Origin of the Mariano Lake uranium deposit, McKinley County, New Mexico

Open-File Report 82-888




The Mariano Lake uranium deposit, hosted by the Brushy Basin Member of the Jurassic Morrison Formation, occurs in the trough of an east-west trending syncline at the western end of the Smith Lake-Mariano Lake group of uranium deposits near Crownpoint, New Mexico. The orebody, which contains abundant amorphous organic material, is situated on the reduced side of a regional reduction-oxidation (redox) interface. The presence of amorphous organic material suggests the orebody may represent a tabular (primary) deposit, whereas the close proximity of the orebody to the redox interface is suggestive that uranium was secondarily redistributed by oxidative processes from pre-existing tabular orebodies. Uranium contents correlate positively with both organic carbon and vanadium contents. Petrographic evidence and scanning electron microscope-energy dispersive analyses point to uranium residence in the epigentically introduced amorphous organic material, which coats detrital grains and fills voids. Uranium mineralization was preceded by the following diagenetic alterations: precipitation of pyrite (d34S values ranging from-11.0 to-38.2 per mil); precipitation of mixed-layer smectite-illite clays; partial dissolution of some of the detrital feldspar population; and precipitation of quartz and adularia overgrowths. Alterations associated with uranium mineralization include emplacement of amorphous organic material (possibly uranium bearing); destruction of detrital iron-titanium oxide grains; coprecipitation of chlorite and microcrystalline quartz, and precipitation of pyrite and marcasite (d34S values for these sulfides ranging from -29.4 to -41.6 per mil). After mineralization, calcite, dolomite, barite, and kaolinite precipitated, and authigenic iron disulfides were replaced by ferric oxides and hydroxides. Geochemical data (primarily the positive correlation of uranium content to both organic carbon and vanadium contents) and petrographic observations (epigentically introduced amorphous organic matter and uranium residence in this organic matter) indicate that the Mariano Lake orebody is a tabular-type uranium deposit. Oxidative processes have not noticeably redistributed and reconcentrated primary uranium in the immediate vicinity of the deposit nor have they greatly modified geochemical characteristics in the ore. Preservation of the Mariano Lake deposit may not only be related to its position along the synclinal trough, where oxidative destruction of the orebody has been inhibited by stagnation of oxidizing ground waters by the structure, but also due to the deflection of ground waters (resulting from low orebody porosity) around the orebody.

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Origin of the Mariano Lake uranium deposit, McKinley County, New Mexico
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Open-File Report
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U.S. Geological Survey,
56 p., ill., maps ;28 cm.