Sulfate is known to be an active oxidizing agent at high temperatures; however, both experimental and geologic evidence indicate that as a hydrothermal solution cools (to about 200 degrees C, depending on pH) kinetic factors slow the rate at which sulfate enters into redox reactions. This retardation of sulfate reduction diminishes the effectiveness of sulfate as an oxidizing agent. Consequently, as cooling proceeds, the reducing effect of H2S (and other reduced species) is not balanced with the oxidizing effect of SO (super -2) 4 to the same extent as at higher temperatures. The result is a progressively more reducing solution, which is precisely what is needed to precipitate reduced uranium minerals and to generate the paragenetic sequence observed in these deposits. The same mechanism may apply to other types of epithermal deposits.
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The possible role of sulfate-reduction kinetics in the formation of hydrothermal uranium deposits