A Deposit Model for Carbonatite and Peralkaline Intrusion-Related Rare Earth Element Deposits
By Philip L. Verplanck, Bradley S. Van Gosen, Robert R. Seal, and Anne E. McCafferty
Carbonatite and alkaline intrusive complexes, as well as their weathering products, are the primary sources of rare earth elements. A wide variety of other commodities have been exploited from carbonatites and alkaline igneous rocks including niobium, phosphate, titanium, vermiculite, barite, fluorite, copper, calcite, and zirconium. Other elements enriched in these deposits include manganese, strontium, tantalum, thorium, vanadium, and uranium. Carbonatite and peralkaline intrusion-related rare earth element deposits are presented together in this report because of the spatial, and potentially genetic, association between carbonatite and alkaline rocks. Although these rock types occur together at many locations, carbonatite and peralkaline intrusion-related rare earth element deposits are not generally found together.
Carbonatite hosted rare earth element deposits are found throughout the world, but currently only five are being mined for rare earth elements: Bayan Obo, Daluxiang, Maoniuping, and Weishan deposits in China and the Mountain Pass deposit in California, United States. These deposits are enriched in light rare earth elements, including lanthanum, cerium, praseodynium, and neodynium. The principal rare earth element-minerals associated with carbonatites are fluocarbonates (bastnäsite, parisite, and synchysite), hydrated carbonates (ancylite), and phosphates (monazite) with bastnäsite being the primary ore mineral. Calcite and dolomite are the primary gangue minerals. At present, the only rare earth element production from a peralkaline intrusion-related deposit is as a byproduct commodity at the Lovozero deposit in Russia. Important rare earth element minerals found in various deposits include apatite, eudialyte, loparite, gittinsite, xenotime, gadolinite, monazite, bastnäsite, kainosite, mosandrite, britholite, allanite, fergusonite, and zircon, and these minerals tend to be enriched in heavy rare earth elements.