Volcanism is a major contributor to the formation of important uranium deposits both close to centers of eruption and more distal as a result of deposition of ash with leachable uranium. Hydrothermal fluids that are driven by magmatic heat proximal to some volcanic centers directly form some deposits. These fluids leach uranium from U-bearing silicic volcanic rocks and concentrate it at sites of deposition within veins, stockworks, breccias, volcaniclastic rocks, and lacustrine caldera sediments. The volcanogenic uranium deposit model presented here summarizes attributes of those deposits and follows the focus of the International Atomic Energy Agency caldera-hosted uranium deposit model. Although inferred by some to have a volcanic component to their origin, iron oxide-copper-gold deposits with economically recoverable uranium contents are not considered in this model.
The International Atomic Energy Agency's tabulation of volcanogenic uranium deposits lists 100 deposits in 20 countries, with major deposits in Russia, Mongolia, and China. Collectively these deposits are estimated to contain uranium resources of approximately 500,000 tons of uranium, which amounts to 6 percent of the known global resources. Prior to the 1990s, these deposits were considered to be small (less than 10,000 tons of uranium) with relatively low to moderate grades (0.05 to 0.2 weight percent of uranium). Recent availability of information on volcanogenic uranium deposits in Asia highlighted the large resource potential of this deposit type. For example, the Streltsovskoye district in eastern Russia produced more than 100,000 tons of uranium as of 2005; with equivalent resources remaining. Known volcanogenic uranium deposits within the United States are located in Idaho, Nevada, Oregon, and Utah. These deposits produced an estimated total of 800 tons of uranium during mining from the 1950s through the 1970s and have known resources of 30,000 tons of uranium. The most recent estimate of speculative resources proposed an endowment of 200,000 tons of uranium.
Additional Publication Details
USGS Numbered Series
Deposit model for volcanogenic uranium deposits
U.S. Geological Survey
Central Mineral and Environmental Resources Science Center