The Bayan Obo ore deposit is the largest rare earth element (REE) deposit in the world and has been assumed to be hosted in dolomite that was folded in a syncline. This has been challenged by results from drill holes and low-resistivity, controlled-source audio-frequency magnetotellurics (CSAMT) survey. In this paper, we present structural analysis of clastic sedimentary rocks from around the deposit, their relationship with carbonatite, and the orientations of the carbonatite bodies and dikes to constrain the possible configuration of carbonatite. Clastic sedimentary rocks underwent mylonitic deformation to slate, metasandstone, and metaconglomerate, displaying dramatic changes of thickness along strike. Slates locally preserve intrafolial folds and hook folds bounded by foliations; metasandstones have parallel layers of recrystallized and preferred-orientated quartz aggregations; metaconglomerates contain flattened pebbles with Flinn k values of 0.01 to 0.05 and 0. The above structures and foliations were crosscut and intruded by carbonatite and associated fenite, demonstrating preintrusion transposition of original bedding to steep foliation. Preintrusion foliation provides zones of weakness that were exploited by upwelling of carbonatite magma. Northeast-SW–striking left-stepping en echelon carbonatite dikes and E-W–striking carbonatite bodies indicate that the carbonatite was emplaced in a sinistral transtensional zone. The northern and southern segments of the carbonatite bodies are parallel to the steep foliation at shallow depths and merge together at depth, constraining a Y-shaped configuration, consistent with the low resistivity result of the CSAMT survey. The newly recognized Y-shaped morphology indicates that the carbonatite extends deeper than 1,775.4 m, more than twice the previously inferred maximum depth of the syncline model, and contributes to a significant >1.78 times increase in global potential RE2O3 resources than previously estimated in 2021.

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