Two episodes of REE mineralization in the Qinling Orogenic Belt, Central China: in-situ U-Th-Pb dating of bastnäsite and monazite

  • Wei Zhang
  • Wei Terry ChenEmail author
  • Jian-Feng Gao
  • Hua-Kai Chen
  • Jing-Hui Li


Recent exploration revealed a number of rare earth element (REE) deposits that are distributed along the Qinling Orogenic Belt, Central China. These deposits have an estimated total reserve of about 2 Mt. REE2O3, thus making this belt a world-class REE metallogenic province. Understanding the metallogenesis of the belt requires direct dating of REE minerals. In this study, LA-ICP-MS U-Th-Pb dating on bastnäsite and monazite from the Huangshuian, Taipingzhen, and Miaoya deposits in different units of the belt was used to precisely determine the timing of the REE mineralization. The Huangshuian deposit in the north is a carbonatite-related Mo-(REE) deposit in which the REE minerals are closely associated with molybdenite. After correction for common Pb and excessed 206Pb decayed from 230Th, a weighted average 206Pb/238U age of 207 ± 4 Ma (n = 17; MSWD = 1.9) is obtained for bastnäsite grains from this deposit. Such an age is slightly younger than that of the final collision (peak at 230–220 Ma) of the Qinling Orogenic Belt, thus indicating that the Mo-REE mineralization is likely related to a post-collisional extension setting. The Taipingzhen REE deposit in the middle contains sheet-like ore bodies composed of veins where bastnäsite, the dominant REE mineral, is closely associated with quartz, fluorite, and barite. In situ bastnäsite U-Th-Pb dating shows that the REE mineralization in this deposit has formed at 421 ± 7 Ma (n = 17; MSWD = 1.5), synchronous with extension-related magmatism in the region. The Miaoya deposit in the south is the largest one in the belt, and it is essentially a REE-mineralized syenite-carbonatite complex. In this deposit, the monazite grains are closely associated with major minerals of the syenites or carbonatites (e.g., K-feldspar or calcite), but commonly exhibit complex internal textures. Different domains of monazite yield two groups of U-Pb ages at 414 ± 11 Ma (n = 5; MSWD = 0.91) and 231 ± 2 Ma (n = 21; MSWD = 3.1), whereas the bastnäsite has an age of 206 ± 4 Ma (n = 14; MSWD = 1.5). The early age of 414 Ma is obtained from homogenous monazite grains and in good agreement with zircon U-Pb ages of the Miaoya syenite-carbonatite complex, and thus is considered to represent the timing of the major REE mineralization in the deposit. The younger ages of 231–206 Ma are obtained from monazite grains with complex internal textures and bastnäsite in late veinlets, thus recording secondary, consecutive REE remobilization events likely related to the compression process during formation of the Qinling Orogenic Belt. Our new U-Th-Pb ages, in combination with previously geochronological data, demonstrate that there are two episodes of REE mineralization at 440–410 Ma and 220–200 Ma in the Qinling Orogenic Belt.


Qinling REE deposit Bastnäsite Monazite U-Th-Pb age 



We thank Prof. Xin-Chun Zhang from the Institute of Geochemistry, Chinese Academy of Sciences and Li-Min Chang, Wei-Dong Zhang, and Wen-Hui Yang from Henan Nuclear Geological Bureau for their valuable assistance during the field investigations. We also thank Liang Li and Rang-Tian Wu from Nanjing FocuMS Technology Co. Ltd. for the help during LA-ICP-MS analyses. We are grateful to the official reviews by Xin-Fu Zhao and Donald Davis, and editorial handling by Bernd Lehmann and Robert Linnen

Funding information

This study is supported by the National Key R&D Program of China (2017YFC0602302) and Key Research Program of Frontier Sciences, CAS (QYZDB-SSW-DQC008).

Supplementary material

126_2019_875_MOESM1_ESM.xls (638 kb)
ESM 1 LA-ICP-MS U-Th-Pb isotopic results of the bastnäsite from the Huangshuian, Taipingzhen and Miaoya deposits
126_2019_875_MOESM2_ESM.xlsx (82 kb)
ESM 1 LA-ICP-MS U-Th-Pb dating results of the monazite in the Miaoya deposit


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Wei Zhang
    • 1
  • Wei Terry Chen
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • Jian-Feng Gao
    • 1
  • Hua-Kai Chen
    • 3
  • Jing-Hui Li
    • 3
  1. 1.State Key Laboratory of Ore Deposit GeochemistryInstitute of Geochemistry Chinese Academy of SciencesGuiyangChina
  2. 2.University of Chinese Academy of SciencesBeijingChina
  3. 3.Henan Nuclear Geological BureauZhengzhouChina

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