Uranium-bearing coal in the central part of the Great Divide basin, Sweetwater County, Wyoming

Trace Elements Investigations 477
Work done on behalf of the Division of Raw Materials, U.S. Atomic Energy Commission.
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Abstract

Field work leading to this report was done by the U.S. Geological Survey for the Division of Raw Materials of the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission. Nearly 24 townships were mapped in the central part of the Great Divide Basin, Sweetwater County, Wyoming. Fourteen of these townships contain outcrops of uranium-bearing coal. Thirty coal beds were mapped, but only seven of them have uranium-bearing coal reserves as defined in this report. Coal beds 2.5 or more feet thick are considered in calculating coal reserves, and of these, only beds containing 0.003 or more percent uranium are considered in calculating reserves of uranium in coal. Reserves of uranium in coal ash include those beds 2.5 or more feet thick that contain 0.015 or more percent uranium in coal ash.

Measured and indicated coal reserves total about 700,000,000 short tons which contain about 2,600 short tons of uranium in the coal, or about 2,400 short tons of uranium in the coal ash. Strippable reserves, defined as reserves in beds beneath 60 or less feet of overburden, are about 250,000,000 short tons of coal containing about 1,100 short tons of uranium in coal, or about 600 tons of uranium in coal ash.

The thickest coal beds underlie a relatively narrow belt that trends northwest and coincides approximately with the axis of the Red Desert syncline. The coal beds contain the most uranium on the east flank of the syncline near the southwesternmost edge of the Battle Spring formation (new). This formation is of early and middle Eocene age and consists predominantly of very coarse-grained arkosic sandstone which is highly permeable. It intertongues southwestward with the Tess permeable Green River and Wasatch formations. The Green River formation consists from youngest to oldest of the Morrow Creek and Laney shale members and the Tipton and Luman (new) tongues. The Wasatch formation interfingers with the Green River formation and consists from youngest to oldest of the Cathedral Bluffs, Niland, and Red Desert tongues. The latter two are here recognized for the first time and contain all the coal beds in the Wasatch formation. The Morrow Creek member of the Green River formation is of middle Eocene age. The Laney member and Cathedral Bluffs tongue of the Green River and Wasatch formation, respectively intertongue and are in part equivalent, and are of early or middle Eocene age.  The other units are of early Eocene age.

A broad gentle arch which is either the eastern extension of the Wamsutter arch, or a separate arch en echelon to it, separates the Washakie Basin the southeastern part of the map area from the Red Desert syncline in the northeastern part. The Red Desert syncline plunges gently northwest into the nearly circular structural Niland basin. The south flank of the Wamsutter(?) arch dips southeastward at an average rate of about 230 feet per mile. The northern flank of the arch dips northeastward at an average rate of about 140 feet per mile.

North of the Niland basin, the structure is more complex and is dominated by a northwestwardtrending graben which parallels and includes the Cyclone Rim in the northern part of die map area.  Schroeckingerite deposits in the northeastern part of the map area lie within this graben in a sequence of arkosic sandstone and clay shale stratigraphically equivalent to the lower part of the Cathedral Bluffs tongue of the Wasatch formation and to the uppermost part of the Tipton tongue of the Green River formation. Weakly radioactive tuffaceous sandstone beds of the Browns Park formation that probably once blanketed the entire Great Divide Basin are preserved a short distance north and northwest of the schroeckingerite deposits. The geologic settings of the schroeckingerite and uranium-bearing coal are similar and their source of uranium is probably the same. The uranium probably was leached from tuffaceous beds in the Browns Park formation and carried to its present site of deposition by groundwater whose circulation was guided by structure and changes in facies.

Study Area

Additional publication details

Publication type Report
Publication Subtype USGS Numbered Series
Title Uranium-bearing coal in the central part of the Great Divide basin, Sweetwater County, Wyoming
Series title Trace Elements Investigations
Series number 477
DOI 10.3133/tei477
Year Published 1956
Language English
Publisher U.S. Geological Survey
Publisher location Washington, D.C.
Description Report: 124 p.; 4 Plates: 25.65 x 40.92 inches or smaller
Country United States
State Wyoming
County Sweetwater County
Scale 5000000
Online Only (Y/N) N
Additional Online Files (Y/N) Y