Different grain-size fractions of samples collected from shales were investigated to determine the role of late diagenetic grade and mineralogy on the rare earth elements (REE) distribution. The samples were collected from Upper Cretaceous varicoloured shales of the Sicilide Unit near the Corleto Perticara villages, Southern Apennines (Italy). The mineralogical and chemical composition of the sample’s five fractions (>63, 32–63, 2–32, 0.1–2, and <0.1 µm) was studied. The data indicate that certain accessory minerals are more important than clay minerals in controlling the REE distribution. In particular, zircon controls the distribution of earth elements in the 0.1–2 µm fraction and is an efficient mechanism in determining the concentration and distribution of REEs in the studied shales.