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The Mount Weld rare earth element deposit, Western Australia: A carbonatite-derived laterite

November 1, 2023

Carbonatite-hosted rare earth element (REE) deposits are the primary source of the world’s light REEs and have the potential to be a source of heavy REEs. The Mount Weld REE deposit in Western Australia is hosted in a lateritic sequence that reflects supergene enrichment of the underlying carbonatite complex. Similar to other carbonatite-related ore deposits, ore from Mount Weld displays extreme light REE (LREE) enrichment (La up to 4 wt. %), but in contrast also contains substantially higher concentrations of heavy REEs (HREEs). REE enrichment in the laterite is controlled by the breakdown of primary minerals, the release and transport of REEs, and the formation of secondary minerals. Secondary REE-bearing phosphate minerals are the primary REE-host phases in the laterite ore with monazite as the dominant phase; other REE-bearing phases include rhabdophane, cerianite, churchite, florencite, and crandallite subgroup minerals. Profiles through the laterite show that in the REE-rich zone, apatite and primary calcite have broken down, and dolomite decreases by approximately 60-100%, such that the loss of Ca and Mg, as well as Si and K, leads to a relative increase in the REEs. Sequestering of REEs in secondary mineral phases formed by groundwater further enhances the REE concentration.

Publication Year 2023
Title The Mount Weld rare earth element deposit, Western Australia: A carbonatite-derived laterite
Authors Philip Verplanck, Heather A. Lowers, Adam Boehlke, Jay Michael Thompson, Ganesh Bhat, Cameron Mark Mercer
Publication Type Conference Paper
Publication Subtype Conference Paper
Index ID 70248416
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Geology, Geophysics, and Geochemistry Science Center