Abstract

The Mariano Lake and Ruby 1 uranium orebodies, which together comprise much of the uranium ore in the Smith Lake district of the Grants uranium region, New Mexico, occur in sandstones in the lower part of the Brushy Basin Member of the Upper Jurassic Morrison Formation. The orebodies, which are offset by faults of Laramide age, are enriched in an amorphous organic material that was introduced into the host sandstone after deposition. The enrichment by this organic material, in ore, is an important characteristic of the primary uranium deposits in the Grants uranium region. However, the close proximity of the chemically reduced ore zones to oxidized rock is suggestive that the deposits represent accumulations of uranium redistributed by reduction-oxidation processes from preexisting primary deposits.Within the ores, whole-rock abundances of organic carbon correlate positively with uranium contents. This correlation is consistent with petrologic evidence which indicates that uranium is everywhere intimately admixed with the amorphous organic material. Ore zones are also enriched in vanadium (as ore-stage vanadiferous chlorite) and sulfur (as ore-stage iron disulfide minerals with delta 34 S values ranging from -29 to -42ppm).Petrographic observations demonstrate that Smith Lake uranium mineralization occurred early (before major burial compaction) in the paragenetic sequence of host-rock diagenetic alterations but was preceded by precipitation of authigenic iron disulfides (delta 34 S values ranging from -11 to -38ppm), mixed-layered smectite-illite clays, and potassium feldspars.Additional preore alterations included dissolution of detrital sanidine and plagioclase and the leaching of iron from detrital iron-titanium oxide grains. Following mineralization, varying amounts of authigenic calcite and barite formed, both of which were partly replaced by kaolinitc. Oxidation of some previously formed iron disulfide minerals occurred late in the paragenetic sequence, as did localized precipitation of native selenium, pyrite, and very minor amounts of uranium minerals.The positive correlation between contents of uranium and organic carbon and the admixture of uranium with the amorphous organic material indicates that the Mariano Lake and Ruby 1 deposits are primary-type uranium orebodies. The offset of orebodies by Laramide faults and radiometric age determinations of the ores are also consistent with a primary origin for the deposits. Late Tertiary oxygenated ground waters locally modified original chemical and mineralogical characteristics of the ores in part by leaching some uranium. Secondary uranium minerals precipitated from the partly leached primary ores are sparse in the mine area; such recycled uranium appears to represent an insignificant proportion of the total uranium in the Smith Lake district.

First Page Preview

First page PDF preview
You do not currently have access to this article.