Bedrock geology of about 12 km2 near the Midnite mine has been mapped at the surface, in mine exposures, and from drilling, at scales from 1:600 to 1:12,000 and is presented here at 1:12,000 to provide description of the setting of uranium deposits. Oldest rocks in the area are metapelitic and metacarbonate rocks of the Precambrian (Y) Togo Formation. The chief host for uranium deposits is graphitic and pyritic mica phyllite and muscovite schist. Ore also occurs in calc-silicate hornfels and marble at the western edge of a calcareous section about 1,150 m thick. Calcareous rocks of the Togo are probably older than the pelitic as they are interpreted to be near the axis of a broad anticline. The composition and structural position of the calcareous unit suggests correlation with less metamorphosed carbonate-bearing rocks of the Lower Wallace Formation, Belt Supergroup, about 200 km to the east. Basic sills intrusive into the Togo have been metamorphosed to amphibolite.
Unmetamorphosed rocks in the mine area are Cretaceous(?) and Eocene igneous rocks. Porphyritic quartz monzonite of Cretaceous age, part of the Loon Lake batholith, is exposed over one third of the mine area. It underlies the roof pendant of Precambrian rocks in which the Midnite mine occurs at depths of generally less than 300 m. The pluton is a two-mica granite and exhibits pegmatitic and aplitic textural features indicative of water saturation and pressure quenching. Eocene intrusive and extrusive rocks in the area provide evidence that the Eocene surface was only a short distance above the present uranium deposits.
Speculative hypotheses are presented for penesyngenetic, hydrothermal, and supergene modes of uranium emplacement. The Precambrian Stratigraphy, similar in age and pre-metamorphic lithology to that of rocks hosting large uranium deposits in Saskatchewan and Northern Territory, Australia, suggests the possibility of uranium accumulation along with diagenetic pyrite in carbonaceous muds in a marine shelf environment. This hypothesis is not favored by the author because there is no evidence for stratabound uranium such as high regional radioactivity in the Togo. A hydrothermal mode of uranium emplacement is supported by the close apparent ages of mineralization and plutonism, and by petrology of the pluton. I speculate that uranium may have become enriched in postmagmatic fluids at the top of the pluton, possibly by hydrothermal leaching of soluble uranium associated with magnetite, and diffused outward into metasedimentary wall rocks to create an aureole about 100 m thick containing about 100 ppm uranium. Chemistry of the hydrothermal process is not understood, but uranium does not appear to have been transported by an oxidizing fluid, and the fluid did not produce veining and alteration comparable to that of base-metal sulfide deposits. Uranium in the low-grade protore is believed to have been redistributed into permeable zones in the Tertiary to create ore grades. Geologic and isotopic ages of uranium mineralization, and the small volume of porphyritic quartz monzonite available for leaching, are not supportive of supergene emplacement of uranium.
Additional Publication Details
USGS Numbered Series
Geology of the Midnite uranium mine area, Washington: maps, description, and interpretation