Sedimentary Uranium Deposits
Uranium is a lithophile element of relatively low natural abundance. Concentrations of uranium form through processes of erosion and sedimentation, and over 90 per cent of the western world's uranium ore reserves are in sedimentary rocks. Proterozoic quartz-pebble conglomerates contain about 60 per cent of the known uranium reserves. These are all similar in appearance, in mode of distribution and in manner of origin. They carry uranium minerals and/or gold and abundant pyrite. Their unique distribution in Huronian time required a pre-existing crust well enough evolved rite. The materials of value were deposited as detrital heavy minerals prior to the appearance of an oxidizing atmosphere in late Proterozoic time. Epigenetic uranium deposits occur in arkosic sedimentary rocks through the entire geological column. About 30 per cent of the western world's known ore reserves are in _these rocks. This type of deposit is particularly prominent in semi-arid parts of the United States, having yielded most of the uranium ore produced and containing nearly all of the known reserves. 'The ""Vestern States type" of deposits occur in lenticular, permeable stream-laid sedimentary rocks. The deposits are believed to have been precipitated from moving ground water at locations where plant debris or other organic matter had accumulated. The uranium may be derived from volcanic sediments, which are commonly associated with the units containing the ore, or it may be leached from exposed granite surfaces or from granitic debris which forms the sediments. A significant part of the world's uranium resources are in black shales and lignitic rocks. The lignites that contain uranium are virtually valueless as potential sources of heat. Uranium concentrations at levels such as to be potential sources of by-product uranium occur in many phosphorites. Reworked sediments may proYide uranium in pegmatites and vein-like deposits.
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