Rare Earth Element Metasomatism in Hydrothermal Systems; the Willsboro-Lewis Wollastonite Ores, New York, USA

TitleRare Earth Element Metasomatism in Hydrothermal Systems; the Willsboro-Lewis Wollastonite Ores, New York, USA
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication1998
AuthorsWhitney, PR, Olmsted, JF
JournalGeochimica et Cosmochimica Acta
Keywordsgarnet-pyroxene skarns, New York, rare earth elements, Willsboro-Lewis district, wollastonite ores

Wollastonite ores and garnet-pyroxene skarns in the Willsboro-Lewis district, New York, USA were formed in a complex hydrothermal system associated with the emplacement of a large anorthosite pluton. Contact-metamorphic marbles were replaced by wollastonite, garnet, and clinopyroxene during infiltration metasomatism involving large volumes of water of chiefly meteoric origin. Rare earth elements (REE) in these rocks show large departures from the protolith REE distribution, indicative of substantial REE mobility. Three types of chondrite-normalized REE distribution patterns are present. The most common, found in ores and skarns containing andradite-rich garnet, is convex-up in the light REE (LREE) with a maximum at Pr and a positive Eu anomaly. Europium anomalies and Pr/Yb ratios are correlated with XAd in garnet. This pattern (type C) results from uptake of REE from hydrothermal fluids by growing crystals of calcsilicate minerals, principally andradite, with amounts of LREE controlled by the difference in ionic radius between Ca++ and REE3+ in garnet X sites. The Eu anomaly results either from prior interaction of the fluids with plagioclase-rich, Eu-positive anorthositic rocks in and near the ore zone, or by enrichment of divalent Eu on growth surfaces of garnet followed by entrapment, or both.

Relative enrichment in heavy REE (type H) occurs in ores and skarn where calcsilicates, including grossularitic garnet, in contact-metamorphic marble have been concentrated by dissolution of calcite. In most cases a negative Eu anomaly is inherited from the marble protolith. Skarns containing titanite and apatite exhibit high total REE, relative light REE enrichment, and negative Eu anomalies (type L). These appear to be intrusive igneous rocks (ferrodiorites or anorthositic gabbros) that have been converted to skarn by Ca metasomatism. REE, sequestered in titanite, apatite, and garnet, preserve the approximate REE distribution pattern of the igneous protolith.

Post-ore granulite facies metamorphism homogenized zoned mineral grains without causing complete intergranular reequilibration and does not appear to have significantly affected the whole-rock REE distributions. These results demonstrate that extensive REE metasomatism can occur in hydrothermal systems at shallow to intermediate depths and that REE geochemistry may be useful in discerning the origin of skarns and skarn-related ore deposits.