Abstract

The Cape Cross–Uis pegmatite belt, Damara Orogen, north-central Namibia hosts multiple Ta–Nb- and Sn-oxide-bearing pegmatites. Columbite-group minerals, tapiolite, cassiterite and minor ixiolite and wodginite occur in abundance within pegmatites and display various compositional and internal structural mineralogical variations. Ta–Nb oxides display various zonation patterns indicative of multiple crystallisation phases, whereas cassiterite is dominantly homogeneous with minor euhedral columbite-group mineral inclusions. Ta–Nb oxides are mostly rich in Fe, with fractionation patterns in the columbite quadrilateral being sub parallel to the Ta/(Ta + Nb) axis; increasing Ta/(Ta + Nb) with little change in Mn/(Mn + Fe), which is consistent with classical trends in beryl-to-spodumene rare-element pegmatites. In addition, these trends suggest that co-crystallising minerals compete with Ta–Nb oxides for elements such as Mn, preventing Ta–Nb oxides from attaining Mn-rich compositions during the fractionation process. Cassiterite shows similar fractionation patterns with Fe > Mn and notable increases in the Ta content. Minor-element substitution in Ta–Nb oxides shows sharp decreases with increasing fractionation supporting the hypothesis that newly stabilised co-occurring minerals compete with columbite-group minerals for certain elements. Tapiolite shows the same minor-element trend, however, only for Sn and Ti suggesting cassiterite was a dominant competing mineral. Although crystallisation of Ta–Nb oxides from an aqueous fluid at the late-stages of pegmatite genesis is highly debated, significantly elevated Ta contents in metasomatised country rock, compared to unaltered country rock, may give new insight, suggesting that Ta may indeed partition into, and be transported by, an exsolved aqueous fluid. However, further studies of the country rock metasomatic contacts are required as currently the dataset is limited. The degree of fractionation as depicted by Ta–Nb and Sn oxides within pegmatites, indicate that a zonation from primitive to evolved pegmatites surrounding granites is not present and that pegmatites are probably not related to granites in the typical parent–daughter relationship.

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