Summary of reconnaissance for radioactive deposits in Alaska, 1945-1954, and an appraisal of Alaskan uranium possibilities

Trace Elements Investigations 577
This report concerns work done on behalf of the Division of Raw Materials of the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission.



In the period 1945-1954 over 100 investigations for radioactive source materials were made in Alaska. The nature of these investigations ranged from field examinations of individual prospects or the laboratory analysis of significantly radioactive samples submitted by prospectors to reconnaissance studies of large districts. In this period no deposits of uranium or thorium that would warrant commercial exploitation were discovered. The investigations, however, disclosed that radioactive materials occur in widely scattered areas of Alaska and in widely diverse environments.

Many igneous rocks throughout Alaska are weakly radioactive because of uranium- and thorium-bearing accessory minerals, such as allanite, apatite, monazite, sphene, xenotime, and zircon; more rarely the radioactivity of these rocks is due to thorianite or thorite and their uranoan varieties. The felsic rocks, for example, granites and syenites, are generally more radioactive than the mafic igneous rocks. Pegmatites, locally, have also proved to be radioactive, but they have little commercial significance. No primary uranium oxide minerals have been found yet in Alaskan vein deposits, except, perhaps, for a mineral tentatively identified as pitchblende in the Hyder district of southeastern Alaska. However, certain occurrences of secondary uranium minerals, chiefly those of the uranite group, on the Seward Peninsula, in the Russian Mountains, and in the vicinity of Kodiak suggest that pitchblende-type ores may occur at depth beneath zones of alteration. Thorite-bearing veins have been discovered on Prince of Wales Island in southeastern Alaska.

Although no deposits or carnotite-type minerals have been found in Alaska, several samples containing such minerals have been submitted by Alaskan prospectors. Efforts to locate the deposits from which these minerals were obtained have been unsuccessful, but review of available geologic data suggests that several Alaskan areas are potentially favorable for carnotite-type deposits. The chief of these areas is the Alaska Peninsula-Cook Inlet area which encompasses most of the reported occurrences of the prospectors' carnotite-type samples.

Alaska is also potentially favorable for the occurrence of large bodies of the very low-grade uraniferous sedimentary rocks, such as phosphorites and black shales. This type of deposit, however, has not received much study because of the emphasis on the search for bonanza-type high-grade ores. Uraniferous phosphorites similar to those of Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming occur in northern Alaska on the north flank of the Brooks Range; black shales comparable to the uraniferous shales of the Chattanooga formation of southeastern United States have been noted along the Yukon River near the international boundary.

Placer deposits in Alaska have some small potential for the production of the radioactive elements as byproducts of gold- and tin-placer mining. the placer area believed to have the relatively greatest potential in Alaska lies in the Kahiltna River valley where concentrates are known to contain such commercial minerals as ilmenite, cassiterite, platinum, and gold in addition to uranothorianite and monazite.

The possibilities of the natural fluids--water and petroleum--have not yet been tested in Alaska to any great extent. Studies of fluids are in progress to determine whether they may be used to discover and define areas potentially favorable for the occurrence of uraniferous lodes.

Study Area

Publication type Report
Publication Subtype USGS Numbered Series
Title Summary of reconnaissance for radioactive deposits in Alaska, 1945-1954, and an appraisal of Alaskan uranium possibilities
Series title Trace Elements Investigations
Series number 577
DOI 10.3133/tei577
Year Published 1956
Language English
Publisher U.S. Geological Survey
Description Report: 111 p.; Plate: 19.12 x 13.83 inches
Country United States
State Alaska
Additional Online Files (Y/N) Y
Google Analytic Metrics Metrics page
Additional publication details