Some secondary uranium deposits are thought to have formed from uranium derived by the weathering of silicic igneous rocks such as granites, rhyolites, and tuffs. A regional geochemical survey was made to determine the distribution of uranium and thorium in granitic rocks of the Basin and Range province in order to evaluate the potential for secondary uranium occurrences in the area. The resulting geochemical maps of uranium, thorium, and the Th:U ratio may be useful in locating target areas for uranium exploration. The granites were sampled according to a five-level, nested, analysis-of-variance design, permitting estimates to be made of the variance due to differences between:(1) two-degree cells; (2) one-degree cells; (3) plutons; (4) samples; and (5) analyses. The cells are areas described in units of degrees of latitude and longitude. The results show that individual plutons tend to differ in uranium and thorium concentrations, but that each pluton tends to be relatively homogeneous. Only small amounts of variance occur at the two degree and the between-analyses levels. The three geochemical maps that were prepared are based on one-degree cell means. The reproducibility of the maps is U > Th ??? Th:U. These geochemical maps may be used in three methods of locating target areas for uranium exploration. The first method uses the concept that plutons containing the greatest amounts of uranium may supply the greatest amounts of uranium for the formation of secondary uranium occurrences. The second method is to examine areas with high thorium contents, because thorium and uranium are initially highly correlated but much uranium could be lost by weathering. The third method is to locate areas in which the plutons have particularly high Th:U ratios. Because uranium, but not thorium, is leached by chemical weathering, high Th:U ratios suggest a possible loss of uranium and possibly a greater potential for secondary uranium occurrences to be found in the area. ?? 1981.
Additional publication details
The distribution of uranium and thorium in granitic rocks of the basin and range province, Western United States