Rare Earth Elements (REE) Deposits Associated with Great Plain Margin Deposits (Alkaline-Related), Southwestern United States and Eastern Mexico
New Mexico Bureau of Geology and Mineral Resources, New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology, Socorro, NM 87801, USA
Resources 2018, 7(1), 8; https://doi.org/10.3390/resources7010008
Received: 13 November 2017 / Revised: 16 January 2018 / Accepted: 18 January 2018 / Published: 23 January 2018
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Criticality of the Rare Earth Elements: Current and Future Sources and Recycling)
W.G. Lindgren in 1933 first noted that a belt of alkaline-igneous rocks extends along the eastern edge of the Rocky Mountains and Basin and Range provinces from Alaska and British Columbia southward into New Mexico, Trans-Pecos Texas, and eastern Mexico and that these rocks contain relatively large quantities of important commodities such as, gold, fluorine, zirconium, rare earth elements (REE), tellurium, gallium, and other critical elements. In New Mexico, these deposits were called Great Plain Margin (GPM) deposits, because this north-south belt of alkaline-igneous rocks roughly coincides with crustal thickening along the margin between the Great Plains physiographic province with the Basin and Range (including the Rio Grande rift) and Rocky Mountains physiographic provinces, which extends into Trans-Pecos Texas and eastern Mexico. Since 1996, only minor exploration and development of these deposits in New Mexico, Texas, and eastern Mexico has occurred because of low commodity prices, permitting issues, and environmental concerns. However, as the current demand for gold and critical elements, such as REE and tellurium has increased, new exploration programs have encouraged additional research on the geology of these deposits. The lack of abundant quartz in these systems results in these deposits being less resistant to erosion, being covered, and not as well exposed as other types of quartz-rich deposits, therefore additional undiscovered alkaline-related gold and REE deposits are likely in these areas. Deposits of Th-REE-fluorite (±U, Nb) epithermal veins and breccias are found in the several GPM districts, but typically do not contain significant gold, although trace amounts of gold are found in most GPM districts. Gold-rich deposits in these districts tend to have moderate to low REE and anomalously high tungsten and sporadic amounts of tellurium. Carbonatites are only found in New Mexico and Mexico. The diversity of igneous rocks, including alkaline-igneous rocks, and associated mineral deposits along this boundary suggests that this region is characterized by highly fractionated and differentiated, multiple pulses of mantle-derived magmas evolving to lower crustal magmas related to the subduction of the Farallon plate. The differences in incompatible trace elements, including REE and beryllium, between the different granitic to rhyolite rocks are likely related to either differences in the crustal rocks that were assimilated during magmatic differentiation or by potential minor contamination from crustal sources and/or magma mixing. Deep-seated fracture systems or crustal lineaments apparently channeled the magmas and hydrothermal fluids. Once magmas and metal-rich fluids reached shallow levels, the distribution and style of these intrusions, as well as the resulting associated mineral deposits were controlled by local structures and associated igneous rock compositions.