Original paper

Foordite-thoreaulite, Sn2+Nb2O6Sn2+Ta2O6: compositional variations and alteration products

Uher, Pavel; Černý, Petr; Chapman, Ron


The foordite-thoreaulite series of Sn2+-bearing Nb, Ta-oxide phases is a rare constituent of complex, rare-element, Li-Cs-Ta-rich (LCT-family) granitic pegmatites with local low fO2 environment. In this study, detailed electron-microprobe analyses (EMPA) reveal a broad range of nearly continuous foordite-thoreaulite solid solution: at. Ta/(Ta+Nb) = 0.23-0.92. Valence equilibration of the formulae suggests up to 6 at.% of total Sn in Sn4+ state occupying the octahedral Nb, Ta-populated B-site. Three substitution mechanisms dominate the foordite-thoreaulite chemistry: NbTa-1, Pb2+Sn2+-1 and Sb3+Sn4+Sn2+-1(Nb, Ta)5+-1; Pb2+ and Sb3+ occupy ≤ 21.5 at. % and ≤ 7.6 at. % of the A-site position, respectively. Sb shows positive correlation with Ta/(Ta+Nb). Primary large foordite-thoreaulite crystals are compositionaly homogeneous, only areas of secondary alteration show small zones of recrystallized foordite-thoreaulite and grains with diffuse or patchy zoning, variable Nb/Ta ratio and locally increased Pb content. Influx of late-magmatic to hydrothermal fluids and/or alkali elements under higher fO2 causes breakdown of foordite-thoreaulite and production of cassiterite and numerous Nb, Ta-oxide minerals. At Lutsiro pegmatite, foordite is replaced by mosaic fine-grained aggregate of secondary foordite-thoreaulite + columbite-tantalite + Ta-rich cassiterite. Simpsonite is present in Manono and Maniema pegmatites. Local replacement of foordite-thoreaulite by alkali-bearing Nb-Ta phases is widespread; irregular veinlets and zones of lithiotantite, calciotantite, irtyshite/natrotantite, cesplumtantite, a mineral with composition (Na, Cs)2(Pb, Sb3+)3Ta8O24, rankamaite, fersmite, and pyrochlore-group minerals occur.


foorditethoreaulitecassiteritecolumbitetantalitesimpsonitealkali-bearing nb-ta mineralsgranitic pegmatites