Geology of uranium in the Chadron area, Nebraska and South Dakota

Open-File Report 61-42




The Chadron area covers 375 square miles about 25 miles southeast of the Black Hills. Recurrent mild tectonic activity and erosion on the Chadron arch, a compound anticlinal uplift of regional extent, exposed 1900 feet of Upper Cretaceous rocks, mostly marine shale containing pyrite and organic matter, and 600 feet of Oligocene and Miocene rocks, mostly terrestrial fine-grained sediment containing volcanic ash. Each Cretaceous formation truncated by the sub-Oligocene unconformity is stained yellow and red, leached, kaolinized, and otherwise altered to depths as great as 55 feet. The composition and profile of the altered material indicate lateritic soil; indirect evidence indicates Eocene(?) age. In a belt through the central part of the area, the Brule formation of Oligocene age is a sequence of bedded gypsum, clay, dolomite, and limestone more than 300 feet thick. Uranium in Cretaceous shale in 58 samples averages 0.002 percent, ten times the average for the earths crust. Association with pyrite and organic matter indicates low valency. The uranium probably is syngenetic or nearly so. Uranium in Eocene(?) soil in 43 samples averages 0.054 percent, ranging up to 1.12 percent. The upper part of the soil is depleted in uranium; enriched masses in the basal part of the soil consist of remnants of bedrock shale and are restricted to the highest reaches of the ancient oxidation-reduction interface. The uranium is probably in the from of a low-valent mineral, perhaps uraninite. Modern weathering of Cretaceous shale is capable of releasing as much as 0.780 ppm uranium to water. Eocene(?) weathering probably caused enrichment of the ancient soil through 1) leaching of Cretaceous shale, 2) downward migration of uranyl complex ions, and 3) reduction of hydrogen sulfide at the water table. Uranium minerals occur in the basal 25 feet of the gypsum facies of the Brule formation at the two localities where the gypsum is carbonaceous; 16 samples average 0.066 percent uranium and range up to 0.43 percent. Elsewhere uranium in dolomite and limestone in the basal 25 feet of the gypsum facies in 10 samples averages 0.007 percent, ranging up to 0.12 percent. Localization of the uranium at the base of the gypsum facies suggests downward moving waters; indirect evidence that the water from which the gypsum was deposited was highly alkaline suggests that the uranium was leached from volcanic ash in Oligocene time.

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Geology of uranium in the Chadron area, Nebraska and South Dakota
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Open-File Report
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U.S. Geological Survey],
viii, 243 p. :ill., maps ;29 cm.