Uranium provinces of North America; their definition, distribution, and models

Bulletin 2141




Uranium resources in North America are principally in unconformity-related, quartz-pebble conglomerate, sandstone, volcanic, and phosphorite types of uranium deposits. Most are concentrated in separate, well-defined metallogenic provinces. Proterozoic quartz-pebble conglomerate and unconformity-related deposits are, respectively, in the Blind River–Elliot Lake (BRELUP) and the Athabasca Basin (ABUP) Uranium Provinces in Canada. Sandstone uranium deposits are of two principal subtypes, tabular and roll-front. Tabular sandstone uranium deposits are mainly in upper Paleozoic and Mesozoic rocks in the Colorado Plateau Uranium Province (CPUP). Roll-front sandstone uranium deposits are in Tertiary rocks of the Rocky Mountain and Intermontane Basins Uranium Province (RMIBUP), and in a narrow belt of Tertiary rocks that form the Gulf Coastal Uranium Province (GCUP) in south Texas and adjacent Mexico. Volcanic uranium deposits are concentrated in the Basin and Range Uranium Province (BRUP) stretching from the McDermitt caldera at the Oregon-Nevada border through the Marysvale district of Utah and Date Creek Basin in Arizona and south into the Sierra de Peña Blanca District, Chihuahua, Mexico. Uraniferous phosphorite occurs in Tertiary sediments in Florida, Georgia, and North and South Carolina and in the Lower Permian Phosphoria Formation in Idaho and adjacent States, but only in Florida has economic recovery been successful. The Florida Phosphorite Uranium Province (FPUP) has yielded large quantities of uranium as a byproduct of the production of phosphoric acid fertilizer. Economically recoverable quantities of copper, gold, molybdenum, nickel, silver, thorium, and vanadium occur with the uranium deposits in some provinces.

Many major epochs of uranium mineralization occurred in North America. In the BRELUP, uranium minerals were concentrated in placers during the Early Proterozoic (2,500–2,250 Ma). In the ABUP, the unconformity-related deposits were most likely formed initially by hot saline formational water related to diagenesis (»1,400 to 1,330 Ma) and later reconcentrated by hydrothermal events at »1,280–»1,000, »575, and »225 Ma. Subsequently in North America, only minor uranium mineralization occurred until after continental collision in Permian time (255 Ma). Three principal epochs of uranium mineralization occurred in the CPUP: (1) » 210–200 Ma, shortly after Late Triassic sedimentation; (2) »155–150 Ma, in Late Jurassic time; and (3) » 135 Ma, after sedimentation of the Upper Jurassic Morrison Formation. The most likely source of the uranium was silicic volcaniclastics for the three epochs derived from a volcanic island arc at the west edge of the North American continent. Uranium mineralization occurred during Eocene, Miocene, and Pliocene times in the RMIBUP, GCUP, and BRUP. Volcanic activity took place near the west edge of the continent during and shortly after sedimentation of the host rocks in these three provinces. Some volcanic centers in the Sierra de Peña Blanca district within the BRUP may have provided uranium-rich ash to host rocks in the GCUP.

Most of the uranium provinces in North America appear to have a common theme of close associations to volcanic activity related to the development of the western margin of the North American plate. The south and west margin of the Canadian Shield formed the leading edge of the progress of uranium source development and mineralization from the Proterozoic to the present. The development of favorable hosts and sources of uranium is related to various tectonic elements developed over time. Periods of major uranium mineralization in North America were Early Proterozoic, Middle Proterozoic, Late Triassic–Early Jurassic, Early Cretaceous, Oligocene, and Miocene. Tertiary mineralization was the most pervasive, covering most of Western and Southern North America.


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Uranium provinces of North America; their definition, distribution, and models
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U.S. Geological Survey
Report: iv, 18 p.: 2 plates: 30.76 x 35.82 inches and 17.59 x 23.95 inches