Progress report on geologic studies of the Ranger orebodies, Northern Territory, Australia

Open-File Report 82-936




The Ranger No. 1 and No. 3 orebodies contain about 124,000 tonnes U3O8 in highly chloritized metasediments of the lower Proterozoic Cahill Formation within about 500 m of the projected sub-Kombolgie Formation unconformity. In both orebodies, oxidized and reduced uranium minerals occur chiefly in quartzose schists that have highly variable amounts of muscovite, sericite, and chlorite. The effects of several periods of alteration are pervasive in the vicinity of orebodies where biotite and garnet are altered to chlorite, and feldspars to white mica or chlorite. Oxidized uranium minerals, associated with earthy iron oxides, occur from the surface to a depth of about 60 m. Below the oxidized zone, uranium occurs chiefly as uraninite and pitchblende disseminated through thick sections of quartz-chlorite-muscovite schist and has no apparent association with graphite or sulfides. In fact, graphite is rare and sulfides are generally low in abundance (<0.5 percent). Higher ore grades occur in disrupted zones a few centimeters thick and in some quartz-chlorite vein-like zones of uncertain origin. Uranium correlates strongly with chlorite, but not all of the many ages of chlorite have associated uranium. At least five textural varieties of chlorite are present and represent at least 3 ages. Preliminary microprobe analyses suggest that Mg-Fe-Al contents are relatively uniform. Apatite commonly occurs with chlorite. Uranium is not common in carbonate rocks and seems to occur only in disrupted zones that have chlorite alteration. Chloritization and silicification are more widespread and intense in the No. 1 orebody than in the No. 3. In both orebodies, hematite occurs tens to hundreds of meters below the weathered zone, in both altered and largely unaltered rocks, with and without uranium. The structure of the orebodies is outwardly simple, particularly in No. 3; dips are less than 40? on most lithologic contacts. The No. 1 orebody is in a basin-like structure about 400 m wide that probably formed in part by progressive removal of carbonate rocks that are as much as 200 m thick adjacent to the No. 1 orebody and below the No. 3 orebody. Quartz-chlorite breccias have formed in the zone of carbonate thinning; uranium is spotty and low grade in these breccias. Chloritized and uraniferous broken and sheared zones, a few centimeters to a few meters thick, have an unknown attitude but must have small displacement. Blocks of altered Kombolgie sandstone are downfaulted into the No. 3 orebody and locally contain reduced uranium minerals. One or more shear zones 5-30 m thick of crushed and smeared fine to coarse rock fragments occur below the orebodies, and other low-angle shears probably occur in the orebodies. The shear zone dips about 40 o and displacement on it is not known. The footwall rocks generally are less retrograded than those in the hanging wall (orebody) and consist of quartz-biotite-feldspar schists and gneisses flanking the Nanambu Complex. A few scattered fractures in the footwall sequence contain pitchblende of unknown age and origin. Major element chemical analyses confirm the lithologic observations of large changes in composition during multiple stages of alteration. Granitic dikes and pelitic schists have gained Fe and Mg and lost Si, Ca, Na, and K during chloritization. Marbles have gained Si, Al, Fe, and P, and lost Mg, Ca, and K during jasperoid-chlorite alteration. Total net chemical gains and losses in the Ranger No. 1 orebody were huge: equal to about 37 percent of the mass of the ore-bearing rock that will be mined. There were net gains in Si and P and net losses in Al, Fe, Mg, Ca, K, and Na. The geologic age(s) of uranium emplacement are obscure because there are few age criteria. Reduced uranium minerals are younger than 1.8-b.y.-old granite dikes, and some occur locally in 1.65-b.y.-old Kombolgie Formation. Diabase dikes (age not known) are thoroughly chloritized and contain sparse ore minerals. Oxidized ura

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USGS Numbered Series
Progress report on geologic studies of the Ranger orebodies, Northern Territory, Australia
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Open-File Report
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U.S. Geological Survey,
31 p., ill., map ;28 cm.