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A recently discovered trachyte-hosted rare earth element-niobium-zirconium occurrence in northern Maine, USA

February 1, 2023

Reported here are geological, geophysical, mineralogical, and geochemical data on a previously unknown trachyte-hosted rare earth element (REE)-Nb-Zr occurrence at Pennington Mountain in northern Maine, USA. This occurrence was newly discovered by a regional multiparameter, airborne radiometric survey that revealed anomalously high equivalent Th (eTh) and U (eU), confirmed by a detailed ground radiometric survey and by portable X-Ray fluorescence (pXRF) and whole-rock analyses of representative rock samples. The mineralized area occurs within an elongate trachyte body (~1.2 km2) that intrudes Ordovician volcanic rocks. Geologic constraints suggest that the trachyte is also Ordovician in age. The eastern lobe (~900 × ~400 m) of the trachyte is pervasively brecciated with a matrix containing seams, lenses, and veinlets composed mainly of potassium feldspar, albite, and fine-grained zircon and monazite. Barite is locally abundant. Minor minerals within the matrix include columbite, bastnäsite, euxenite, chlorite, pyrite, sphalerite, and magnetite. The pXRF analyses of 22 samples (App. Table A1) collected from the eastern lobe demonstrate that this entire part of the trachyte is highly mineralized. Whole-rock geochemical analyses for samples from the eastern lobe document high average contents of Zr (1.17 wt %), Nb (1,656 ppm), Ba (3,132 ppm), Y (1,140 ppm), Hf (324 ppm), Ta (122 ppm), Th (124 ppm), U (36.5 ppm), Zn (689 ppm), and Sn (106 ppm). Among light REE, the highest average concentrations are shown by La (763 ppm) and Ce (1,479 ppm). For heavy REE (HREE), Dy and Er are the most abundant on average (167 and 114 ppm, respectively). No HREE-rich minerals such as xenotime have been identified; the HREE may reside chiefly in monazite and bastnäsite, and within the fine-grained zircon. Very strong positive correlations (R2) of 0.92 to 0.98 exist between Th and Zr, Nb, Y, Ce, Yb, and Sn, indicating that the radiometric data for eTh are valid proxies for concentrations of these metals in the mineralized rocks.

Publication Year 2023
Title A recently discovered trachyte-hosted rare earth element-niobium-zirconium occurrence in northern Maine, USA
DOI 10.5382/econgeo.4993
Authors Chunzeng Wang, John F. Slack, Anjana K. Shah, Martin G. Yates, David R. Lentz, Amber T.H. Whittaker, Robert G. Marvinney
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Economic Geology
Index ID 70245772
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Crustal Geophysics and Geochemistry Science Center; Eastern Geology and Paleoclimate Science Center; Geology, Energy & Minerals Science Center