Lower Proterozoic sapphirine-bearing and associated granulites from Central Australia exhibit the greatest range of present-day 143Nd 144Nd ratios (∈Nd(O)= -26.5 to +112.3) yet reported for rocks believed to be cogenetic. The Nd isotopic data and REE abundances of these rocks demonstrate extreme fractionation of the rare earths during the formation of stratiform CuPbZn sulfide deposits with which they are closely associated. Field relationships, petrography and chemistry of the sapphirine granulites suggest that their protoliths comprised chlorite-rich rocks which were generated by hydrothermal alteration of a range of rock types prior to metamorphism; calculations employing REE abundances of the sapphirine granulites and associated rocks, combined with bulk solid-fluid distribution coefficient data yield high fluid/rock ratios, consistent with a pre-metamorphic hydrothermal origin for the unusual REE patterns. The SmNd data for these rocks define an age of 1760±75 Ma, which is significantly younger than the crust formation age of the terrain (2070±125 Ma) but indistinguishable from the RbSr whole rock age for granulite facies metamorphism (1790±35 Ma). These data are interpreted in terms of major hydrothermal fractionation of the rare earths shortly (perhaps tens of millions of years) before granulite facies metamorphism, followed by redistribution of Nd isotopes or small fractionations of the Sm Nd ratio during the granulite facies event, and possibly also during intense retrogression which reset RbSr whole rock and UPb zircon and monazite systematics at about 1700 Ma.