Lateritic, supergene rare earth element (REE) deposits

PDF versionPDF version


Publication Year: 



Intensive lateritic weathering of bedrock under tropical or sub-tropical climatic conditions can form a variety of secondary, supergene-type deposits. These secondary deposits may range in composition from aluminous bauxites to iron and niobium, and include rare earth elements (REE). Over 250 lateritic deposits of REE are currently known and many have been important sources of REE. In southeastern China, lateritic REE deposits, known as ion-adsorption type deposits, have been the world’s largest source of heavy REE (HREE). The lateritized upper parts of carbonatite intrusions are being investigated for REE in South America, Africa, Asia and Australia, with the Mt. Weld deposit in Australia being brought into production in late 2012. Lateritic REE deposits may be derived from a wide range of primary host rocks, but all have similar laterite and enrichment profiles, and are probably formed under similar climatic conditions. The weathering profile commonly consists of a depleted zone, an enriched zone, and a partially weathered zone which overlie the protolith. Lateritic weathering may commonly extend to depths of 30 to 60 m. REE are mobilized from the breakdown of primary REE-bearing minerals and redeposited in the enriched zone deeper in the weathering horizon as secondary minerals, as colloids, or adsorbed on other secondary minerals. Enrichment of REE may range from 3 to 10 times that of the source lithology; in some instances, enrichment may range up to 100 times.

Document Type: 

  • Report


  • critical issues, database publication, mineral resources, critical minerals, arizona