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Open-File Report 2011–1207

Prepared in cooperation with the Task Force for Business and Stability Operations, under the auspices of the U.S. Department of Defense and the Afghanistan Geological Survey

Rare Earth Element Mineralogy, Geochemistry, and Preliminary Resource Assessment of the Khanneshin Carbonatite Complex, Helmand Province, Afghanistan

By Robert D. Tucker, Harvey E. Belkin, Klaus J. Schulz, Stephen G. Peters, and Kim P. Buttleman

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There is increased concern about the future availability of rare earth elements (REE) because of China's dominance as the supplier of more than 95 percent of world REE output, their decision to restrict exports of rare earth products, and the rapid increase in world-wide consumption of rare earth product. As a result, countries such as the United States, Japan, and member nations of the European Union face a future of tight supplies and high prices for rare earth products unless other sources of REE are found and developed (Long and others, 2010; U.S. Geological Survey, 2011, p. 128–129, 184–185). We report and describe a significant new deposit of light rare earth elements (LREE), estimated at 1 Mt, within the Khanneshin carbonatite complex of south Afghanistan. The potential resource is located in a remote and rugged part of the igneous complex in a region previously identified by Soviet geologists in the 1970s. This report reviews the geologic setting of LREE deposit, presents new geochemical data documenting the grade of LREE mineralization, briefly describes the mineralogy and mineralogical associations of the deposit, and presents a preliminary estimate of LREE resources based on our current understanding of the geology.

Posted September 14, 2011

For additional information contact:
Robert D. Tucker
U.S. Geological Survey
926A National Center
12201 Sunrise Valley Drive
Reston, VA 20192-0002
Telephone: (703) 648–6087
Fax: (703) 648–6953

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Suggested citation:

Tucker, R.D., Belkin, H.E., Schulz, K.J., Peters, S.G., and Buttleman, K.P., 2011, Rare earth element mineralogy, geochemistry, and preliminary resource assessment of the Khanneshin carbonatite complex, Helmand Province, Afghanistan: U.S. Geological Survey Open-File Report 2011–1207, 50 p., available only at




Geology of the Khanneshin Carbonatite Complex

Geologic Setting


Rocks of the Central Vent

Volcanic and Volcano-Sedimentary rocks

Satellite Vents, Dikes, and Minor Intrusive Rocks

History of Igneous Activity


The Zone of LREE Enrichment

Styles of LREE Mineralization

Whole-Rock Geochemistry


Structural Control on Alkaline Igneous Magmatism and LREE Mineralization

Estimation of LREE Resources

Analysis of the Soviet-Defined Zone

Analysis by Remote Sensing


References Cited

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