The supergene thorium and rare-earth element deposit at Morro do Ferro, Poços de Caldas, Minas Gerais, Brazil

Waber, Niklaus (1992). The supergene thorium and rare-earth element deposit at Morro do Ferro, Poços de Caldas, Minas Gerais, Brazil. Journal of Geochemical Exploration, 45(1-3), pp. 113-157. Elsevier 10.1016/0375-6742(92)90123-P

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The thorium and rare-earth element (Th-REE) deposit at Morro do Ferro formed under supergene lateritic weathering conditions. The ore body consists of shallow NW-SE elongated argillaceous lenses that extend from the top of the hill downwards along its south-eastern slope. The deposit is capped by a network of magnetite layers which protected the underlying highly weathered, argillaceous host rock from excessive erosion. The surrounding country rocks comprise a sequence of subvolcanic phonolite intrusions that have been strongly altered by hydrothermal and supergene processes.
From petrological, mineralogical and geochemical studies, and mass balance calculations, it is inferred that the highly weathered host rock was originally carbonatitic in composition, initially enriched in Th and REEs compared to the surrounding silicate rocks. The intrusion of the carbonatite caused fenitic alteration in the surrounding phonolites, consisting of early potassic alteration followed by a vein-type Th-REE mineralization with associated fluorite, carbonate, pyrite and zircon. Subsequent weathering has completely decomposed the carbonatite forming a residual supergene enrichment of Th and REEs.
Initial weathering of the carbonatite has created a chemical environment that might have been conductive to carbonate and phosphate complexing of the REEs in groundwaters. This may have appreciably restricted the dissolution of primary REE phases. Strongly oxidic weathering has resulted in a fractionation between Ce and the other light rare earth elements (LREEs). Ce3+ is oxidized to Ce4+ and retained together with Th by secondary mineral formation (cerianite, thorianite), and by adsorption on poorly crystalline iron- and aluminium-hydroxides. In contrast, the trivalent LREEs are retained to a lesser degree and are thus more available for secondary mineral formation (Nd-lanthanite) and adsorption at greater depths down the weathering column. Seasonally controlled fluctuations of recharge waters into the weathering column may help to explain the observed repetition of Th-Ce enriched zones underlain by trivalent LREE enriched zones.

Item Type:

Journal Article (Original Article)


08 Faculty of Science > Institute of Geological Sciences

UniBE Contributor:

Waber, Niklaus


500 Science > 550 Earth sciences & geology








Niklaus Waber

Date Deposited:

09 Feb 2016 14:29

Last Modified:

05 Dec 2022 14:51

Publisher DOI:



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