Genesis of the central zone of the Nolans Bore rare earth element deposit, Northern Territory, Australia

Schoneveld, Louise, Spandler, Carl, and Hussey, Kelvin (2015) Genesis of the central zone of the Nolans Bore rare earth element deposit, Northern Territory, Australia. Contributions to Mineralogy and Petrology, 170 (2). 11.

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Abstract

The Nolans Bore rare earth element (REE) deposit consists of a network of fluorapatite-bearing veins and breccias hosted within Proterozoic granulites of the Reynolds Range, Central Australia. Mineralisation is divided into three zones (north, central, and south-east), with the north and south-east zones consisting of massive REE-bearing fluorapatite veins, with minor brecciation and carbonate infill. The central zone is distinctively different in mineralogy and structure; it features extensive brecciation, a high allanite content, and a large, epidote-rich enveloping alteration zone. The central zone is a reworking of the original solid apatite veins that formed during the Chewings Orogeny at ca. 1525 Ma. These original apatite veins are thought to derive from phosphate-rich magmatic–hydrothermal fluid exsolved from as-yet unrecognised alkaline magmatic bodies at depth. We define four ore breccia types (BX1–4) in the central zone on the basis of detailed petrological and geochemical analysis of drillcore and thin sections. BX1 ore comprises fluorapatite with minor crackle brecciation with carbonate infill and resembles ore of the north and south-east zones. Breccia types BX2, BX3, and BX4 represent progressive stages of ore brecciation and development of calc-silicate mineral (amphibole, epidote, allanite, calcite) infill. Comparison of bulk ore sample geochemistry between breccia types indicates that REEs were not mobilised more than a few centimetres during hydrothermal alteration and brecciation. Instead, most of the REEs were partitioned from the original REE fluorapatite into newly formed allanite, REE-poor fluorapatite and minor REE carbonate in the breccias. Negative europium (Eu) anomalies in the breccia minerals are accounted for by a large positive Eu anomaly in epidote from the alteration zones surrounding the ore breccias. This observation provides a direct link between ore recrystallisation and brecciation, and the formation of the alteration halo in the surrounding host rocks. Where allanite and fluorapatite are texturally related, the fluorapatite is relatively depleted in the light rare earth elements (LREEs), whereas allanite is relatively LREE enriched, suggesting co-crystallisation. We tentatively date the BX1 ore stage to 1440 ± 80 Ma based on U–Pb dating of thorianite. Sm–Nd isotope isochrons derived from in situ isotope analysis of cognate apatite and allanite date the BX2 and BX3 events to ca. 400 Ma, while U–Pb dating of late-stage monazite from the BX4 ore stage returned an age of ca. 350 Ma. Therefore, formation of the central zone at Nolans Bore involved multiple alteration/brecciation events that collectively span over 1 billion years in duration. We suggest that the BX1-type veins and breccias were formed from REE-rich, saline (F- and Cl-bearing) fluids that infiltrated the granulite-grade host rocks in association with either shear activation events of the Redbank Shear Zone (1500–1400 Ma) or intrusion of late-stage pegmatites of the Mt Boothby area. BX2, BX3, and BX4 events record deformation and hydrothermal alteration associated with the Alice Springs Orogeny (400–350 Ma). These hydrothermal events occurred at temperatures of 450 to ~600 °C, due to inflow of highly acidic hydrous fluids derived from a magmatic source, or from mixing of meteoric and metamorphic fluids. Our data testify to the long and complex geological history of not only the Nolans Bore REE deposit, but also of the rocks of the eastern Reynolds Range, and demonstrate the great utility of using hydrothermally derived REE minerals to trace the timing of crustal deformation events and source of associated hydrothermal fluids.

Item ID: 39980
Item Type: Article (Research - C1)
ISSN: 1432-0967
Keywords: rare earth elements, fluorapatite, allanite, Nolans Bore, ore deposit, Sm–Nd isotopes
Funders: Australian Research Council (ARC), Arafura Resources Ltd
Projects and Grants: ARC Grant no. FT 120100198
Date Deposited: 29 Oct 2015 04:45
FoR Codes: 04 EARTH SCIENCES > 0402 Geochemistry > 040203 Isotope Geochemistry @ 20%
04 EARTH SCIENCES > 0403 Geology > 040307 Ore Deposit Petrology @ 50%
04 EARTH SCIENCES > 0403 Geology > 040303 Geochronology @ 30%
SEO Codes: 97 EXPANDING KNOWLEDGE > 970104 Expanding Knowledge in the Earth Sciences @ 100%
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