Carbonatites are abundant in the rare earth elements (REE), and they host the most important REE resources in the world. However, the mechanisms that concentrate these elements during carbonatitic magmatic processes are still poorly constrained. Here, we report the occurrence of apatite-hosted melt inclusions from the Ulgii Khiid carbonatites, Mongolia, and use these to reconstruct the evolution of REE concentrations and patterns in early, primary carbonatite magma. The melt inclusions consist of a varied polycrystalline assemblage of daughter minerals, including calcite, diopside, phlogopite, magnetite, pyrite, monazite, parisite, and a phosphate glass which is remarkably enriched in REE. Heating-quenching experiments show that the homogenization temperatures of the inclusions are above 1200 °C and produce three immiscible liquid phases (i.e., phosphate-, silicate-, and Fe-silicate-melt). The phosphate melt has much higher REE content than the silicate melts. We, therefore, suggest that the melt inclusions trapped a REE-, P- and silicate-enriched carbonate melt produced via carbonate-silicate liquid immiscibility. During this process, both REE and P preferentially incorporated into the carbonate melt. With subsequent crystal fractionation of REE- and P-poor carbonate and silicate minerals, the separated carbonatitic melt becomes P-REE-saturated, forming REE minerals and an immiscible REE-rich phosphate melt. The phosphate melt is highly efficient at concentrating REE during the immiscibility process and plays a crucial role in controlling the REE budget in the P-rich carbonatite magmas.
- Melt inclusion
- Ulgii Khiid