Abstract

The sandstone-hosted Beverley uranium deposit is located in terrestrial sediments in the Lake Frome basin in the North Flinders Ranges, South Australia. The deposit is 13 km from the U-rich Mesoproterozoic basement of the Mount Painter inlier, which is being uplifted 100 to 200 m above the basin by neotectonic activity that probably initiated in the early Pliocene.

The mineralization was deposited mainly in organic matter-poor Miocene lacustrine sands and partly in the underlying reductive strata comprising organic matter-rich clays and silts. The bulk of the mineralization consists of coffinite and/or uraninite nodules, growing around Co-rich pyrite with an S isotope composition (δ34S = 1.0 ± 0.3‰), suggestive of an early diagenetic lacustrine origin. In contrast, authigenic sulfides in the bulk of the sediments have a negative S isotope signature (δ34S ranges from −26.2 to −35.5‰), indicative of an origin via bacterially mediated sulfate reduction. Minor amounts of Zn-bearing native copper and native lead also support the presence of specific, reducing microenvironments in the ore zone. Small amounts of carnotite are associated with the coffinite ore and also occur beneath a paleosoil horizon overlying the uranium deposit.

Provenance studies suggest that the host Miocene sediments were derived from the reworking of Early Cretaceous glacial or glaciolacustrine sediments ultimately derived from Paleozoic terranes in eastern Australia. In contrast, the overlying Pliocene strata were in part derived from the Mesoproterozoic basement inlier. Mass-balance and geochemical data confirm that granites of the Mount Painter domain were the ultimate source of U and REE at Beverley. U-Pb dating of coffinite and carnotite suggest that the U mineralization is Pliocene (6.7-3.4 Ma).

The suitability of the Beverley deposit for efficient mining via in situ leaching, and hence its economic value, are determined by the nature of the hosting sand unit, which provides the permeability and low reactivity required for high fluid flow and low chemical consumption. These favorable sedimentologic and geometrical features result from a complex conjunction of factors, including deposition in lacustrine shore environment, reworking of angular sands of glacial origin, deep Pliocene weathering, and proximity to an active fault exposing extremely U rich rocks.

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