Hydrology of Uranium Deposits in Calcretes of Western Australia1
A. J. Gaskin, C. R. M. Butt, R. L. Deutscher, R. C. Horwitz, A. W. Mann, 1981. "Hydrology of Uranium Deposits in Calcretes of Western Australia", Energy Resources of the Pacific Region, Michel T. Halbouty
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Carnotite is the principal uranium mineral occurring in the calcreted trunk valleys of the ancient drainage system which extends over 400,000 sq km of southwestern Australia. The calcretes, accumulations of calcium and magnesium carbonates up to 100 km long, 5 km wide, and 20 m thick, are discontinuous in character but act as aquifers for groundwaters of relatively low salinity that flow sluggishly to playa lakes. Catchment basins draining large areas of Precambrian granitic rocks can yield up to 200 parts per billion of uranium in the oxidizing environment of the water at shallow depth near the base of the calcretes. Where the product of the concentrations of active ion species of uranium, vanadium, and potassium exceeds the solubility product of carnotite, this mineral precipitates in fissures or between the carbonate and clay particles. Vanadium appears to be generally deficient in the upper levels of the aquifers; however, where it has been supplied at the required concentration from deeper reduced waters, forced up, for example, by a bar of resistant bedrock, carnotite mineralization has occurred. The incongruent dissolution of carnotite liberates vanadium preferentially. Some carnotite deposits currently are being leached and redeposited downstream. Where calerete channels reach salt lakes, great increases in the activity of calcium and potassium promote further carnotite deposition by the decomplexing of uranyl carbonate complexes carried down the aquifers. Many areas of carnotite mineralization are now known. The largest, at Yeelirrie, contains 46,000 MT of U3O8 at an average grade of 0.15%. Extraction from the ore is hampered by the carbonate content and the presence of illitemontmorillonite clay phases, but alkaline leach techniques are practicable. An appreciable proportion of the carnotite, in an extremely fine-grained form, can be associated with the clay fraction.
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The energy and mineral resources of the vast Pacific basin and its neighboring land areas play a vital role in meeting the ever-growing needs of society worldwide. Building on the foundation of a highly successful conference held in 1978, this volume contains 51 of the 135 papers presented there. Subjects included are general and specific in nature--oil, gas, and coal resources; geothermal fields, uranium; tin; evaporites, trace elements; water resources; magma energy and fuels from magma. Geological and geophysical techniques, and also the new tool of remote sending for petroleum and minerals exploration are represented. Tectonics, structure fundamentals, subsurface hazards, international treaties and the law of the deep sea are discussed. Seventeen countries and regions are represented in these papers: Thailand, Nicaragua, the United States, Japan, Peru, Antarctica, El Salvador, Australia, Mexico, Taiwan, New Zealand, China, Chile, Indonesia, Canada, and the Pacific Ocean.