Processes controlling critical metal (Li, Be, Ga, Ge, Nb, Ta, In, Sn, Sb, W and Bi) distribution in the peraluminous granites of the Cornubian Batholith
Simons, Bethany Jane
Thesis or dissertation
University of Exeter
Reason for embargo
Protection of material for publication of papers from the thesis. Request for an embargo of 18 months from the submission data (March 2015) to allow this to happen.
Critical metals are of growing economic importance for the low carbon sector but are susceptible to resource restrictions and have no viable substitutes in their applications. In this study, 134 samples of the Cornubian Batholith, SW England, with associated early Permian mafic and ultramafic rocks were sampled and analysed by ICP-MS and XRF for their major, trace and critical metal (Li, Be, Ga, Ge, Nb, Ta, In, Sb, W and Bi) abundance. The mineral chemistry of feldspars, micas, tourmaline, topaz and cordierite was determined for 8 samples by EPMA and LA-ICP-MS. The Cornubian Batholith is a peraluminous, composite pluton intruded into Devonian and Carboniferous metasedimentary and volcanic rocks. Geochemical fractionation trends recorded by whole rock geochemistry and mineral chemistry permit trace element modelling of two distinct fractional crystallisation series, biotite-muscovite (>282 Ma) and biotite-tourmaline (<282 Ma). The biotite-muscovite granites formed through muscovite and minor biotite dehydration melting of a metagreywacke source at moderate temperatures and pressures. Fractionation of an assemblage dominated by feldspars and biotite, enriched muscovite granites in Li (average 340 ppm), Be (13 ppm), Nb (16 ppm), Ta (3.7 ppm), In (77 ppb), Sn (17 ppm), W (12 ppm) and Bi (2.6 ppm) and are spatially associated with greisen style Sn-W mineralisation. Muscovite is the major host of In, Sn and W, and as muscovite is late-stage / subsolidus this implies these metals are highly incompatible in magmatic minerals and likely to partition into fluids exsolving from evolved muscovite granites. The biotite-tourmaline granites formed through higher-T melting than the first suite due to underplating of the region by mantle-derived melts during tectonic extension. Fractionation of feldspars, biotite and cordierite enriched Li (average 525 ppm), Ga (28 ppm), In (122 ppb), Sn (14 ppm), Nb (30 ppm), Ta (5.5 ppm), W (7.1 ppm) and Bi (2.7 ppm) in the tourmaline granites with retention of Be in the biotite granite due to partitioning of Be into cordierite. Distribution of Nb and Ta is controlled by accessory phases such as columbite within the evolved tourmaline granites, promoting disseminated Nb and Ta mineralisation. Lithium, In, Sn and W are hosted in biotite group micas which may prove favourable for breakdown on ingress of hydrothermal fluids and partitioning of the critical metals into mineralising fluids emanating from evolved tourmaline granites. Topaz granites are analogues of Rare Metal Granite described in France and Germany. They contain albite, polylithionite and topaz as major minerals and show differing trends on major and trace element plots relative to the other two granite series. These granites are enriched in Li (average 1363 ppm), Ga (38 ppm), Sn (21 ppm), W (24 ppm), Nb (52 ppm) and Ta (15 ppm) and formed through partial melting of a biotite-rich residue left after melting that formed early biotite granites.
European Social Fund
PhD in Geology