The section 23 mine is one of about 18 large uranium mines opened in sandstones of the fluvial Westwater Canyon Member of the Jurassic Morrison Formation in the Ambrosia Lake mining district during the early 1960s. The Ambrosia Lake district is one of several mining districts within the Grants mineral belt, an elongate zone containing many uranium deposits along the southern flank of the San Juan basin.
Two distinct types of ore occur in the mine. Primary ore occurs as peneconcordant layers of uranium-rich authigenic organic matter that impregnates parts of the reduced sandstone host rocks and which are typically elongate in an east-southeast direction subparallel both to the sedimentary trends and to the present-day regional strike of the strata. These are called prefault or trend ores because of their early genesis and their elongation and alinement.
A second type of ore in the mine is referred to as postfault, stacked, or redistributed ore. Its genesis was similar to that of the roll-type deposits in Tertiary rocks of Wyoming and Texas. Oxidation, related to the development of a large tongue of oxidized rock extending from Gallup to Ambrosia Lake, destroyed much of the primary ore and redistributed it as massive accumulations of lower grade ores bordering the redox interface at the edge of the tongue. Host rocks in the southern half of sec. 23 (T. 14 N., R. 10 W.) are oxidized and contain only remnants of the original, tabular, organic-rich ore. Thick bodies of roll-type ore are distributed along the leading edge of the oxidized zone, and pristine primary ore is found only near the north edge of the section.
Organic matter in the primary ore was derived from humic acids that precipitated in the pores of the sandstones and fixed uranium as both coffinite and urano-organic compounds. Vanadium, molybdenum, and selenium are also associated with the ore. The secondary or roll-type ores are essentially free of organic carbon and contain uranium both as coffinite and uraninite. They also contain vanadium and selenium but are virtually devoid of molybdenum.
Although much has been learned about these deposits since the time this study was conducted, in 1966, a great deal more study will by required to completely elucidate their geologic history.
Additional publication details
USGS Numbered Series
Geology and ore deposits of the Section 23 Mine, Ambrosia Lake District, New Mexico