The Copper King mine, in Larimer County, Colo., in the northern part of the Front Range of Colorado, was operated for a short time prior to World War II for copper and zino, but since 1949, when pitchblende was discovered on the mine dump, it has been worked for uranium.
The bedrock in the mine area consists predominantly of pre-Cambrian (Silver Plums) granite with minor migmatite and metasediments--biotite-quartz-plagioclase gneiss, biotite schist, quartzite, amphibolite, amphibole skarn, and biotite skols. The metasediments occur as inclusions that trend northeast in the granite. This trend is essentially parallel to the prevailing foliation in the granite. At places the metasediments are crosscut sharply by the granite to form angular, partly discordant, steep-walled bodies in the granite. Faults, confined to a narrow zone that extends through the mine, cut both the pre-Cambrian rocks and the contained sulfide deposits. The Copper King fault, a breccia zone, contains a deposit of pitchblende; the other faults are believed to be later than the ore.
The two types of mineral deposits--massive sulfide and pitchblende deposits--in the mine area, are of widely different mineralogy, age, and origin. The massive sulfide deposits are small and consist of pyrite, sphalerite, chalcopyrite, pyrrhotite, and in places magnetite in amphibole skarn, mice skols, and quartzite. The deposit at the Copper King mine has yielded small quantities of high-grade sphalerite ore. The massive sulfides are pyrometasomatic deposits of pre-Cambrian age.
The pitchblende at the Copper King mine is principally in the Copper King vein, a tight, hard breccia zone that cuts through both granite and the massive sulfide deposit. A small part of the pitchblende is in small fractures near the vein and in boxwork pyrite adjacent to the vein; the post-ore faults, close to their intersection with the Copper King vein, contain some radioactive material, but elsewhere, so far as is known, they are barren. The pitchblende in the deposit forms a steeply plunging ore shoot that has a horizontal length of more than 50 feet and a vertical height of about 85 feet. The thickness of the ore shoot averages about 2 feet, but it ranges from a feather edge to about 4 feet. The hard pitch-blende is intimately intergrown with siderite; other gangue minerals include pyrite, quartz, and finely comminuted fragments of the wall rocks. The vein was repeatedly reopened during mineral deposition as shown by several stages of brecciation and recommended by the vein matter. The pitchblende deposit probably formed at intermediate temperatures and depths and, according to the Pb/U ratio, is about 60 million years old--an early Tertiary age.