An unusual occurrence of juxtaposed glassy and clay-altered ash was sampled to estimate the degree and type of element mobility during alteration of glass to montmorillonite. The results are particularly interesting in that major mobilization of uranium is indicated. Closely spaced samples of glassy and montmorillonitic ash were collected from the same 20-50 cm thick stratigraphic horizon in the Troublesome Formation (Miocene) of northwestern Colorado. Sharp contacts exist between glassy ash and underlying pink montmorillonite and indicate that water-saturated conditions were restricted to basal ash layers. Formation of montmorillonite instead of zeolites suggests that the water was not highly saline or alkaline. Isotopic and chemical analyses of glassy and clay-altered samples indicate the following: 1. (1) Montmorillonite has U concentrations which are only 10-15% of the concentrations in coexisting glass. Similarly depleted elements include Cs, Rb, Na and K. Much smaller depletions of these elements in some glassy samples serve as sensitive indicators of incipient alteration of glass to montmorillonite. 2. (2) Abundances of relatively insoluble elements such as Th, Ta, Hf and Al are slightly higher (5-50%) in clay-altered ash and serve as indicators of the maximum levels of enrichment in residual material. Greater enrichment of elements such as Ca, Mg, Sr, Sc, P, Cr and Co indicate structural incorporation, adsorption, or ion-exchange uptake by clay or secondary hydrous oxides of Fe and Mn. 3. (3) The rare-earth-element patterns and abundances in glass are sufficiently mimicked by detritus-free montmorillonite to document the compositional equivalency of the two. 4. (4) Radioactive equilibrium exists between 238U and its decay products 234U and 230Th. This documents minimal open-system mobility of U within the last ??? 0.3 Ma. ?? 1982.
Additional publication details
The mobility of uranium and other elements during alteration of rhyolite ash to montmorillonite: A case study in the Troublesome Formation, Colorado, U.S.A.