Tracing the fluid evolution of the Kiruna iron oxide apatite deposits using zircon, monazite, and whole rock trace elements and isotopic studies

Anne Westhues, John Hanchar, Christopher R. Voisey, Martin Whitehouse, George Rossman, Richard Wirth

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The ore genesis of the Paleoproterozoic iron oxide apatite deposits in the vicinity of Kiruna in northern Sweden is poorly understood, despite a century-long mining history and 2500 Mt of iron ore with grades of 30 to 70 wt% Fe produced in the region to date. Zircon grains from the ore, recently dated at ca. 1874 Ma, show very different appearances compared to zircon from surrounding host rocks (ca. 1880 Ma) and related intrusions (ca. 1880 and ca. 1874 Ma), particularly an inclusion-rich rim. In contrast, zircon from the host rocks, and a proximal granite intrusion, exhibit typical igneous growth zoning. Electron microprobe results show near stoichiometric composition for Zr, Si, and Hf in the host rock zircon grains. The ore zircon crystals have low analytical totals with significant concentrations of Ca, Fe, Y, and P and infrared spectroscopy showed several weight percent of water. These ore zircon grains further show Fe-rich inclusions, zones and/or veins in elemental X-ray maps, and light rare earth elements (LREE) enrichment. Transmission electron microscopy (TEM) shows that the LREE are not due to micro- or nano-inclusions in the zircon, but are likely hosted as LREE oxides in amorphous regions of the grains. Based on these characteristics, the rims on ore zircon grains are interpreted to be of hydrothermal origin. Uranium-Pb in monazite from the ore, measured by SIMS, suggests a secondary event influencing the area at ca. 1624 Ma, a period of known geologic activity in Fennoscandia. Electron microprobe X-ray mapping of these monazite grains shows no zoning and relatively low U and Th concentrations. Stark contrasts are visible between the ore (depleted mantle influence) and host rocks (crustal influence) in the whole rock Lu-Hf and Sm-Nd data. The depleted mantle signature of the ore could be related to the Kiruna greenstone group as a potential source region for the iron. The Sm-Nd isotopic composition of monazite from the ore shows a crustal influence, and indicates that the younger event has not disturbed the whole rock Sm-Nd signature of the ore. The hydrothermal nature of the ore zircon grains and the isotopic signatures point to a hydrothermal influence on the ore formation, with a high temperature magmatic fluid related to the intrusions as most likely heat and fluid source.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)303-322
Number of pages20
JournalChemical Geology
Publication statusPublished - 5 Sept 2017
Externally publishedYes


  • FTIR spectroscopy
  • Hydrothermal alteration
  • Iron oxide apatite
  • Kiruna
  • Monazite
  • Norrbotten
  • Paleoproterozoic
  • Sm-Nd
  • TEM
  • U-Pb
  • Zircon

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