Channel samples from two mines on the Colorado Plateau have been studied in detail both mineralogically and chemically.
A channel sample from the Mineral Joe No. 1 mine, Montrose County, Colo., extends from unmineralized rock on one side, through a zone of variable mineralization, into only weakly mineralized rock. The unmineralized rock is a fairly clean quartz sand cemented with gypsum and contains only minor amounts of clay minerals. One boundary between unmineralized and mineralized rock is quite sharo and is nearly at right angles to the bedding. Vanadium clay minerals, chiefly mixed layered mica-montmorillonite and chlorite-monmorillonite, are abundant throughout the mineralized zone. Except in the dark "eye" of the channel sample, the vanadium clay minerals are accompanied by hewettite, carnotite, tyuyamunite, and probably unidentified vanadates. In the dark "eye," paramontroseite, pyrite, and marcasite are abundant, and bordered on each side by a zone containing abundant corvusite. No recognizable uranium minerals were seen in the paramontroseite zone although uranium is abundant there. Coaly material is recognizable throughout all of the channel but is most abundant in and near the dark "eye." Detailed chemical studies show a general increase in Fe, Al, U, and V, and a decrease in SO4 toward the "eye" of the channel. Reducing capacity studies indicate that V(IV) and Fe(II) are present in the clay mineral throughout the channel, but only in and near the "eye" are other V(IV) minerals present (paramontroseite and corvusite). The uranium is sexivalent, although its state of combination is conjectural where it is associated with paramontroseite. Where the ore boundary is sharp, the boundary of introduced trace elements is equally sharp. Textural and chemical relations leave no doubt that the "eye: is a partially oxidized remnant of a former lower-valence ore, and the remainder of the channel is a much more fully oxidized remnant.
A channel sample from the Virgin No. 3 mine, Montrose County, Colo., extends from weakly mineralized sandstone on both sides through a strongly mineralized central zone. The weakly mineralized zone is a poorly sorted sandstone with common detrital clay partings; chlorite and mixed layer mica-montmorrillonite are abundant interstitial to the quartz grains. No distinct vanadium or uranium minerals are recognizable, although the clay minerals are vanadium bearing. Euherdral pyrite grains and selenian galena are present but rare. The strongly mineralized rock is separated from the weakly mineralized rock by a narrow transition zone which only apporiximates the bedding planes. It contains abundant vanadium-bearing clay minerals (predominantly chlorite) interstitial to the quartz grains, and apparently replacing them. Paramontroseite is common and is intergrown with the clay minerals. Pyrite and marcasite are present, chiefly in or near the abundant blebs and fragments of carbonaceous material. Selenian galena is rarely present, and generally in or near carbonaceous material. Coffinite is the only uranium mineral idenitified; it is extremely fine grained and was identified only in X-ray diffraction patterns of heavy separates. Distribution of trace elements is not clear; some are consistently high in the strongly mineralized rocks, and some are consistently low. The trace element composition of the unmineralized rock is not known. Chemical studies show a very abrupt rise in the total U, V, and Fe from the weakly mineralized to strongly mineralized rock. Reducing-capacity studies indicate that most of the vanadium is present as V(IV), but some is present as V(V); that iron is present as both Fe(II) and Fe(III), the latter believed to have been present in the primary clays of the unmineralized rock; and that come of the uranium is present as U(VI) in addition to the U(IV) in the coffinite. All evidence points to weak oxidation of an ore once having a somewhat lower valence state.
The channel samples from both the Mineral Joe No. 1 mine and the Virgin No. 3 mine are believe to have been essentially identical in mineralogy prior to oxidation by weathering: vanadium was present as V(III) in montroseite and V(IV) in the vanadium clays; uranium was present largely as U(IV) in coffinite and/or uraninite. The Mineral Joe No. 1 mine channel sample is now more fully oxidized.
Vanadium clays are unquestionably formed abundantly during the primary mineralization, and they persist with a minimum of alteration during much of the weathering. They suggest that the vanadium is carried as V(IV) in the ore-forming fluids; it seems likely too that the uranium is carried as a U(VI) ion.