Iron oxide-apatite and iron oxide-copper-gold deposits occur within ~1.48 to 1.47 Ga volcanic rocks of the St. Francois Mountains terrane near a regional boundary separating crustal blocks having contrasting depleted-mantle Sm-Nd model ages (TDM). Major and trace element analyses and Nd and Pb isotope data were obtained to characterize the Pea Ridge deposit, improve identification of exploration targets, and better understand the regional distribution of mineralization with respect to crustal blocks. The Pea Ridge deposit is spatially associated with felsic volcanic rocks and plutons. Mafic to intermediate-composition rocks are volumetrically minor. Data for major element variations are commonly scattered and strongly suggest element mobility. Ratios of relatively immobile elements indicate that the felsic rocks are evolved subalkaline dacite and rhyolite; the mafic rocks are basalt to basaltic andesite. Granites and rhyolites display geochemical features typical of rocks produced by subduction. Rare earth element (REE) variations for the rhyolites are diagnostic of rocks affected by hydrothermal alteration and associated REE mineralization. The magnetite-rich rocks and REE-rich breccias show similar REE and mantle-normalized trace element patterns.

Nd isotope compositions (age corrected) show that: (1) host rhyolites have ɛNd from 3.44 to 4.25 and TDM from 1.51 to 1.59 Ga; (2) magnetite ore and specular hematite rocks display ɛNd from 3.04 to 4.21 and TDM from 1.6 to 1.51 Ga, and ɛNd from 2.23 to 2.81, respectively; (3) REE-rich breccias have ɛNd from 3.04 to 4.11 and TDM from 1.6 to 1.51 Ga; and (4) mafic to intermediate-composition rocks range in ɛNd from 2.35 to 3.66 and in TDM from 1.66 to 1.56. The ɛNd values of the magnetite and specular hematite samples show that the REE mineralization is magmatic; no evidence exists for major overprinting by younger, crustal meteoric fluids, or by externally derived Nd. Host rocks, breccias, and magnetite ore shared a common origin from a similar source.

Lead isotope ratios are diverse: (1) host rhyolite has 206Pb/204Pb from 24.261 to 50.091; (2) Pea Ridge and regional galenas have 206Pb/204Pb from 16.030 to 33.548; (3) REE-rich breccia, magnetite ore, and specular hematite rock are more radiogenic than galena; (4) REE-rich breccias have high 206Pb/204Pb (38.122–1277.61) compared to host rhyolites; and (5) REE-rich breccias are more radiogenic than magnetite ore and specular-hematite rock, having 206Pb/204Pb up to 230.65. Radiogenic 207Pb/206Pb age estimates suggest the following: (1) rhyolitic host rocks have ages of ~1.50 Ga, (2) magnetite ore is ~1.44 Ga, and (3) REE-rich breccias are ~1.48 Ga. These estimates are broadly consistent and genetically link the host rhyolite, REE-rich breccia, and magnetite ore as being contemporaneous.

Alteration style and mineralogical or textural distinctions among the magnetite-rich rocks and REE-rich breccias do not correlate with different isotopic sources. In our model, magmatic fluids leached metals from the coeval felsic rocks (rhyolites), which provided the metal source reflected in the compositions of the REE-rich breccias and mineralized rocks. This model allows for the likelihood of contributions from other genetically related felsic and intermediate to more mafic rocks stored deeper in the crust. The deposit thus records an origin as a magmatic-hydrothermal system that was not affected by Nd and Pb remobilization processes, particularly if these processes also triggered mixing with externally sourced metal-bearing fluids. The Pea Ridge deposit was part of a single, widespread, homogeneous mixing system that produced a uniform isotopic composition, thus representing an excellent example of an igneous-dominated system that generated coeval magmatism and REE mineralization. Geochemical features suggest that components in the Pea Ridge deposit originated from sources in an orogenic margin. Basaltic magmatism produced by mantle decompression melting provided heat for extracting melts from the middle or lower crust. Continual addition of mafic magmas to the base of the subcontinental lithosphere, in a back-arc setting, remelted calc-alkaline rocks enriched in metals that were stored in the crust.

The St. Francois Mountains terrane is adjacent to the regional TDM line (defined at a value of 1.55 Ga) that separates ~1600 Ma basement to the west, from younger basements to the east. Data for Pea Ridge straddle the TDM values proposed for the line. The Sm-Nd isotope system has been closed since formation of the deposit and the original igneous signatures have not been affected by cycles of alteration or superimposed mineralizing events. No evidence exists for externally derived Nd or Sm. The source region for metals within the Pea Ridge deposit had a moderate compositional variation and the REE-rich breccias and mineralized rocks are generally isotopically homogeneous. The Pea Ridge deposit thus constitutes a distinctive isotopic target for use as a model in identifying other mineralized systems that may share the same metal source in the St. Francois Mountains terrane and elsewhere in the eastern Granite-Rhyolite province.

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