The Estes Conglomerate, which is exposed in the Nemo District on the northeastern flank of the Black Hills, South Dakota, is inferred to be of early middle Precambrian age (early Precambrian X or Paleoaphebian) and to be resting on late early Precambrian (late Precambrian W) granitic continental crust. The Estes contains beds of quartzite and quartz-pebble conglomerate (oligomictic conglomerate) with matrices of micaceous quartzite that locally contain 5 to 25 percent dispersed pyrite. Highly oxidized outcrop samples of the oligomictic conglomerate have anomalously high contents of both uranium (10 to 40 ppm) and thorium (20 to 800 ppm). High thorium values in the oligomictic conglomerate favor a placer mechanism for the concentration of radioactive minerals and appear to eliminate the possibility of epigenetic processes, such as reduction of uranium by pyrite. The presence of abundant old prospect pits and of several abandoned mines suggests that these conglomerates may also contain some gold. Early prospectors may have been attracted by the gossan produced by oxidation of pyrite. Uranium in the Estes Conglomerate may be of similar origin to the economically very important uranium deposits in the Matinenda Formation of the Elliot Lake District, Ontario. Because uranium is rapidly dissolved in acidic, oxygenated ground water, such as is present where pyrite is weathering, most of the uranium originally present in the analyzed samples has probably been leached out. Conglomerate located below the zone of weathering and oxidation has good potential for economic uranium deposits.
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Uranium and thorium in the middle Precambrian Estes Conglomerate, Nemo District, Lawrence County, South Dakota: a preliminary report