The Ralston Buttes district in Jefferson County is one of the most significant new uranium districts located east of the Continental Divide in Colorado. The district is east of the Colorado Front Range mineral belt, along the east front of the range. From November 1953 through October 1956, about 10,000 tons of uranium ore, much of which was high-grade pitchblende-bearing vein material, was shipped from the district. The ore occurs in deposits that range in size from bodies containing less than 50 tons to ore shoots containing over 1,000 tons. The only other mining activity in the area has been a sporadic production of beryl, feldspar, and scrap mica from Precambrian pegmatites, and quarrying of dimension stone, limestone, and clay from sedimentary rocks. Most of the Ralston Buttes district consists of complexly folded Precambrian metamorphic and igneous rocks - gneiss, schist, quartzite, amphibolite, and granodiorite. Paleozoic and Mesozoic sedimentary rocks crop out in the northeastern part of the district. These rocks are cut by northwesterly-trending fault systems of Laramide age and by small bodies of intrusive rocks that are Tertiary in age. The typical uranium deposits in the district are hydrothermal veins occupying openings in Laramide fault breccias or related fractures that cut the Precambrian rocks. Pitchblende and lesser amounts of secondary uranium minerals are associated with sparse base-mental sulfides in a gangue of carbonate minerals, potash feldspar, and, more rarely, quartz. Less common types of deposits consist of pitchblende and secondary uranium minerals that occupy fractures cutting pegmatites and quartz veins. The uranium deposits are concentrated in two areas, the Ralston Creek area and the Golden Gate Canyon area. The deposits in the Ralston Creek area are located along the Rogers fault system, and the deposits in the Golden Gate Canyon area are along the Hurricane Hill fault system. Two geologic factors were important to the localization of the uranium deposits: (1) favorable structural environment and (2) favorable host rocks. The deposits in each of the two major areas are located where a northwesterly-trending Laramide fault system splits into a complex network of faults. Also, most of the deposits appear to be localized where the faults cut Precambrian rocks rich in hornblende, biotite, or garnet and biotite. The ore controls recognized in this relatively new uranium district may have wider application in areas of similar geology elsewhere in the Front Range.
Additional Publication Details
USGS Numbered Series
Geology of the Ralston Buttes district, Jefferson County, Colorado: a preliminary report
Trace Elements Memorandum
U.S. Geological Survey
Report: 25 p.; Plate 1: 23.92 inches x 32.40 inches; Plate 2: 12.85 inches x 24.65 inches; Plate 3: 13.33 inches x 18.47 inches; Plate 4: 13.22 inches x 24.70 inches