Abstract: The large Fe-Nb-REE deposit at Bayan Obo is hosted by a dolomite marble within the thrust complex of marbles, quartzites and slates that belongs to the Bayan Obo Formation of mid-Proterozoic age. The dolomite is either a dolomitized sedimentary limestone subsequently mineralized and tectonically thrust and folded, or a dolomite (or dolomitized) carbonatite intrusion with late-stage recrystallization and mineralization that has been subsequently tectonically deformed.
O and C isotope data indicate that the sedimentary limestones and dolomites of the Bayan Obo Formation, which occur in the thrust stack together with quartzites and slates, have values of δO c. +20 per mil (SMOW) and δC c. zero. In contrast, the coarser grained facies of the large (0.5 × 10 km) dolomite marble which hosts the REE ore body has δO per mil values between +8 and +12 and δC values between −5 and −3, whereas the finer-grained recrystallized and REE-mineralized dolomite marble which occurs close to the ore bodies has δO between +12 to +16 and δC between −4 and zero. 87Sr/86Sr data confirm this distinction: >0.710 for the sedimentary rocks and <0.704 for the coarse- and fine-grained dolomite marbles.
These data are taken to indicate that the large and coarse-grained dolomite was an igneous carbonatite (as borne out by its fenitic contact rocks and trace element geochemistry), and that the finer grained dolomite recrystallized under the influence of mineralizing solutions which entrained groundwater. The stratiform features in the coarse-grained dolomite that are evident in the field are interpreted as tectonic layering.