Abstract

Two major periods of uranium mineralization are indicated by U-Pb isotope dating of uranium ores from collapse breeeia pipes in the Grand Canyon region, northern Arizona. The Hack 2 and 3, Kanab North, and EZ 1 and 2 orebodies apparently formed in the interval of 200 + or - 20 Ma, similar to ages inferred for strata-bound, Late Triassic-hosted uranium deposits in southern Utah and northern Arizona. Samples from the Grand Canyon and Pine Nut pipes, however, indicate a distinctly older age of about 260 Ma. The Pigeon, Orphan, and Arizona-1 deposits were apparently mineralized before 220, 186, and 169 Ma, respectively, but no useful upper age limits can be inferred. There is no evidence in the U-Pb isotope data for uranium mineralization related to Laramide tectonism, mid-Tertiary volcanism, or late Tertiary uplift. The clustering in ages for a variety of uranium deposits at about (or slightly younger than) the age of the lower part of the Chinle Formation (Late Triassic) suggests that uranium in these deposits may have been derived by leaching from volcanic ash in the Chinle and mobilized by ground-water movement resulting from changing hydrologic gradients caused by regional uplift to the southwest. Pb isotope ratios of galenas in mineralized pipes are more radiogenic than those of sulfides from either uranium-poor pipes or occurrences away from pipes. This isotopic contrast suggests that fluids which passed through the pipes had interacted with the Proterozoic basement, possibly through the vertical fractures which influenced the location and evolution of the pipes themselves. Regardless of the source of the common Pb in the uranium-bearing pipes, the generally distinct Pb isotope composition of their galenas (compared to those of barren pipes and nonpipe sulfides in the region) may provide a useful exploration guide.

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