Abstract

The beryllium deposits at Iron Mountain, near the northern end of the Sierra Cuchillo in Sierra and Socorro Counties, New Mexico, are unusual products of contact metamorphism. They occur in irregular bodies of tactile formed by replacement of Paleozoic limestone, generally at or near contacts with small intrusive masses of rhyolite, aplite, and fine-grained granite. The metamorphism took place in mid-Tertiary time. Beryllium is present chiefly in the complex silicate minerals helvite and danalite, and is a minor constituent of the garnet grossularite, a boron-bearing idocrase, and chlorite. These minerals are known to occur in noteworthy concentrations in only one type of rock, a peculiar rhythmically layered variety of tactile to which the name "ribbon rock" is given.The structure of such tactite is very conspicuous, and appears in section as thin, finely crenulated bands of magnetite alternating with similar bands of silicate minerals and finely crystalline fluorite. Concentric banding about fluorite-rich pod-like masses is common. Bodies of "ribbon rock" range in size from inch-thick lenses to large masses amounting to thousands of tons; most appear to have been formed along contacts between re-crystallized limestone and massive magnetite-andradite tactite, chiefly by replacing fluids penetrating the limestone from fractures. The layered structure is interpreted as a diffusion effect.The formation of massive and "ribbon rock" tactites can be traced through a range of falling temperature from a stage characterized by deposition from iron-rich vapors to a stage in which hydrothermal solutions were dominant. Both vapors and liquids appear to have been acid. Reducing conditions undoubtedly existed during the latter part of the hydrothermal stage. The occurrence of beryllium in "ribbon rock," but not in typical massive tactite, may signify that its compounds in deposits at or near intrusive contacts are confined to rocks of hydrothermal origin. The occurrence of "ribbon rock" is suggested as a potentially useful clue for recognition of beryllium-bearing contact deposits elsewhere; at least two other occurrences of what apparently is "ribbon rock" have been described in the literature.

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