In-situ elemental content and 207Pb/206Pb values in three rough fracture coatings within drill cores from the McArthur River unconformity-related uranium deposit, Athabasca Basin, Canada were measured using laser ablation-inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry (LA-ICP-MS) image mapping. Fracture coating samples were located proximal and distal to the ore deposit. Samples required minimal preparation in this method, with areas (∼500 by 500 μm) targeted in a cell spaced grid pattern using a 50-μm spot, spaced 200 μm on the x- and y-axis with an offset of 100 μm, to overcome sample surface topography. A five second (s) acquisition time was applied to elemental content measurements and a 2-s acquisition time was applied to 207Pb/206Pb measurements. These parameters increased the spatial resolution, analytical sensitivity, and minimized the contribution of the host rock underlying the fracture surface to the geochemical signal in comparison to extended acquisition times. In addition, laser ablation temporal profiles allow for the interpretation of the timing of element/isotope migration and fixation on the rough fracture coating.

Rasterized maps generated in IoliteTM v.4 demonstrate the chemical distribution of elements and 207Pb/206Pb values on the rough fracture coatings, allowing for the identification of mineral phases hosting pathfinder elements, pathfinder element associations, and the generation of bulk in-situ or specific mineralogy geochemical values. Bulk in-situ values calculated using an integration of the 2D image data and targeting the ∼500 by 500 μm surface of the fracture coating compared to previous bulk geochemical methods obtained by sampling the fracture coating with a micro drill (i.e., modified aqua regia (HCl: HNO3: H2O), weak acid leach (WAL) (2% HNO3)), highlights that in-situ analysis greatly improved detection of pathfinder elements on the fracture surface. This study is the first application of in-situ LA-ICP-MS for measuring element contents and 207Pb/206Pb values on rough fracture coatings and demonstrates its importance as a new geochemical tool to the mining industry for future mineral exploration.

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