Thorium in potentially economic amounts occurs in three types of deposits in the Wet Mountains area of Colorado: (1) quartz-baritethorite veins and fracture zones, (2) carbonatite dikes, and (3) red syenite dikes. The quartz-barite-thorite veins and fracture zones contain the largest resources of thorium; they cut all Precambrian and Paleozoic rock types in the area and tend to strike normal to the foliation in the Proterozoic metasedimentary and metavolcanic rocks. The veins and fracture zones are end products of the episode of Cambrian alkaline magmatism that also produced rocks of the McClure Mountain Complex, the Gem Park Complex, the complex at Democrat Creek, and associated dikes of carbonatite, lamprophyre, and red syenite. The veins and fracture zones contain an average of 0.46 percent ThO2, 0.21 percent SLREE (total light rare-earth elements), 0.14 percent SHREE (total heavy rare-earth elements), and 0.012 percent Nb2O5; They contain reserves of 64,200 tons ThO2, 29,300 tons SLREE, 19,540 tons SHREE, 1,675 tons Nb2O5; they contain probable potential resources of 160,500 tons ThO2, 73,270 tons SLREE, 48,850 tons SHREE, and 4,185 tons Nb2O5.
The carbonatite dikes form two distinct groups: replacement carbonatites and primary magmatic carbonatites. The latter group appears to be the better source of potentially economic commodities. The primary magmatic carbonatites contain an average of 0.17 percent ThO2, 0.0097 percent Nb2O5, 0.0031 percent U3O5, and 2.15 percent total rare-earth oxides. The seven largest dikes contain reserves of 131 tons ThO2, 40 tons Nb2O5, 17 tons U3O5, and 2,500 tons SRE203 (total rare-earth oxides), and probable potential resources of 753 tons ThO2, 228 tons Nb2O5, 105 tons U3O5, and 14,300 tons SRE2O3.
The red syenite dikes contain anomalous amounts of thorium, uranium, niobium, and rare-earth elements. Although reserves and probable potential resources have not been calculated, they are likely to be small.
Additional Publication Details
USGS Numbered Series
Geology and resources of thorium and associated elements in the Wet Mountains area, Fremont and Custer counties, Colorado