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Textural and compositional evolution of niobium minerals in the Miaoya carbonatite-hosted REE-Nb deposit from the South Qinling Orogen of central China

Abstract

The Miaoya carbonatite complex in the South Qinling Orogen hosts one of the largest REE-Nb deposits in China. The origin and evolution of REE enrichment in this Silurian intrusion have been extensively studied, whereas Nb mineralization remains less well understood. Here, we report detailed mineralogical and geochemical data on diverse Nb-bearing minerals from the Miaoya carbonatite to explain the development of Nb mineralization in these rocks. Ferrocolumbite is the dominant Nb mineral, which occurs principally as an alteration product of the earlier-crystallized Nb phases (uranopyrochlore, betafite, and fersmite). The ferrocolumbite varieties (Clb-1, Clb-2, Clb-3) inherited some compositional characteristics of its precursors, in particular a trend of decreasing Ta2O5 and UO2 from Clb-1 to Clb-3, which mimics the Ta-U depletion trend from uranopyrochlore to betafite and fersmite. Varieties Clb-1 and Clb-2 and associated calcite and altered uranopyrochlore show evidence of hydrothermal overprint such as positive Eu anomaly. Ferrocolumbite Clb-2 shows slightly higher Eu/Eu* and Zr/Hf ratios and contains fewer relicts of its precursor mineral in comparison with Clb-1, possibly indicating local enrichment of F in the hydrothermal system. Calcite associated with Clb-3 and fersmite shows a trace element signature characteristic of igneous carbonates, suggesting that this mineral paragenesis is least affected by metasomatic overprint with no contribution from external fluids. The study of the Miaoya REE-Nb deposit shows that late-stage metasomatism of carbonatites does not significantly enhance Nb grade in contrast to that of REE mineralization and leads to the formation of a secondary Nb paragenesis with specific trace element characteristics.

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taken from Xu et al. (2015) and Wu et al. (2021)

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Acknowledgements

We thank Dr. Bin Wu for his generous offer of fresh uranopyrochlore-bearing carbonatite samples. We are grateful to the comments provided by Kathryn Goodenough and Paul Bédard and editorial handling by Georges Beaudoin and Mohammed Bouabdellah, which all significantly improved this manuscript.

Funding

This study was supported financially by the National Key R&D Program of China (No. 2019YFA0708400), the National Natural Science Foundation of China (Nos. 41973016, 41673035, and 42030811), and the State Key Laboratory of Geological Processes and Mineral Resources (No. MSFGPMR03-2). ARC acknowledges support from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada and Canada-China Scholars’ Exchange Fund during his visit to Wuhan.

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Ying, YC., Chen, W., Chakhmouradian, A.R. et al. Textural and compositional evolution of niobium minerals in the Miaoya carbonatite-hosted REE-Nb deposit from the South Qinling Orogen of central China. Miner Deposita (2022). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00126-022-01126-y

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Keywords

  • Nb mineralization
  • Ferrocolumbite
  • Pyrochlore
  • Hydrothermal alteration
  • Carbonatite
  • Miaoya deposit