Deposits of minerals containing niobium (columbium), thorium, and rare earths occur in the Mineral Hill district, 30 miles northwest of Salmon, Lemhi County, Idaho. Monazite, thorite, allanite, and niobium-bearing rutile form deposits in metamorphic limestone layers less than 8 feet thick. The known deposits are small, irregular, and typically located in or near small folds. Minor faults are common.
Monazite generally is coarsely crystalline and contains less than one percent thorium. Rutile forms massive lumps up to 3 inches across; it contains between 5 and 10 percent niobium. Rutile occurs in the northwestern half of the district, thorite in the central and southeastern parts. Monazite occurs in all deposits. Allanite is locally abundant and contains several percent thorium. Magnetite and ilmenite are also locally abundant.
A major thrust fault trending northwest across the map-area separates moderately folded quartzite and phyllitic rocks of Belt age, on the northeast, from more intensely metamorphosed and folded rocks on the southwest. The more metamorphosed rocks include amphibolite, porphyroblastic feldspar gneiss, quartzite, and limestone, all probably of sedimentary origin, and probably also of Belt (late Precambrian) age. The only rocks of definite igneous origin are rhyolite dikes of probable Tertiary age.
The more metamorphosed rocks were formed by metasomatic metamorphism acting on clastic sediments, probably of Belt age, although they may be older than Belt. Metamorphism doubtless was part of the episode of emplacement of the Idaho batholith, but the history of that episode is not well understood.
The rare-element deposits show no evidence of fracture-controlled hydrothermal introduction, such as special fracture systems, veining, and gangue material. They may, however, be of hydrothermal type. More likely they are metamorphic segregations or secretions, deposited in favorable stratigraphic and structural positions during regional metamorphism.
Additional publication details
USGS Numbered Series
Preliminary report on the geology and deposits of monazite, thorite and niobium-bearing rutile of the Mineral Hill district, Lemhi County, Idaho
U.S. Geological Survey,
43 p. ill. (1 col.), maps (some folded, 1 col.) ;30 cm.