Rare earth element (REE)-rich breccia pipes (600,000 t @ 12% rare earth oxides) are preserved along the margins of the 136-million metric ton (Mt) Pea Ridge magnetite-apatite deposit, within Mesoproterozoic (~1.47 Ga) volcanic-plutonic rocks of the St. Francois Mountains terrane in southeastern Missouri, United States. The breccia pipes cut the rhyolite-hosted magnetite deposit and contain clasts of nearly all local bedrock and mineralized lithologies.
Grains of monazite and xenotime were extracted from breccia pipe samples for SHRIMP U-Pb geochronology; both minerals were also dated in one polished thin section. Monazite forms two morphologies: (1) matrix granular grains composed of numerous small (<50 μm) crystallites intergrown with rare xenotime, thorite, apatite, and magnetite; and (2) coarse euhedral, glassy, bright-yellow grains similar to typical igneous or metamorphic monazite. Trace element abundances (including REE patterns) were determined on selected grains of monazite (both morphologies) and xenotime. Zircon grains from two samples of host rhyolite and two late felsic dikes collected underground at Pea Ridge were also dated. Additional geochronology done on breccia pipe minerals includes Re-Os on fine-grained molybdenite and 40Ar/39Ar on muscovite, biotite, and K-feldspar.
Ages (±2σ errors) obtained by SHRIMP U-Pb analysis are as follows: (1) zircon from the two host rhyolite samples have ages of 1473.6 ± 8.0 and 1472.7 ± 5.6 Ma; most zircon in late felsic dikes is interpreted as xenocrystic (age range ca. 1522–1455 Ma); a population of rare spongy zircon is likely of igneous origin and yields an age of 1441 ± 9 Ma; (2) pale-yellow granular monazite—1464.9 ± 3.3 Ma (no dated xenotime); (3) reddish matrix granular monazite—1462.0 ± 3.5 Ma and associated xenotime—1453 ± 11 Ma; (4) coarse glassy-yellow monazite—1464.8 ± 2.1, 1461.7 ± 3.7 Ma, with rims at 1447.2 ± 4.7 Ma; and (5) matrix monazite (in situ)—1464.1 ± 3.6 and 1454.6 ± 9.6 Ma, and matrix xenotime (in situ)—1468.0 ± 8.0 Ma. Two slightly older ages of cores are about 1478 Ma. The young age of rims on the coarse glassy monazite coincides with an Re-Os age of 1440.6 ± 9.2 Ma determined in this study for molybdenite intergrown with quartz and allanite, and with the age of monazite inclusions in apatite from the magnetite ore (Neymark et al., 2016). A 40Ar/39Ar age of 1473 ± 1 Ma was obtained for muscovite from a breccia pipe sample.
Geochronology and trace element geochemical data suggest that the granular matrix monazite and xenotime (in polygonal texture), and cores of coarse glassy monazite precipitated from hydrothermal fluids during breccia pipes formation at about 1465 Ma. The second episode of mineral growth at ca. 1443 Ma may be related to faulting and fluid flow that rebrecciated the pipes. The ca. 10-m.y. gap between the ages of host volcanic rocks and breccia pipe monazite and xenotime suggests that breccia pipe mineral formation cannot be related to the felsic magmatism represented by the rhyolitic volcanic rocks, and hence is linked to a different magmatic-hydrothermal system.