Origin of intraformational folds in the Jurassic Todilto Limestone, Ambrosia Lake uranium mining district, McKinley and Valencia counties, New Mexico

Open-File Report 82-69




The Todilto Limestone of Middle Jurassic age in the Ambrosia Lake uranium mining district of McKinley and Valencia Counties, New Mexico, is the host formation for numerous small- to medium-sized uranium deposits in joints, shear zones, and fractures within small- to large-scale intraformational folds. The folds probably were formed as a result of differential sediment loading when eolian sand dunes of the overlying Summerville Formation of Middle Jurassic age migrated over soft, chemically precipitated, lime muds of the Todilto shortly after their deposition in a regressive, mixed fresh and saline lacustrine or marine environment of deposition. Encroachment of Summerville eolian dunes over soft Todilto lime muds was apparently a local phenomenon and was restricted to postulated beltlike zones which trended radially across the Todilto coastline toward the receding body of water. Intraformational folding is believed to be confined to the pathways of individual eolian dunes or clusters of dunes within the dune belts. During the process of sediment loading by migrating sand dunes, layers of Todilto lime mud were differentially compacted, contorted, and dewatered, producing both small- and large-scale plastic deformation structures, including convolute laminations, mounds, rolls, folds, and small anticlines and synclines. With continued compaction and dewatering, the mud, in localized areas, reached a point of desaturation at which sediment plasticity was lost. Prolonged loading by overlying dune sands thus caused faulting, shearing, fracturing, and jointing of contorted limestone beds. These areas or zones of deformation within the limestone became the preferred sites of epigenetic uranium mineralization because of the induced transmissivity created by sediment rupture. Along most of the prograding Todilto coastline, adjacent to the eolian dune belts, both interdune and coastal sabkha environments dominated during Todilto-Summerville time. Sediments in coastal areas consisted mainly of clay, silt, sandy silt, and very fine-grained sand, which was apparently derived from the winnowing of the finer grained fraction of sediment from adjacent dune fields during periods of eolian activity. Most of the sabkha sediments were probably carried in airborne suspension to the low-lying, ground-water-saturated coastal areas, where they were deposited as relatively uniform blanket-like layers. Deposition of sabkha deposits was apparently slow and uniform over most of the Todilto coastal areas and crested only small-scale deformation features in underlying Todilto rocks. Large-scale deformation features and uranium deposits are both notably absent in the Todilto where it is overlain by finer textured sabkha deposits in the Summerville.

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Origin of intraformational folds in the Jurassic Todilto Limestone, Ambrosia Lake uranium mining district, McKinley and Valencia counties, New Mexico
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Open-File Report
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U.S. Geological Survey,
iii, 29 p., ill., maps ;28 cm.