Abstract

The Ranger and Jabiluka uranium deposits are the largest in the Alligator Rivers uranium field, which contains at least 20 percent of the world's low-cost uranium reserves. Ore occurs in early Proterozoic metasediments, below an unconformity with sandstones of the 1.65-b.y.-old Kombolgie Formation. This study has used U-Pb isotope data from a large number of whole-rock drill core samples with a variety of mineral assemblages and textures. Ranger samples indicate a well-defined age of 1,737 + or - 20 m.y., consistent with earlier suggestions of the antiquity of this deposit. This age is distinctly pre-Kombolgie, so the Ranger deposit cannot have been formed by processes requiring its presence. The age is consistent, however, with mineralization related to heating associated with either the emplacement of early postmetamorphic granites, or possibly, with intrusion of the nearby Oenpelli Dolerite. In contrast, data for the least-altered Jabiluka ores yield a concordia intercept age of 1,437 + or - 40 m.y.--significantly younger than the Ranger age and also younger than the Kombolgie Formation. This age may correspond to a regional thermal event, as indicated both by mafic dikes of roughly this age and a zircon lower intercept age from a nearby granite-gneiss. Thus our data indicate that there must be at least three distinct periods of major U mineralization in the Alligator Rivers uranium field (including the previously determined approximately 900-m.y. age of the Nabarlek deposit), despite the fact that all of the deposits share strong similarities in their host rock, mineralogy, alteration, and geologic setting.Both Ranger and Jabiluka reflect a common, profound isotopic disturbance at about 400 to 600 m.y. This disturbance, which was especially pronounced at Jabiluka, may correspond to the development of basins and associated basalt flows to the west and southwest, as suggested by Crick et al. (1980).

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