological and metallurgical characteristics of banded iron formation associated detrital iron mineralisation in Central West Africa

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Author B De Waele, M Lacorde, K Bischoff, G Loveday and F Linares

Description

Recent exploration has identified the presence of detrital iron deposits (DIDs) associated with banded iron formation (BIF) units in the north-west of the Congo Craton, Gabon. The regional geology comprises a complex of granitoids and gneisses assigned to the Archaean Chaillu Complex, within which older slivers of lower amphibolite-grade greenstones are preserved including muscovite-biotite-garnet-bearing felsic schist, amphibolite and BIF. These units are typically overlain by several metres of residuum comprising colluvium, eluvium and duricrust. The residuum is overlain by a regionally extensive loess cover from 2 m to 10 m thick.

The DIDs occur within the weathered residuum as mostly unconsolidated gravels with lesser canga (CAN) duricrust draped over deeply weathered hematite. Head grades are in the range of 45 to 52 per cent Fe. Fresh BIF, located from 30 to 50 m below surface, is comprised of magnetite-quartz±amphibole. The detrital iron gravels are comprised of rod- and plate-shaped clasts of hematite (martite)-maghemite-goethite composition, in a ferruginous sand to clay-sized matrix. The DID form ridges and plateaus that coincide with magnetic highs defined using high-resolution ground magnetic surveys.

The field relations and petrography indicate that the detrital iron accumulations are the result of weathering (including enrichment) and erosion of primary BIF. This includes removal of quartz, further oxidation and re-cementation of BIF to form ferruginous caprock. This cap and the in situ oxidised BIF were subsequently disaggregated and liberated, and further weathered to form the detrital iron accumulations.

Metallurgical test work on bulk detrital iron samples has shown this material can be upgraded to lump and fines iron ore products with grades of 62 to 65 per cent Fe using simple scrubbing and wet screening, followed by dense media separation of the -1 mm fraction, with overall mass yields from 75 to 85 per cent. The test work indicates a high ratio of lump to fines products, sometimes exceeding 50:50.

CITATION:

De Waele, B, Lacorde, M, Bischoff, K, Loveday, G and Linares, F, 2017. Geological and metallurgical characteristics of banded iron formation associated detrital iron mineralisation in Central West Africa, in Proceedings Iron Ore 2017, pp 259–268 (The Australasian Institute of Mining and Metallurgy: Melbourne).