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Carbonate complexation enhances hydrothermal transport of rare earth elements in alkaline fluids

Abstract : Rare earth elements (REE), essential metals for the transition to a zero-emission economy, are mostly extracted from REE-fluorcarbonate minerals in deposits associated with carbonatitic and/or peralkaline magmatism. While the role of high-temperature fluids (100 < T < 500 °C) in the development of economic concentrations of REE is well-established, the mechanisms of element transport, ore precipitation, and light (L)REE/heavy (H)REE fractionation remain a matter of debate. Here, we provide direct evidence from in-situ X-ray Absorption Spectroscopy (XAS) that the formation of hydroxyl-carbonate complexes in alkaline fluids enhances hydrothermal mobilization of LREE at T ≥ 400 °C and HREE at T ≤ 200 °C, even in the presence of fluorine. These results not only reveal that the modes of REE transport in alkaline fluids differ fundamentally from those in acidic fluids, but further underline that alkaline fluids may be key to the mineralization of hydrothermal REE-fluorcarbonates by promoting the simultaneous transport of (L)REE, fluoride and carbonate, especially in carbonatitic systems.
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Submitted on : Thursday, April 14, 2022 - 9:46:51 AM
Last modification on : Tuesday, May 10, 2022 - 3:25:02 PM

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Marion Louvel, Barbara Etschmann, Qiushi Guan, Denis Testemale, Joël Brugger. Carbonate complexation enhances hydrothermal transport of rare earth elements in alkaline fluids. Nature Communications, Nature Publishing Group, 2022, 13, pp.1456. ⟨10.1038/s41467-022-28943-z⟩. ⟨insu-03641030⟩

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