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Book Chapter

The Discovery of the Phoenix Deposit: A New High-Grade, Athabasca Basin Unconformity-Type Uranium Deposit, Saskatchewan, Canada

By
C. Kerr William
C. Kerr William
Vice President, Exploration, Denison Mines Corp., Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada S7K 0E9 E-mail, bkerr@denisonmines.com
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Published:
January 01, 2010

Abstract

The Wheeler River property, host to the Phoenix deposit, is located in the Athabasca basin, northern Saskatchewan, 35 km southwest of the McArthur River uranium mine complex. Depths to the unconformity between the overlying Paleoproterozoic to Mesoproterozoic undeformed Athabasca Group sandstones and the underlying Paleoproterozoic and Archean crystalline basement range from 170 to 600 m, which is shallow by Athabasca basin standards. The Wheeler and McArthur River properties were explored simultaneously, with fairly similar budgets, continuously from 1975 to 1988, until the McArthur River discovery in 1988. Subsequent to that, exploration on the Wheeler River property continued at minimal budget levels until Denison became the operator in 2004. Fifty-eight holes, each about 450 m, were drilled during the next four years prior to the Phoenix discovery hole, WR-249, which intersected 1.06 percent U3O8 over 2.35 m in the summer of 2008.

The Phoenix uranium deposit is a blind deposit (i.e., there is no indication of uranium at surface) located at a depth of 400 m. However, there were favorable regional features including a quartzite unit within the crystalline basement and extensive dravite-altered sandstones overlying the quartzite. Discovery drill hole WR-249 tested a direct current (DC)-resistivity anomaly adjacent to the quartzite unit, targeting an interpreted alteration chimney in the sandstone. Alteration chimneys represent clay alteration and structural disruption above unconformity or basement-hosted mineralization. Drill hole WR-251 tested the same resistivity low 600 m along strike to the southwest and also intersected favorable alteration, structures, and mineralization.

Sandstone alteration is similar to that described from other unconformity-associated Athabasca basin uranium deposits and consists of silicification, desilicification, rotated bedding, drusy quartz, hydrothermal hematite, and a gray, pyritic zone. Alteration of the sandstone visually reaches a maximum height of 200 m above the unconformity. Basement alteration consists of irregular drusy quartz, often with clay gouge in the pelitic gneiss. The basement in the northeast part of the Phoenix deposit is much more bleached and clay altered than that to the southwest.

To date (April 2010), the Phoenix deposit has been drill tested for >1 km of strike at generally 50-m spacings and remains open along strike to the northeast and southwest. The mineralization is primarily sandstone-hosted monomineralic uraninite, as pitchblende. Most mineralization occurs at or above the unconformity and is associated with a steeply easterly dipping, graphitic pelite basement unit, which has a maximum thickness of 75 m. Mineralization is generally located along the eastern margin of the quartzite ridge, within 25 m of the lithologic contacts of this unit. The mineralization is also directly associated with a thin, generally <1-m-wide, graphitic structure termed the WS shear. This is the only structural control recognized to date. The most enriched intersection is from drill hole WR-273, which returned 62.6 percent U3O8 over 6.0 m. This represents the highest grade thickness reported worldwide from any uranium exploration property in the past decade. The mineralization drilled to date is estimated to contain from 45 to 95 million pounds (Mlb) U3O8, making Phoenix, even at the lower figure, the sixth largest known individual deposit in the Athabasca basin.

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Special Publications of the Society of Economic Geologists

The Challenge of Finding New Mineral Resources: Global Metallogeny, Innovative Exploration, and New Discoveries

Richard J. Goldfarb
Richard J. Goldfarb
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Erin E. Marsh
Erin E. Marsh
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Thomas Monecke
Thomas Monecke
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Society of Economic Geologists
Volume
15
ISBN electronic:
9781629490403
Publication date:
January 01, 2010

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