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Regional geophysical expression of a carbonatite terrane in the eastern Mojave Desert, California

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Abstract

A world-class, rare earth element carbonatite deposit is located near Mountain Pass, in the eastern Mojave Desert of California and is hosted by Proterozoic rocks that extend along the eastern margins of the Clark Mountain Range, Mescal Range, and Ivanpah Mountains in a north-northwest trending fault-bounded block. This Proterozoic block is generally composed of a complex of 1.7 - 1.6 Ga gneisses and schists that are intruded by ~1.4 Ga carbonatite and ultrapotassic mafic dikes. In the latter suite, common intrusive rock types include shonkinite, syenite, and alkali granites that are associated with carbonatite dikes. Regional geophysical data reveal that the carbonatite deposit itself occurs along the northeast edge of a prominent magnetic high with an amplitude of 200 nanoteslas, which appears to be related to the surrounding Proterozoic block. More than 340 gravity stations and 155 physical property samples were collected to augment existing geophysical data to determine the geophysical and geologic setting of the eastern Mojave Desert carbonatite terrane. Physical properties of representative rock types in the area show that 23 samples of carbonatite ore have an average saturated bulk density of 2,866 with a range of 2,440 to 3,192 kg/m3 and a magnetic susceptibility of 0.22 with a range of 0.03 to 0.61x 10-3 SI units, 17 samples of syenite have an average saturated bulk density of 2,670 with a range of 2,555 to 2,788 kg/m3 and a magnetic susceptibility of 3.50 with a range of 0.19 to 11.46 x 10-3 SI units, 19 samples of shonkinite dike have an average saturated bulk density of 2,800 with a range of 2,603 to 3,000 kg/m3 and a magnetic susceptibility of 0.71 with a range of 0.00 to 4.44 x 10-3 SI units, and 28 samples of Proterozoic gneiss have an average saturated bulk density of 2,734 with a range of 2,574 to 3,086 kg/m3 and a magnetic susceptibility of 1.23 with a range of 0.01 to 7.48 x 10-3 SI units. In general, carbonatites have distinctive gravity, magnetic, and radiometric signatures because these deposits are relatively dense, have primary magnetite, and are enriched in thorium or uranium. In this case, because the carbonatite rocks in this Proterozoic terrane are themselves essentially nonmagnetic, they are not the source of the magnetic high associated with the Clark Mountain and Mescal Ranges. Instead, we suggest that weakly to moderately magnetic syenite intrusions or other granitic or metamorphic rocks in the region are the source of the magnetic high. Gravity data indicate that basins within the eastern Mojave carbonatite terrane are complicated. For example, a gravity high in the northern part of Ivanapah Valley suggest that the basin is underlain by shallow basement rocks, whereas the southern part of Ivanpah Valley extends to a depth of about 2 km. Combined gravity, magnetic, and geologic studies improve the current geophysical framework and structural interpretation of the eastern Mojave Desert carbonatite terrane.

Geospatial Extents

Additional Publication Details

Publication type:
Book
Publication Subtype:
Conference publication
Title:
Regional geophysical expression of a carbonatite terrane in the eastern Mojave Desert, California
Year Published:
2013
Language:
English
Publisher:
American Geophysical Union
Publisher location:
Washington, D.C.
Contributing office(s):
Geology, Minerals, Energy and Geophysics Science Center
Conference Title:
American Geophysical Union 45th Annual Fall Meeting
Conference Location:
San Francisco, CA
Conference Date:
2012-12-03T00:00:00
Country:
United States
State:
California;Nevada
Other Geospatial:
Mojave Desert