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Niobium and rare earth minerals from the Virulundo carbonatite, Namibe, Angola

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The Virulundo carbonatite in Angola is one of the largest in the world and contains pyrochlore as an accessory mineral in all of the carbonatite units (calciocarbonatites, ferrocarbonatites, carbonatite breccias and trachytoids). The primary magmatic pyrochlore is fluorine dominant and typically contains about equal molar quantities of Ca and Na at the A site. High-temperature hydrothermal processes have resulted in the pseudomorphic replacement of the primary pyrochlore by a second generation of pyrochlore with less F and Na. Low-temperature hydrothermal replacement of the first and second generation pyrochlore, associated with quartz-carbonate-fluorite vein formation in the carbonatite, has produced a third generation of pyrochlore, with a high Sr content. The Sr appears to have been released by low-temperature hydrothermal replacement of the primary magmatic carbonates. Finally, supergene alteration processes have produced late-stage carbonates, goethite, hollandite and rare earth element (REE) minerals (mainly synchysite-(Ce), britholite-(Ce), britholite-(La), cerite-(Ce)). Cerium separated from the other REE s in oxidizing conditions and Ce4+ was incorporated into a late generation of supergene pyrochlore, which is strongly enriched in Ba and strongly depleted in Ca and Na.


Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: April 1, 2012

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