Bayan Obo, a complex rare earth element (REE)FeNb ore deposit, located in Inner Mongolia, P.R.C. is the world's largest known REE deposit. The deposit is chiefly in a marble unit (H8), but extends into an overlying unit of black shale, slate and schist unit (H9), both of which are in the upper part of the Middle Proterozoic Bayan Obo Group. Based on sedimentary structures, the presence of detrital quartz and algal fossil remains, and the 16-km long geographic extent, the H8 marble is a sedimentary deposit, and not a carbonatite of magmatic origin, as proposed by some previous investigators. The unit was weakly regionally metamorphosed (most probably the lower part of the green schist facies) into marble and quartzite prior to mineralization. Tectonically, the deposit is located on the northern flank of the Sino-Korean craton. Many hypotheses have been proposed for the origin of the Bayan Obo deposit; the studies reported here support an epigenetic, hydrothermal, metasomatic origin. Such an origin is supported by field and laboratory textural evidence; 232Th/208Pb internal isochron mineral ages of selected monazite and bastnaesite samples; 40Ar/39Ar incremental heating minimum mineral ages of selected alkali amphiboles; chemical compositions of different generations of both REE ore minerals and alkali amphiboles; and evidence of host-rock influence on the various types of Bayan Obo ores. The internal isochron ages of the REE minerals indicate Caledonian ages for various episodes of REE and Fe mineralization. No evidence was found to indicate a genetic relation between the extensive biotite granitic rocks of Hercynian age in the mine region and the Bayan Obo are deposit, as suggested by previous workers. ?? 1992.