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Fine-grained tuffaceous sediments of the White River Formation (Oligocene) are evaluated as a possible source of uranium for the sedimentary uranium deposits of Wyoming. The evaluation is based upon a model in which volcanic glass is considered to be a major host of uranium and thorium and in which uranium and silica are released during alteration of glass to montmorillonite. The evaluation scheme is applicable to other tuffaceous sediments in similar geologic settings. The average uranium and thorium contents of glass separates and glassy air-fall ashes of the White River Formation are 8 ppm and 22.4 ppm respectively, and these values approximate the average composition of glass deposited in Wyoming basins in Oligocene time. Comparison of these values with the uranium and thorium concentrations in montmorillonite separates indicates little change in thorium concentrations but reductions in uranium concentrations which average 3.3 ppm. In spite of the apparent major removal of uranium during alteration of glass to montmorillonite, whole-rock samples of tuffaceous siltstones show an average uranium loss of only 0.4 ?? 0.4 ppm, because of generally small amounts of clay alteration. This conclusion is generated by comparisons between glassy ash and partially altered vitric siltstones, the latter corrected for dilution of glass and clay-altered glass with uranium- and thorium-poor primary and detrital materials. The original volume of the White River Formation is adequate to generate economically significant quantities of mobile uranium, even with such modest losses. Uranium and silica which are mobilized during glass alteration can coprecipitate as uraniferous secondary silica in areas where solutions become silica saturated. These precipitates indicate pathways of ancient, uranium-rich solutions in tuffaceous rocks. Exploration efforts in the White River Formation and underlying units should concentrate on areas where such pathways intercept reducing environments. Intercepts of this type are present at some uranium deposits in the study area and this lends support to a tuffaceous source rock model. ?? 1983.
Additional Publication Details
Tuffaceous sediments as source rocks for uranium: A case study of the White River Formation, Wyoming