The formation of lithium-rich pegmatites through multi-stage melting

Lot Koopmans*, Tania Martins, Robert Linnen, Nicholas J. Gardiner, Catriona M. Breasley, Richard M. Palin, Lee A. Groat, David Silva, Laurence J. Robb

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Lithium-cesium-tantalum−type pegmatites (the primary source of lithium) crystallize from highly evolved, volatile felsic melts that incorporated crustal material in their source. Pegmatites are classically thought to form either from extreme fractionation of a parental granite body or via low-degree partial melting of a metamorphic rock (anatectic origin). However, the processes that lead to the formation of economic lithium pegmatite deposits remain enigmatic, because precipitation of lithium ore minerals requires melt lithium concentrations in excess of 5000 ppm—∼500 times upper crustal abundances. We use petrological modeling to quantify lithium enrichment in an anatectic-origin scenario and show that it is primarily driven by the relative stability of residual biotite and muscovite at medium to high pressures (∼8 kbar), and biotite and cordierite at low pressures (∼3 kbar). We show anatexis of an average lithium-enriched metasedimentary source cannot sufficiently elevate the lithium content of the ensuing melt to form economic deposits; however, if this first-generation melt—now crystallized as granitic crust—is re-melted, the second-generation melt will be sufficiently concentrated in lithium to crystallize lithium ore minerals. We propose a petrogenetic model for anatectic-origin lithium pegmatites, in which a region experiences at least two stages of partial melting, ultimately generating lithium-rich melts without invoking extensive fractional crystallization. This mechanism can both account for the occurrence of unzoned lithium pegmatites and explain why economic pegmatites in many terranes are younger than their inferred source granites.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)7-11
Number of pages5
Issue number1
Early online date17 Oct 2023
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 17 Oct 2023


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