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Lithium concentrations and isotope signatures of Palaeozoic basement rocks and Cenozoic volcanic rocks from the Central Andean arc and back-arc

Abstract

We investigate the Li isotope composition and the Li concentrations of metamorphic and sedimentary rocks of the Palaeozoic (Pz) basement in the Central Andes and follow the trace of the Li in the Cenozoic volcanic rocks at the active continental margin. The average Li isotope composition of Pz-basement closely resembles global averages of upper crustal rocks with overlapping, but higher average Li content in the Pz-basement. Lithium isotope composition and content in the Cenozoic volcanic rocks of the Central Volcanic Zone (CVZ) range from mantle-like signatures to Pz-basement compositions with high δ7Li values and high Li contents. Evolutionary trends of the Li isotope composition in the CVZ volcanic rocks can be explained by assimilation of the Pz-basement. At a margin-wide scale, the abundance of Li in the CVZ volcanic rocks is higher than that of the Cenozoic volcanic rocks of the active Andean arc north and south of the CVZ. The CVZ volcanic and Pz-basement rocks are considered to be the primary source of Li in world-class Li-deposits in evaporates of the Altiplano-Puna high plateau and its western slope between ca 27° and 20° S. These deposits define the so-called “Lithium-Triangle”, between southern Bolivia, NW Argentina and NE Chile. The pivotal processes of extraction of Li from its primary rock sources and of Li migration from the source rocks to the deposits still await detailed investigation.

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Acknowledgements

SAK thanks Ricardo Alonso, Universidad Nacional de Salta and Ben Heit, GeoForschungsZentrum Potsdam for support of the field work. Sample CAV-10-5 was collected by Fatima Quiroga, Universidad Nacional de Salta. We thank Horst Marschall and Gerhard Wörner for their reviews, which improved the focus of the manuscript and Bernd Lehmann for the editorial handling.

Funding

CS and PJC were funded by ANPCyT, CONICET and UNJu (PICT-V-2014 3654; PIO 0010CO).

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Meixner, A., Sarchi, C., Lucassen, F. et al. Lithium concentrations and isotope signatures of Palaeozoic basement rocks and Cenozoic volcanic rocks from the Central Andean arc and back-arc. Miner Deposita 55, 1071–1084 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00126-019-00915-2

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s00126-019-00915-2

Keywords

  • Central Andes
  • Palaeozoic basement
  • Cenozoic volcanic rocks
  • Lithium isotopes
  • Lithium deposits