Because reduced uranium species have a much smaller solubility than oxidized uranium species and because of the strong association of organic matter (a powerful reductant) with many uranium ores, reduction has long been considered to be the precipitation mechanism for many types of uranium deposits. Organic matter may also be involved in the alterations in and around tabular uranium deposits, including dolomite precipitation, formation of silicified layers, iron-titanium oxide destruction, dissolution of quartz grains, and precipitation of clay minerals. The diagenetic processes that produced these alterations also consumed organic matter. Consequently, those tabular deposits that underwent the more advanced stages of diagenesis, including methanogenesis and organic acid generation, display the greatest range of alterations and contain the smallest amount of organic matter. Because of certain similarities between tabular uranium deposits and Precambrian unconformity-related deposits, some of the same processes might have been involved in the genesis of Precambrian unconformity-related deposits. Hydrologic studies place important constraints on genetic models of various types of uranium deposits. In roll-front deposits, oxidized waters carried uranium to reductants (organic matter and pyrite derived from sulfate reduction by organic matter). After these reductants were oxidized at any point in the host sandstone, uranium minerals were reoxidized and transported further down the flow path to react with additional reductants. In this manner, the uranium ore migrated through the sandstone at a rate slower than the mineralizing ground water. In the case of tabular uranium deposits, the recharge of surface water into the ground water during flooding of lakes carried soluble humic material to the water table or to an interface where humate precipitated in tabular layers. These humate layers then established the chemical conditions for mineralization and related alterations. In the case of Precambrian unconformity-related deposits, free thermal convection in the thick sandstones overlying the basement rocks carried uranium to concentrations of organic matter in the basement rocks.
Additional Publication Details
The roles of organic matter in the formation of uranium deposits in sedimentary rocks