The large-scale salt lakes widely distributed in the Tibetan Plateau provide unique and potential resources for lithium (Li) and boron (B). The concentration and characteristics of elements in these salt lakes resemble those found in geothermal water in northern Tibet, which highlights both as crucial sources of rare elements. This study presents comprehensive analyses of the hydrochemical composition and isotopes of B, strontium (Sr), hydrogen (H), and oxygen (O) in typical salt lakes, along with samples from surrounding springs and rivers in the Bangong-Nujiang suture zone of northern Tibet. The results reveal an extremely negative and anomalous distribution pattern of B isotopes in Zabuye Salt Lake that is closely associated with geothermal water. The enrichment of these elements in other salt lakes in the region is attributed to concentration of evaporation and sediment adsorption. Given the very high elevation of the recharge for geothermal water, the infiltration of salt lakes obviously cannot feed geothermal springs. On the contrary, we correlate the unusual enrichment of Li and B and other resources in salt lakes to geothermal spring discharge. The ultimate origin of these elements lies in magmatic sources, with later water-rock interaction leading to significant enrichment of incompatible elements such as Li, rubidium (Rb), cesium (Cs), and B in the geothermal system. The geothermal springs directly or indirectly fed the salt lakes, and with further evaporation, they became super-scale brine deposits.

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