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Occurrence model for volcanogenic beryllium deposits

January 1, 2012

Current global and domestic mineral resources of beryllium (Be) for industrial uses are dominated by ores produced from deposits of the volcanogenic Be type. Beryllium deposits of this type can form where hydrothermal fluids interact with fluorine and lithophile-element (uranium, thorium, rubidium, lithium, beryllium, cesium, tantalum, rare earth elements, and tin) enriched volcanic rocks that contain a highly reactive lithic component, such as carbonate clasts. Volcanic and hypabyssal high-silica biotite-bearing topaz rhyolite constitutes the most well-recognized igneous suite associated with such Be deposits. The exemplar setting is an extensional tectonic environment, such as that characterized by the Basin and Range Province, where younger topaz-bearing igneous rock sequences overlie older dolomite, quartzite, shale, and limestone sequences. Mined deposits and related mineralized rocks at Spor Mountain, Utah, make up a unique economic deposit of volcanogenic Be having extensive production and proven and probable reserves. Proven reserves in Utah, as reported by the U.S. Geological Survey National Mineral Information Center, total about 15,900 tons of Be that are present in the mineral bertrandite (Be4Si2O7(OH)2). At the type locality for volcanogenic Be, Spor Mountain, the tuffaceous breccias and stratified tuffs that host the Be ore formed as a result of explosive volcanism that brought carbonate and other lithic fragments to the surface through vent structures that cut the underlying dolomitic Paleozoic sedimentary rock sequences. The tuffaceous sediments and lithic clasts are thought to make up phreatomagmatic base surge deposits. Hydrothermal fluids leached Be from volcanic glass in the tuff and redeposited the Be as bertrandite upon reaction of the hydrothermal fluid with carbonate clasts in lithic-rich sections of tuff. The localization of the deposits in tuff above fluorite-mineralized faults in carbonate rocks, together with isotopic evidence for the involvement of magmatic water in an otherwise meteoric water-dominated hydrothermal system, indicate that magmatic volatiles contributed to mineralization. At the type locality, hydrothermal alteration of dolomite clasts formed layered nodules of calcite, opal, fluorite, and bertrandite, the latter occurring finely intergrown with fluorite. Alteration assemblages and elemental enrichments in the tuff and surrounding volcanic rocks include regional diagenetic clays and potassium feldspar and distinctive hydrothermal halos of anomalous fluorine, lithium, molybdenum, niobium, tin, and tantalum, and intense potassium feldspathization with sericite and lithium-smectite in the immediate vicinity of Be ore. Formation of volcanogenic Be deposits is due to the coincidence of multiple factors that include an appropriate Be-bearing source rock, a subjacent pluton that supplied volatiles and heat to drive convection of meteoric groundwater, a depositional site characterized by the intersection of normal faults with permeable tuff below a less permeable cap rock, a fluorine-rich ore fluid that facilitated Be transport (for example, BeF42- complex), and the existence of a chemical trap that caused fluorite and bertrandite to precipitate at the former site of carbonate lithic clasts in the tuff.

Publication Year 2012
Title Occurrence model for volcanogenic beryllium deposits
DOI 10.3133/sir20105070F
Authors Nora K. Foley, Albert H. Hofstra, David A. Lindsey, Robert R. Seal, Brian W. Jaskula, Nadine M. Piatak
Publication Type Report
Publication Subtype USGS Numbered Series
Series Title Scientific Investigations Report
Series Number 2010-5070
Index ID sir20105070F
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Central Mineral and Environmental Resources Science Center; Eastern Mineral and Environmental Resources Science Center