In 1951 uranium deposits contained carnotite were discovered in the southern Black Hills near Edgemont, Fall River County, S. Dak. Numerous carnotite deposits have since been found in sandstones in the Inyan Kara group of early Cretaceous age, and uranium-bearing material has been discovered in the Pennsylvania Minnelusa sandstone of Pennsylvanian age and the Deadwood formation of Cambrian age in the southern Black Hills. Ore has been produced only from the Inyan Kara group, mostly within an area of about 30 square miles along the southwest flank of the Black Hills uplift between Dewey and Hot Springs in Custer and Fall River Counties. In addition, occurrences of uranium in other parts of the Black Hills and the surrounding area are known or reported from sedimentary, igneous, and metamorphic rocks of pre-Cambrian to Tertiary age.
The upper and lowermost formations of the Inyan Kara group - the Fall River and Lakota sandstones - contain the productive uranium deposits. These terrestrial formations are composed predominantly of massive sandstone lenses within units of thinly bedded sandstone and mudstone, but locally these formations contain abundant mudstone and thinly bedded sandstone. Massive sandstone lenses in the Lakota sandstone commonly overlap and truncate underlying lenses. The lenses are separated by thin units of thinly bedded sandstone and mudstone. Iron stain, carbonaceous material, thin seams of gypsum, ripple marks, concretions, and fossil roots are common in the mudstone and thinly bedded portions of these formations.
Some high angle normal faults of small displacement are found in the area containing the largest number of uranium occurrences in the Inyan Kara group. Although no ore deposits seen were cut by faults, high-angle fractures parallel and at right angles to the faults contain carnotite for short distances.
The productive uranium deposits are most common where the Fall River and Lakota sandstones locally contain a large proportion of mudstone and thinly bedded sandstone. Other deposits are in the massive sandstone lenses of the Lakota sandstone and in the thin units between the lenses.
Although carnotite is the most conspicuous and important mineral in most deposits, corvusite is an important constituent of some deposits. Other uranium minerals in the deposits are tyuyamunite, rauvite, and autunite. Ore produced in 1952 from the Fall River and Lakota sandstones contained about 0.2 percent U3O8 and 0.6 percent V2O5. In general, deposits in the Fall River and Lakota sandstones contain about the same percentage of U3O8, but the deposits in the Fall River sandstone appear to have a higher percentage of vanadium. The grade of individual deposits, however, is highly variable. Most deposits are small, but a few have yielded as much as a thousand tons of ore.