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Review of the geochemistry and metallogeny of approximately 1.4 Ga granitoid intrusions of the conterminous United States

March 27, 2018

The conterminous United States hosts numerous volumetrically significant and geographically dispersed granitoid intrusions that range in age from 1.50 to 1.32 billion years before present (Ga). Although previously referred to as A-type granites, most are better described as ferroan granites. These granitoid intrusions are distributed in the northern and central Rocky Mountains, the Southwest, the northern midcontinent, and a swath largely buried beneath Phanerozoic cover across the Great Plains and into the southern midcontinent. These intrusions, with ages that are bimodally distributed between about 1.455–1.405 Ga and 1.405–1.320 Ga, are dispersed nonsystematically with respect to age across their spatial extents. Globally, although A-type or ferroan granites are genetically associated with rare-metal deposits, most U.S. 1.4 Ga granitoid intrusions do not contain significant deposits. Exceptions are the light rare-earth element deposit at Mountain Pass, California, and the iron oxide-apatite and iron oxide-copper-gold deposits in southeast Missouri.

Most of the U.S. 1.4 Ga granitoid intrusions are composed of hornblende ± biotite or biotite ± muscovite monzogranite, commonly with prominent alkali feldspar megacrysts; however, modal compositions vary widely. These intrusions include six of the eight commonly identified subtypes of ferroan granite: alkali-calcic and calc-alkalic peraluminous subtypes; alkalic, alkali-calcic, and calc-alkalic metaluminous subtypes; and the alkalic peralkaline subtype. The U.S. 1.4 Ga granitoid intrusions also include variants of these subtypes that have weakly magnesian compositions. Extreme large-ion lithophile element enrichments typical of ferroan granites elsewhere are absent among these intrusions. Chondrite-normalized rare-earth element patterns for these intrusions have modest negative slopes and moderately developed negative europium anomalies. Their radiogenic isotopic compositions are consistent with mixing involving primitive, mantle-derived components and evolved, crust-derived components.

Each compositional subtype can be ascribed to a relatively unique petrogenetic history. The numerically dominant ferroan, peraluminous granites probably represent low-degree, relatively high-pressure partial melting of preexisting, crust-derived, intermediate-composition granitoids. The moderately numerous, weakly magnesian, peraluminous granites probably reflect similar partial melting but at a higher degree and in a lower pressure environment. In contrast, the ferroan but metaluminous granites may be the result of extensive differentiation of tholeiitic basalt. Finally, the peralkaline igneous rocks at Mountain Pass have compositions potentially derived by differentiation of alkali basalt. The varying alkalic character of each subtype probably reflects polybaric petrogenesis and the corresponding effect of diverse mineral stabilities on ultimate melt compositions. Mantle-derived mafic magma and variably assimilated partial melts of mainly juvenile Paleoproterozoic crustal components are required to generate the relatively low initial strontium (87Sr/86Sr) and distinctive neodymium isotope compositions characteristic of the U.S. 1.4 Ga granitoid intrusions. The characteristics of these intrusions are consistent with crustal melting in an extensional/decompressional, intracratonic setting that was triggered by mantle upwelling and emplacement of tholeiitic basaltic magma at or near the base of the crust. Composite magmas, formed by mingling and mixing mantle components with partial melts of Paleoproterozoic crust, produced variably homogenized storage reservoirs that continued polybaric evolution as intrusions lodged at various crustal depths.