The Saidikulam nephrite deposit, which is famous for its high-quality white nephrite no matter in history and nowadays, is located in the eastern part of the Western Kunlun Orogen, in the northwestern margin of the Tibetan Plateau, Yutian County, Xinjiang, China. Field investigations and petrographic observations revealed the presence of five mineral assemblage zones from granodiorite to dolomitic marble in the Saidikulam nephrite deposit: slightly epidote-altered granodiorite → epidote-altered diopsidite → nephrite → calcite tremolitite → calcite-bearing dolomitic marble. However, little is known about the relationships among these five zones or the formation age of the deposit. The slightly epidote-altered granodiorite consists of plagioclase, orthoclase, quartz, biotite, and epidote, with accessory apatite, zircon, and allanite. They exhibit slightly negative Eu anomalies (0.69–0.72), with declined light rare earth element (LREE) and flat heavy rare earth element (HREE) patterns. They are also strongly enriched in Rb, Zr, U, and Sm and depleted in Hf, Ti, P, and Nb. The epidote-altered diopsidite close to the granodiorite intrusions is a relatively high-temperature metasomatic rock composed of Fe-rich diopside and actinolite, while the calcite tremolitite adjacent to the dolomitic marble is a relatively low-temperature rock composed of prismatic tremolite and calcite. The main mineral component of the nephrite is tremolite, with minor epidote, chlorite, apatite, calcite, graphite, and allanite. The nephrites have low ∑REE contents (4.38–18.53 ppm), with declined LREE and flat HREE patterns. All of the analyzed nephrite exhibits pronounced negative Eu anomalies (δEu？=？0.20–0.82), and they are strongly enriched in Rb, U, and Ti and relatively depleted in Ba and HFSEs. SHRIMP U–Pb dating of zircons from the granodiorite yielded a Concordia age of 453.8？±？3.7 Ma, which is interpreted as the upper limit of the Saidikulam nephrite formation age. The zircons in the epidotized syenite in the deposit yielded a SHRIMP Concordia U–Pb age of 489.2？±？4.2 Ma. These two ages indicate that the dolomitic marble experienced at least two thermal events. The approximate ages of the nephrite deposits along the giant Kunlun-Altyn Tagh belt indicate that the closure of the Proto-Tethys may have been the predominant driving force for the formation of the whole nephrite deposits. The multistage metasomatism and the Fe absorption of epidote-altered diopsidite had a positive impact on the formation of high-quality nephrite.
Article link: https://doi.org/10.1093/petrology/egac117