Ion-adsorption REEs in regolith of the Liberty Hill pluton, South Carolina, USA: An effect of hydrothermal alteration

Journal of Geochemical Exploration
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Abstract

Ion-adsorbed rare earth element (REE) deposits supply the majority of world heavy REE production and substantial light REE production, but relatively little is known of their occurrence outside Southeast Asia. We examined the distribution and forms of REEs on a North American pluton located in the highly weathered and slowly eroding South Carolina Piedmont. The Hercynian Liberty Hill pluton experiences a modern climate that includes ~ 1500 mm annual rainfall and a mean annual temperature of 17 °C. The pluton is medium- to coarse-grained biotite-amphibole granite with minor biotite granite facies. REE-bearing phases are diverse and include monazite, zircon, titanite, allanite, apatite and bastnäsite. Weathered profiles were sampled up to 7 m-deep across the ~ 400 kmpluton. In one profile, ion-adsorbed REEs plus yttrium (REE + Y) ranged up to 581 mg/kg and accounted for up to 77% of total REE + Y in saprolite. In other profiles, ion-adsorbed REE + Y ranged 12–194 mg/kg and only accounted for 3–37% of totals. The profile most enriched in ion-adsorbed REEs was located along the mapped boundary of two granite facies and contained trioctahedral smectite in the saprolite, evidence suggestive of hydrothermal alteration of biotite at that location. Post-emplacement deuteric alteration can generate easily weathered REE phases, particularly fluorocarbonates. In the case of Liberty Hill, hydrothermal alteration may have converted less soluble to more soluble REE minerals. Additionally, regolith P content was inversely correlated with the fraction ion-adsorbed REEs, and weathering related secondary REE-phosphates were found in some regolith profiles. Both patterns illustrate how low P content aids in the accumulation of ion-adsorbed REEs. The localized occurrence at Liberty Hill sheds light on conditions and processes that generate ion-adsorbed REEs.

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Additional publication details

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Ion-adsorption REEs in regolith of the Liberty Hill pluton, South Carolina, USA: An effect of hydrothermal alteration
Series title Journal of Geochemical Exploration
DOI 10.1016/j.gexplo.2016.09.009
Volume 172
Year Published 2017
Language English
Publisher Elsevier
Contributing office(s) Colorado Water Science Center
Description 12 p.
First page 29
Last page 40
Country United States
State South Carolina
Other Geospatial Liberty Hill Pluton