Tectonic significance of Australian rare earth element deposits

Spandler, Carl, Slezak, Paul, and Nazari-Dehkordi, Teimoor (2020) Tectonic significance of Australian rare earth element deposits. Earth-Science Reviews, 207. 103219.

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Abstract

Australia is host to a diverse range of rare earth element (REE) ore deposits, and therefore is well placed to be a major supplier of REE into the future. This paper presents a review of the geology and tectonic setting of Australia's hard-rock REE resources. The deposits can be classified into four groups: 1. Carbonatite associated; 2. Peralkaline/alkaline volcanic associated; 3. Unconformity related, and; 4. Skarns and iron-oxide-copper-gold (IOCG) related. With the exception of the unconformity related deposits, all of these deposit groups are directly or indirectly related to continental alkaline magmatism. Extensive fractional crystallisation and/or igneous accumulation of REE minerals were essential ore-forming processes for carbonatite-associated and peralkaline/alkaline volcanic-associated deposits, while hydrothermal transport and concentration of REE sourced from basement rocks was responsible for producing ore in unconformity-related, skarns and, potentially, IOCG deposits. The economic potential of many deposits has also been enhanced by supergene alteration processes.

All of Australia's REE deposits formed in an intracontinental setting in association with crustal-scale fault zones or structures that acted as transport conduits for ore-forming magmas or fluids. Most deposits formed in the Mesoproterozoic under conditions of relative tectonic quiescence. There is little evidence for the involvement of mantle plumes, with the exception of the Cenozoic peralkaline volcanic systems of eastern Australia, and possibly the IOCG deposits. Instead, ore productive magmas were generated by melting of previously-enriched mantle lithosphere in response to disruption of the lithosphere-asthenophere boundary due to fault activation. REE minerals in many deposits also record episodes of recrystallisation/resetting due to far-field effects of orogenic activity that may significantly postdate primary ore formation. Therefore, REE orebodies can be effective recorders of intracontinental deformation events.

In general, Australia's inventory of REE deposits is similar to the global record. Globally, the Mesoproterozoic appears to be a particularly productive time period for forming REE orebodies due to favourable conditions for generating ore-fertile magmas and favourable preservation potential due to a general lack of aggressive continental recycling (i.e., active plate tectonics).

Item ID: 64177
Item Type: Article (Research - C1)
ISSN: 1872-6828
Keywords: Rare earth elements, Ore deposit, Tectonics, Mesoproterozoic, Carbonatite, Australia, Unconformity, Peralkaline
Copyright Information: © 2020 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.
Funders: Australian Research Council (ARC)
Projects and Grants: ARC Future Fellowship (FT 120100198)
Date Deposited: 26 Aug 2020 07:42
FoR Codes: 37 EARTH SCIENCES > 3705 Geology > 370503 Igneous and metamorphic petrology @ 50%
37 EARTH SCIENCES > 3705 Geology > 370511 Structural geology and tectonics @ 50%
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