Deducing the source and composition of rare earth mineralising fluids in carbonatites: insights from isotopic (C, O, 87Sr/86Sr) data from Kangankunde, Malawi
Contributions to Mineralogy and Petrology
© The Author(s) 2017. Open Access. This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons license, and indicate if changes were made.
Carbonatites host some of the largest and highest grade rare earth element (REE) deposits but the composition and source of their REE-mineralising fluids remains enigmatic. Using C, O and 87Sr/86Sr isotope data together with major and trace element compositions for the REE-rich Kangankunde carbonatite (Malawi), we show that the commonly observed, dark brown, Fe-rich carbonatite that hosts REE minerals in many carbonatites is decoupled from the REE mineral assemblage. REE-rich ferroan dolomite carbonatites, containing 8–15 wt% REE2O3, comprise assemblages of monazite-(Ce), strontianite and baryte forming hexagonal pseudomorphs after probable burbankite. The 87Sr/86Sr values (0.70302–0.70307) affirm a carbonatitic origin for these pseudomorph-forming fluids. Carbon and oxygen isotope ratios of strontianite, representing the REE mineral assemblage, indicate equilibrium between these assemblages and a carbonatite-derived, deuteric fluid between 250 and 400 °C (δ18O + 3 to + 5‰VSMOW and δ13C − 3.5 to − 3.2‰VPDB). In contrast, dolomite in the same samples has similar δ13C values but much higher δ18O, corresponding to increasing degrees of exchange with low-temperature fluids (< 125 °C), causing exsolution of Fe oxides resulting in the dark colour of these rocks. REE-rich quartz rocks, which occur outside of the intrusion, have similar δ18O and 87Sr/86Sr to those of the main complex, indicating both are carbonatite-derived and, locally, REE mineralisation can extend up to 1.5 km away from the intrusion. Early, REE-poor apatite-bearing dolomite carbonatite (beforsite: δ18O + 7.7 to + 10.3‰ and δ13C −5.2 to −6.0‰; 87Sr/86Sr 0.70296–0.70298) is not directly linked with the REE mineralisation.
This project was funded by the UK Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) SoS RARE project (NE/M011429/1) and by NIGL (NERC Isotope Geoscience Laboratory) Project number 20135.
This is the final version of the article. Available from Springer Verlag via the DOI in this record.
Vol. 172, article 96