Mineralogy and autoradiography of selected mineral-spring precipitates in the Western United States

Open-File Report 82-792




X-ray diffaction analysis of 236 precipitate or sediment samples from 97 mineral-spring sites in nine Western States showed the presence of 25 minerals, some precipitated and some detrital. Calcite and (or) aragonite are the most common of all the precipitated minerals. Gypsum and (or) anhydrite, as well as barite and native sulfur, are less common but are also believed to be precipitated minerals. Precipitated manganese and iron oxides, including romanechite, manganite, pyrolusite, goethite, and hematite, were found in some of the samples. Various salts of sodium, including halite and thenardite, were also identified. Dolomite and an unknown type of siliceous material are present in some of the samples and were possibly precipitated at the spring sites. Quartz, feldspar, and mica are present in many of the samples and are believed to be detrital contaminants. An autoradiographic and thin section study of 11 samples from nine of the most radioactive spring sites showed the radioactivity, which is due primarily to radium, to be directly associated with mineral phases containing barium, manganese, iron, and (or) calcium as major constituents. Furthermore, the radioactivity has an exclusive affinity for the manganese-bearing minerals, which in these samples contain a substantial amount of barium, even if calcite or iron oxides are present. Where calcite predominates and manganese- and barium-bearing minerals are absent, the radioactivity shows a close association with the iron oxides present, especially hematite, but also shows a moderate association with the calcite and (or) aragonite cementing phases. In other samples composed predominantly of calcite but lacking iron oxides, the radioactivity is preferentially associated with an early stage of calcite development and is considerably lower in the later cementing stages. The radioactivity observed in all these samples is believed to be caused by radium substituting for barium in mineral lattices, filling irregularities in other crystal structures, or adsorbing on the surfaces of precipitated molecules.

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USGS Numbered Series
Mineralogy and autoradiography of selected mineral-spring precipitates in the Western United States
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Open-File Report
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U.S. Geological Survey,
78 p., ill., maps ;28 cm.