Palabora (Phalaborwa) Complex, Transvaal, Republic of South Africa

This carbonatite is unusual, for superimposed on the apatite-magnetite association is a late copper sulphide mineralization. The complex comprises pyroxenites, syenites and ultramafic pegmatoids intruded into Archaean granite. The Loolekop carbonatite-foskorite pipe and a later transgressive carbonatite that carries abundant copper-bearing fracture-veinlets lies in the centre of the complex. The pyroxenite is a diopside, phlogopite, biotite, vermiculite, apatite and locally microcline-rich rock; foskorite is a serpentinized olivine, magnetite and apatite rock with accessory baddeleyite, whereas the carbonatite is a calcite, dolomite, magnetite and apatite rock with accessory chondrodite, olivine, phlogopite and biotite. The complex produces copper, iron, uranium, thorium, vermiculite and apatite.

Major Minerals:

Magnetite, chalcopyrite, bornite, locally cubanite

Minor Minerals:

Pyrrhotite, valleriite, chalcocite

Trace Minerals:

Include violarite, linnaeite, bravoite, millerite, pentlandite, siegenite, pyrite, marcasite, tetrahedrite, covelline, galena, sphalerite, baddeleyite, uranothorianite, ilmenite, ulvöspinel, hogbomite, pseudobrookite, native gold, electrum, mooihoekite


Titaniferous magnetite is euhedral to subhedral and contains ilmenite, ulvöspinel, hogbomite and pseudobrookite inclusions. Ulvöspinel forms very fine exsolution lamellae along (100) planes of the host magnetite to give the characteristic 'cloth-weave' fabric. Chalcopyrite and bornite form lamellar intergrowths and either mineral can be the host. Coarse-grained intergrowths of chalcopyrite-cubanite-pyrrhotite are localized in occurrence. Bornite-chalcocite form symplectite intergrowths (graphic intergrowths). Chalcopyrite, bornite and chalcocite replace magnetite and silicates and are themselves replaced by valleriite


Russell et al., 1954; Forster, 1958; Lombaard et al., 1964; Hanekom et al., 1965; Palabora Mining Staff, 1976; Verwoerd, 1986