Mineralogic and Geochemical Variations within the Old Hickory Heavy Mineral Sand, Sussex and Dinwiddie Counties, Virginia


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Virginia Tech


The Old Hickory mine is a world class placer titanium deposit located at the boundary of the Coastal Plain and the Piedmont in Virginia, astride the Sussex-Dinwiddie county line (77°34' W Long, 36°55'N Lat., Cherry Hill Quad). The Old Hickory deposit, discovered in 1987 by C. R. Berquist, was opened as a commercial mine in 1997, and is presently operated by Iluka Resources. Heavy minerals constitute an average of 8% of the sediment, but locally reach concentrations as rich as 60%. The ore minerals, in order of decreasing concentrations, are ilmenite, rutile, and zircon, which are believed to have been derived from weathering of Piedmont and Blue Ridge sources. After fluvial transport to the coast, the ore minerals were redistributed laterally along the coast by longshore currents, and ultimately concentrated by intense wave action, probably generated by large storms. The ores occur over an area of 8 km x 3 km, with ore minerals being found from the surface to up to depths of 12 meters, and appear to occur in at least two distinct ore horizons. This study examines the general ore mineralogy and differences in the mineralogy, grain sizes, secondary textures, and geochemistry of the ore minerals in the two distinct ore zones. Distinguishable differences between the two zones include a slightly coarser grain size, more angular grains of rutile, and a higher percentage of accessory minerals (epidote, garnet, etc) in the younger zone. Approximately 40% of all the ilmenite grains contain exsolution lamellae of hematite, a residual texture from the time of original ilmenite crystallization. Weathering of these ilmenite grains has preferentially dissolved out the hematite while preserving the original texture; thus the weathering increases the titanium content of the ore by removing some of the iron. The weathering also affects the distribution of minor elements such as aluminum, manganese, and chromium. At Old Hickory, the zircon population can be divided into two main types (thin, elongate rounded pink prisms, and short, thicker white to clear prisms) that may represent either multiple source regions or multiple generations of heavy mineral deposition. The variations in grain size, angularity, and rutile content are likely to be mappable and may prove useful in continuing stratigraphic studies, and in distinguishing separate ore zones.



heavy mineral sands, Ilmenite, Rutile, Zircon