Geology and mineral deposits of the Carlile quadrangle, Crook County, Wyoming
Prepared on behalf of the Atomic Energy Commission and published with permission of the Commission
- M.H. Bergendahl , R.E. Davis , and G.A. Izett
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- Larger Work: This publication is Chapter J of Contributions to economic geology, 1958
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The Carlile quadrangle-is along the northwestern flank of the Black Hills uplift in Crook County, Wyo. The area-is primarily one of canyons and divides that are a result of downcutting by the Belle Fourche River and its tributaries through an alternating succession of sandstone, siltstone, and mudstone or shale beds. The present topography is also influenced by the regional structure, as reflected by the beds that dip gently westward and by the local structural features such as anticlines, domes, synclines, basins, and terraces, which are superimposed upon the regional setting.
Rocks exposed include shale and thin limestone and sandstone beds belonging to the Redwater shale member of the Sundance formation and to the Morrison formation, both of Late Jurassic age; sandstone, siltstone, and mudstone of the Lakota and Fall River formations of Early Cretaceous age; and shale and sandstone of the Skull Creek shale, Newcastle sandstone, and Mowry shale, also of Early Cretaceous age. In the southwestern part of the quadrangle rocks of the Upper Cretaceous series are exposed. These include the Belle Fourche shale, Greenhorn formation, and Carlile shale. Gravel terraces, landslide debris, and stream alluvium comprise the surficial deposits. The Lakota and Fall River formations, which make up the Iriyan Kara group, contain uranium deposits locally in the northern Black Hills. These formations were informally subdivided in order to show clearly the vertical and lateral distribution of the sandstone, siltstone, and mudstone facies within them.
The Lakota was subdivided into a sandstone unit and an overlying mudstone unit; the Fall River was subdivided, in ascending order, into a siltstone unit, a mudstone unit, a sandstone unit, and an upper unit. The lithologic character of the Lakota changes abruptly locally, and the units are quite inconsistent with respect to composition, thickness, and extent. This is in contrast to a notable consistency in the lithologic character and thickness among all the Fall River units, with the exception of the upper unit. Petrographic studies on selected samples of units from both formations show differences in composition between Lakota and Fall River rocks.
The Carlile quadrangle lies immediately east of the monocline that marks the outer limit of the Black Hills uplift, and the rocks in this area have a regional dip of less than 2° outward from the center of the uplift. Superimposed upon the regional uplift are many subordinate structural features anticlines, synclines, domes, basins, and terraces which locally modify the regional features. The most pronounced of these subordinate structural features are the doubly-plunging Pine Ridge, Oil Butte, and Dakota Divide anticlines, and the Eggie Creek syncline. Stress throughout the area was relieved almost entirely through folding; only a few small nearly vertical normal faults were found within the quadrangle.
Uranium has been mined from the Carlile deposit, owned by the Homestake Mining Co. The ore minerals, carnotite and tyuyamnuite occur in a sandstone lens that is enclosed within relatively impermeable clayey beds in the mudstone unit of the Lakota formation. The ore also includes unidentified black vanadium minerals and possibly coffinite. Uranium minerals are more abundant in and adjacent to thicker carbonaceous and silty seams in the sandstone lens. A mixture of fine-grained calcium carbonate and calcium sulfate fills the interstices between detrital quartz grains in mineralized sandstone. Selenium and arsenic are more abundant in samples that are high in uranium.
Drilling on Thorn Divide about 1 mile west of the Carlile mine has roughly outlined concentrations of a sooty black uranium mineral associated with pyrite In two stratigraphic intervals of the Lakota formation. One is in the same sandstone lens that contains the ore at the Carlile mine; the other is in conglomeratic sandstone near the base of the Lakota. These deposits are relatively deep, and no mining has been attempted.
The mineralogy of the Carlile deposits and the lithologic features of the sandstone host rock suggest that uranium and vanadium were transported in the high-valent state by carbonate or sulfate solutions, were extracted from solution by organic material, and were reduced to low-valent states to form an original assemblage of oxides and silicates. These primary minerals were oxidized in place, and the present carnotite-tyuyamunite assemblage was formed. In general, radioactivity analyses correspond fairly closely with chemical analyses of uranium, thus it is believed that only minor solution and migration of uranium has occurred since the present suite of oxidized minerals was formed.
The factors responsible for ore localization are not clear, but probably a combination of three lithologic and structural elements contributed to provide a favorable environment for precipitating uranium from aqueous solutions: abundant carbonaceous material or pyrite in a thin, permeable sandstone enclosed within relatively thick impermeable clays; local structural basins; and a regional structural setting involving a broad syncline between two anticlines. The structural features controlled the regional flow of ground water and the lithologic features controlled the local rate of flow and provided the proper chemical environment for uranium deposition.
Bentonite has been mined from an opencut in the Mowry shale in the southwest part of the quadrangle. A bentonite bed in the Newcastle sandstone also seems to be of minable thickness and quality.
Exploration for petroleum has been unsuccessful within the quadrangle; however, some wells that yielded oil were recently drilled on small anticlines to the west and southeast. It is possible that similar structural features in the Carlile area, that were previously overlooked, may be equally productive.
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- USGS Numbered Series
- Geology and mineral deposits of the Carlile quadrangle, Crook County, Wyoming
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- U.S. Government Printing Office
- Report: v, 93 p.; 5 Plates: 29.49 x 30.66 inches or smaller
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- Larger Work Title:
- Contributions to economic geology, 1958
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- United States
- Crook County