Geological, Mineralogical and Geochemical Characterisation of the Heavy Rare Earth-rich Carbonatites at Lofdal, Namibia
Do Cabo, Vistorina Nandigolo
Date: 29 April 2013
University of Exeter
PhD in Earth Resources
This study considered the geology, mineralogy, geochemistry, formation and evolution of the heavy rare earth element (HREE) mineralised Lofdal alkaline carbonatite complex (LACC), which is located on the Bergville and Lofdal farms northwest of Khorixas, in the Kunene Region of the Republic of Namibia. . Field methods used included ...
This study considered the geology, mineralogy, geochemistry, formation and evolution of the heavy rare earth element (HREE) mineralised Lofdal alkaline carbonatite complex (LACC), which is located on the Bergville and Lofdal farms northwest of Khorixas, in the Kunene Region of the Republic of Namibia. . Field methods used included mapping, ground and hyperspectral airborne geophysics, and sampling. Analytical techniques used were optical petrography and CL, XRF, ICP-AES, backscattered and secondary electron imaging, electron microprobe, LA-ICP-MS, leaching, as well as carbon and oxygen stable isotope determination. The LACC comprises a swarm of dykes, mainly calcite carbonatite but also dolomite and ankerite carbonatite dykes (classified into five types) and two newly discovered plugs of calcite carbonatite (‘Main’ and ‘Emanya’), with associated dykes and plugs of phonolites, syenites and rare mafic rocks. These all intrude into the Huab Metamorphic Complex basement rocks within a NE-SW shear zone over 30 km long. The main HREE host mineral is xenotime-(Y). It occurs in highly oxidised iron-rich calcite carbonatite dykes mantling and replacing zircon, associated with hematite, thorite and apatite, or associated with monazite-(Ce), synchysite-(Ce), and parisite-(Ce), replacing the fluorocarbonates; it also forms aggregates in ankerite carbonatite. Although xenotime-(Y) occurs throughout the paragenetic sequence, there is much evidence for hydrothermal fluid activity at Lofdal, altering the dykes, and taking xenotime-(Y) into brecciated carbonate veins in albitised country rock (fenite). Radiogenic (Sr, Nd-Sm, U-Pb) and C and O stable isotope studies confirm that the carbonatite, derived from an enriched mantle, is the source of the REE. Mineralisation was contemporaneous with carbonatite emplacement at 765 ±16 Ma. Magmatic fluids >300°C were diluted with cool meteoric fluids. Abundant fluorite and carbonate indicate roles for F- and CO32- in addition to Cl- in REE transport. These ligands form the most stable complexes with HREE and since xenotime is soluble in concentrated alkali halide solutions, they could have preferentially transported and then deposited xenotime. Many of the features of Lofdal are common to other REE-rich carbonatite complexes but the xenotime-(Y) abundance is so far unique. The high amount of fluid activity in shear zones around the dyke swarm and probably a higher proportion of HREE in the original magmas seem to be the main differentiating features.
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