Nanoscale gold clusters in arsenopyrite controlled by growth rate not concentration: Evidence from atom probe microscopy
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Auriferous sulfides, most notably pyrite (FeS2) and arsenopyrite (FeAsS), are among the most important economic minerals on Earth because they can host large quantities of gold in many of the world's major gold deposits. Here we present the first atom probe study of gold distribution in arsenopyrite to characterize the three-dimensional (3D) distribution of gold at the nanoscale and provide data to discriminate among competing models for gold incorporation in refractory ores. In contrast to models that link gold distribution to gold concentration, gold incorporation in arsenopyrite is shown to be controlled by the rate of crystal growth, with slow growth rate promoting the formation of gold clusters and rapid growth rate leading to homogeneous gold distribution. This study yields new information on the controls of gold distribution and incorporation in sulfides that has important implications for ore deposit formation. More broadly this study reveals new information about crystal-fluid interface dynamics that determine trace element incorporation into growing mineral phases.
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