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Geophysical characterization of a Proterozoic REE terrane at Mountain Pass, eastern Mojave Desert, California

December 19, 2019

Mountain Pass, California (USA), located in the eastern Mojave Desert, hosts one of the world’s richest rare earth element (REE) deposits. The REE-rich terrane occurs in a 2.5-km-wide, northwest-trending belt of Mesoproterozoic (1.4 Ga) stocks and dikes, which intrude a larger Paleoproterozoic (1.7 Ga) metamorphic block that extends ∼10 km southward from Clark Mountain to the eastern Mescal Range. To characterize the REE terrane, gravity, magnetic, magnetotelluric, and whole-rock physical property data were analyzed. Geophysical data reveal that the Mountain Pass carbonatite body is associated with an ∼5 mGal local gravity high that is superimposed on a gravity terrace (∼4 km wide) caused by granitic Paleoproterozoic host rocks. Physical rock property data indicate that the Mountain Pass REE suite is essentially nonmagnetic at the surface with a magnetic susceptibility of 2.0 × 10−3 SI (n = 57), and lower-than-expected magnetizations may be the result of alteration. However, aeromagnetic data indicate that the intrusive suite occurs along the eastern edge of a distinct northwest-trending aeromagnetic high along the eastern Mescal Range. The source of this magnetic anomaly is ∼1.5–2 km below the surface and coincides with an electrical conductivity zone that is several orders of magnitude more conductive than the surrounding rock. The source of the magnetic anomaly is likely a moderately magnetic pluton. Combined geophysical data and models suggest that the carbonatite and its associated REE-enriched ultrapotassic suite were preferentially emplaced along a northwest-trending zone of weakness, which has potential implications for regional mineral exploration.

Publication Year 2020
Title Geophysical characterization of a Proterozoic REE terrane at Mountain Pass, eastern Mojave Desert, California
DOI 10.1130/GES02066.1
Authors Kevin Denton, David A. Ponce, Jared R. Peacock, David M. Miller
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Geosphere
Index ID 70211941
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Geology, Minerals, Energy, and Geophysics Science Center