Mountain Pass, California (USA), located in the eastern Mojave Desert, hosts one of the world’s richest rare earth element (REE) deposits. The REE-rich terrane occurs in a 2.5-km-wide, northwest-trending belt of Mesoproterozoic (1.4 Ga) stocks and dikes, which intrude a larger Paleoproterozoic (1.7 Ga) metamorphic block that extends ~10 km southward from Clark Mountain to the eastern Mescal Range. To characterize the REE terrane, gravity, magnetic, magnetotelluric, and whole-rock physical property data were analyzed. Geophysical data reveal that the Mountain Pass carbonatite body is associated with an ~5 mGal local gravity high that is superimposed on a gravity terrace (~4 km wide) caused by granitic Paleoproterozoic host rocks. Physical rock property data indicate that the Mountain Pass REE suite is essentially nonmagnetic at the surface with a magnetic susceptibility of 2.0 × 10−3 SI (n = 57), and lower-than-expected magnetizations may be the result of alteration. However, aeromagnetic data indicate that the intrusive suite occurs along the eastern edge of a distinct northwest-trending aeromagnetic high along the eastern Mescal Range. The source of this magnetic anomaly is ~1.5–2 km below the surface and coincides with an electrical conductivity zone that is several orders of magnitude more conductive than the surrounding rock. The source of the magnetic anomaly is likely a moderately magnetic pluton. Combined geophysical data and models suggest that the carbonatite and its associated REE-enriched ultrapotassic suite were preferentially emplaced along a northwest-trending zone of weakness, which has potential implications for regional mineral exploration.

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