B.Sc. (Honours) Thesis
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Ilmenite and rutile are ubiquitous, but modally scarce (< 0.5%), minerals in granitoid rocks of the differentiated peraluminous South Mountain Batholith (SMB). Ilmenite occurs as blocky 0.05 0.90 mm grains in biotite, and as discrete larger anhedral grains along silicate grain boundaries. Ilmenite grains show compositional zoning toward the pyrophanite (MnTiO3) end member, ranging from 3 15 wt.% MnO in the cores to 5 23 wt.% MnO on the rims. Rim core differences range from 2 12 wt.% MnO, generally with larger variations in the more fractionated rocks. With increasing fractionation in the batholith as a whole, the MnO contents of the ilmenites tend to decrease, albeit with considerable scatter. Several anhedral ilmenite grains appear to exhibit the same characteristics as those that occur in the neighbouring Meguma Supergroup. Texturally and chemically, ilmenite appears to be a primary magmatic mineral of the SMB throughout its crystallization history, although some grains may be xenocrystic. Rutile occurs as 0.03 0.70 mm, euhedral to anhedral grains, mainly as inclusions in biotite. Compositionally, most rutiles contain Nb2O5 (up to 4 wt. %) and Ta2O5 (up to 2 wt. %), both elements becoming more highly concentrated in rutiles from the more fractionated granitic rocks (from 0.5 1.5 wt. % Nb2O5 + Ta2O5 in the early rocks to 0.1 3.5 wt. % Nb2O5 + Ta2O5 in the most evolved rocks). Rutile occurs as three texturally and chemically distinct types. Type 1 rutile occurs as large discrete grains with the highest concentrations of Nb and Ta, and appears to be primary magmatic in origin. Type 2 rutile grains occur within chloritized biotite, are smaller than Type 1 rutiles, have moderate concentrations of Nb and Ta, and appear to be the product of the hydrothermal alteration of biotite. Type 3 rutile grains occur within grains of ilmenite, are the smallest of the three types, have the lowest concentrations of Nb and Ta, and appear to be the product of ilmenite breakdown during hydrothermal alteration. In the early history of the batholith, ilmenite sequesters most of the titanium available in the silicate melt, whereas in the later stages of evolution, rutile sequesters most of the titanium and acts as a host to niobium and tantalum. During evolution of the batholith, whole rock Nb+Ta remains roughly constant at about 10 15 ppm, but the latest and most evolved rocks show a wide variation from 5 50 ppm Nb+Ta. With this differentiation, the whole rock Nb/Ta ratio decreases from ~15 to 3, whereas the rutile Nb/Ta ratio increases from ~5 to ~20. Niobium tantalum fractionation, as indicated by the variation in whole rock and rutile Nb/Ta ratios, has implications for the formation of tantalum mineral deposits in the late stages of differentiation of the batholith.
Supervisors: D. B. Clarke and Mike MacDonald (NSDNR)