Abstract

The Paleozoic sedimentary rocks on the Colorado Plateau of northern Arizona are host to hundreds ofbreccia pipes. The uranium and copper deposits in these breccia pipes transgress formation boundaries from the Mississippian Redwall Limestone to the Triassic Chinle Formation. They are not classic breccia pipes in that there is no volcanic rock associated with them in time or space. They are the result of solution-collapse within the Redwall Limestone and stoping of the overlying strata. The karst development in the Redwall Limestone began in the Mississippian and apparently either continued to the Triassic or was at least once again active during that time. The mineralization apparently occurred shortly thereafter, sometime during the Mesozoic. Mining activity in breccia pipes of the Grand Canyon region began during the nineteenth century and continues today with the operation of the Hack I, II, and III mines, although the exploited commodity has changed from Cu to U. Although small in size, these pipes contain samples with up to 55 percent U 3 O 8 and can yield ore averaging between 0.30 and 0.60 percent U 3 O 8 .Mineralization at the surface commonly occurs within nodules and concretions associated with pyrite and goethite and along fractures, while the primary ore of the unoxidized zones is commonly within a comminuted sandstone matrix surrounding breccia fragments of overlying formations. The ore mineral is uraninite, although associated with it are sphalerite, galena, chalcopyrite, tennantite, millerite, siegenite, and/molybdenite. Some of the surface nodules are encrusted with malachite and are exceptionally enriched in Ag. Pyrite is abundant, and the organic carbon content of some rocks is high enough to suggest that it, along with the pyrite, may be a reductant for uranium. In contrast, it is possible, if uranium were transported as a bicarbonate or carbonate complex, that only a conduit of brecciated rock was necessary to release CO 2 , thus disrupting the equilibrium and allowing uraninite to precipitate. An extensive suite of elements is significantly enriched in the mineralized rock: Ag, As, Ba, Cd, Co, Cr, Cs, Cu, Hg, Mo, Ni, Pb, Sb, Se, Sr, U, V, Zn, and the rare earth elements. Of these, Cu, Pb, Zn, Ag, and particularly As appear to be the best geochemical indicators of mineralized pipes. At present the origin of the mineralizing fluids is not known. The lack of extensive silification within the breccia, along with the 80 degrees to 173 degrees C fluid inclusion-filling temperatures on sphalerite, dolomite, quartz, and calcite, suggests relatively low-temperature mineralizing fluids, although heated in excess of what would be expected from the normal geothermal gradient on the Colorado Plateau. With the exception of the U-mineralized rock, the mineral assemblage and geochemistry is similar to Mississippi Valley-type deposits.

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