EGU General Assembly 2021
© Author(s) 2021. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Reactive Transport Modelling applied to Ni laterite ore deposits in New Caledonia : Impact of discrete fractures on Ni mineralization

Sylvain Favier, Yoram Teitler, Fabrice Golfier, and Michel Cathelineau
Sylvain Favier et al.
  • GeoRessources Lab., UMR 7359 of CNRS, CREGU, University of Lorraine, F-54518 Vandoeuvre-Lès-Nancy Cedex, France

Laterite nickel-ore formation in New Caledonia is classically assumed to be governed by supergene processes, and downward migration of waters with Ni-enrichment at the basis of the laterite profile. However, Ni-ore distribution's heterogeneity seems to have been favoured by secondary processes controlled by the combined effects of inherited tectonics, geomorphological evolution and hydrologic systems since the primary laterite formation. Fluid flow and mass transfer processes are not purely downward at low-temperature conditions, but can also be related to lateral fluid circulations, and local drainage along damaged zones in the vicinity of faults (Cathelineau et al., 2016a; 2016b; Myagkiy et al., 2019). This study aims to investigate through reactive transport modelling the impact of discrete fracture on the Ni distribution.

We simulate the dissolution of olivine profile where fractures are the main channels of the fluid-flow. Olivine dissolution is assumed to be kinetically controlled whereas the precipitation of secondary weathering products is considered to occur according to local equilibrium. Results from two different numerical approaches are presented and discussed. The first one is based on a 1D dual-porosity model of a vertically oriented column of serpentinized olivine using PhreeqC associated with the llnl.dat thermodynamic database. The second one is a 2D modelling of hydro-chemical processes in fractured porous media based on the coupling of PhreeqC and Comsol Multiphysics through ICP. While the 1D model aims to describe the general trend of the progression of the weathering front and the global mineral redistribution, the 2D model focuses on particular fracture geometry and hotspot moments of the dissolution process to highlight crucial transition and redistribution of the different mineral phases in relation with the spatial distribution of fractures.

In the 1D dual-porosity model, the fractures are modelled as advective cells connected to a diffusive cell containing the main part of olivine. Two different geochemical models are thus designed. The first one describes the fracture and the advective area's geochemical behaviour, while the second one focuses on the matrix in the diffusive area. The 2D model extends the work initiated by Myagkiy et al. (2019) on simple configurations. The fractures are modelled herein as 1D discrete surfaces interacting with a porous matrix of olivine. Different fracture configurations are studied to assess their impact on mineral redistribution.

Results from both modellings are then compared with observed field data from New Caledonia and previous modelling of an olivine profile without fractures (Myagkiy et al., 2017) to validate the models and highlight the differences induced by the fracture network.

How to cite: Favier, S., Teitler, Y., Golfier, F., and Cathelineau, M.: Reactive Transport Modelling applied to Ni laterite ore deposits in New Caledonia : Impact of discrete fractures on Ni mineralization, EGU General Assembly 2021, online, 19–30 Apr 2021, EGU21-12661,, 2021.


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