Reconnaissance of uranium and copper deposits in parts of New Mexico, Colorado, Utah, Idaho, and Wyoming

Trace Elements Investigations 232

This report concerns work done on behalf of the Division of Raw Materials of the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission



Because of the common association of uranium and copper in several of the commercial uranium deposits in the Colorado Plateau Province, a reconnaissance was made of several known deposits of copper disseminated through sandstone to determine whether they might be a source of uranium. In order to obtain more information regarding the relationship between copper, uranium and carbonaceous materials, some of the uraniferious asphaltrite deposits in the Shinarump conglomerate along the west flank of the San Rafael Swell were also investigated briefly.

During this reconnaissance 18 deposits were examined in New Mexico, eight in Utah, two in Idaho, and one each in Wyoming and Colorado.

No uranium deposits of commercial grade are associated with the copper deposits that were examined. The uraniferous asphaltites in the Shinarump conglomerate of Triassic age on the west flank of the San Rafael Swell, however, are promising from the standpoint of commercial uranium production.

Spectrographic analyses of crude oil, asphalt, and bituminous shales show a rather consistent suite of trace metals including vanadium, nickel, copper, cobalt, chromium, lead zinc, and molybdenum. The similarity of the metal assemblage, including uranium of the San Rafael Swell asphaltites, to the metal assemblage in crude oil and other bituminous materials suggests that these metals were concentrated in the asphaltites from petroleum. However, the hypothesis that uranium minerals were already present before the hydrocarbons were introduced and that some sort of replacement or uranium minerals by carbon compounds was effected after the petroleum migrated into the uranium deposit should not be disregarded.

The widespread association of uranium with asphaltic material suggests that it also may have been concentrated by some agency connected with the formation of petroleum. The problem of the association of uranium and other trace metals with hydrocarbons should be studied further both in the field and in the laboratory.

Study Area

Additional publication details

Publication type:
Publication Subtype:
USGS Numbered Series
Reconnaissance of uranium and copper deposits in parts of New Mexico, Colorado, Utah, Idaho, and Wyoming
Series title:
Trace Elements Investigations
Series number:
Year Published:
U.S. Geological Survey
Publisher location:
Reston, VA
34 p.
United States
Colorado;Idaho;New Mexico;Utah;Wyoming