Petrogenesis and geological history of a uranium source rock: a case study in northeastern Washington, U.S.A.

Applied Geochemistry



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A small (4 km2) drainage basin in northeastern Washington contains highly uraniferous groundwater and highly uraniferous peaty sediments of Holocene age. The U is derived from granitic bedrock that underlies the entire drainage basin and that contains 9-16 ppm U. This local bedrock was studied by petrographic, chemical and isotopic methods to determine conditions of its petrogenesis and post-emplacement history that may have contributed to its present high U content and source-rock capability. The original magma was derived by anatexis of Precambrian continental crust of probable mixed metaigneous and metasedimentary character. Mineral-melt partitioning controlled the enrichment of U in chemically evolved phases of the crystallizing melt. Following emplacement in the upper crust at ???100 Ma, the pluton interacted with meteoric-hydrothermal water at ambient temperatures >300??C. Locally intense fracturing promoted alteration, and fracturing and alteration probably continued during later regional uplift in the Eocene. Regional uplift was followed by low-temperature alteration and weathering in the middle to late Tertiary. The combined result of hydrothermal alteration and low-temperature alteration and weathering was the redistribution of U from primary mineral hosts such as allanite to new sites on fracture surfaces and in secondary minerals such as hematite. Zones of highly fractured and altered rock show the most obvious evidence of this process. A model is proposed in which high-angle fractures beneath the drainage basin were the sites of Tertiary supergene enrichments of U. Recent glacio-isostatic uplift has elevated these older enriched zones to shallow levels where they are now being leached by oxidizing groundwater. The chemistry, mineralogy, texture and geological history of this U source-rock suggest criteria for locating other granitic terrane that may contain uraniferous waters and associated young surficial U deposits. The details of U distribution and mobility at this site also apply to the general topic of U mobility in granitic rocks. ?? 1991.

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Petrogenesis and geological history of a uranium source rock: a case study in northeastern Washington, U.S.A.
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Applied Geochemistry
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Applied Geochemistry
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