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Uranium occurs in a number of different igneous, hydrothermal and sedimentary geological environments.
Uranium deposits world-wide can be grouped into 14 major categories of deposit types based on the geological setting of the deposits. Unconformity-related deposits Unconformity-related deposits arise from geological changes occurring close to major unconformities. Below the unconformity, the metasedimentary rocks which host the mineralisation are usually faulted and brecciated. The overlying younger Proterozoic sandstones are usually undeformed. Unconformity-related deposits constitute approximately 33% of the western world's uranium resources and they include some of the largest and richest deposits. Minerals are uraninite and pitchblende. The main deposits occur in Canada (the Athabasca Basin, Saskatchewan and Thelon Basin, Northwest Territories); and Australia (the Alligator Rivers region in the Pine Creek Geosyncline, NT and Rudall River area, WA). Hematite breccia complex deposits The Olympic Dam deposit is one of the world’s largest deposits of uranium, and accounts for the major part of Australia’s uranium resources. The deposit occurs in a hematite-rich granite breccia complex in the Gawler Craton. It is overlain by approximately 300 metres of flat-lying sedimentary rocks of the Stuart Shelf geological province. The central core of the complex is barren hematite-quartz breccia, with several localised diatreme structures, flanked to the east and west by zones of intermingled hematite-rich breccias and granitic breccias. These zones are approximately one kilometre wide and extend almost 5 km in a northwest-southeast direction. Virtually all the economic copper-uranium mineralisation is hosted by these hematite-rich breccias. This broad zone is surrounded by granitic breccias extending up to 3 km beyond the outer limits of the hematite-rich breccias. The deposit contains iron, copper, uranium, gold, silver, rare earth elements (mainly lanthanum and cerium) and fluorine. Only copper, uranium, gold, and silver are recovered. Uranium grades average from 0.08 to 0.04% U3O8, the higher-grade mineralisation being pitchblende. Copper grades average 2.7% for proved reserves, 2.0% for probable reserves, and 1.1% for indicated resources. Sandstone deposits Sandstone uranium deposits occur in medium to coarse-grained sandstones deposited in a continental fluvial or marginal marine sedimentary environment. Impermeable shale/mudstone units are interbedded in the sedimentary sequence and often occur immediately above and below the mineralised sandstone. Uranium is precipitated under reducing conditions caused by a variety of reducing agents within the sandstone including: carbonaceous material (detrital plant debris,
The main primary uranium minerals are uraninite and coffinite. Conventional mining/milling operations of sandstone deposits have been progressively replaced by cheaper in situ leach (ISL) mining methods. tabular deposits . hydrocarbons (petroleum). Quartz-pebble conglomerate uranium deposits occur in conglomerates deposited in the range 3070-2200 million years ago. H2S). East Kalkaroo and Billaroo West-Gould Dam.irregular. At Mulga Rock uranium mineralisation is in peat layers interbedded with sand and clay within a buried palaeochannel. The Powder River Basin in Wyoming. the Colorado Plateau and the Gulf Coast Plain in south Texas are major sandstone uranium provinces. Orebodies of this type are commonly low to medium grade (0. These deposits make up approximately 13% of the world's uranium resources. Kazakhstan. sulphides (pyrite. Three main types of sandstone deposits: rollfront deposits . Individual deposits range in size from 6000-170 000 t contained U3O8. The USA has large resources in sandstone deposits in the Western Cordillera region. and most of its uranium production has been from these deposits.amorphous humate. Kazakhstan has substantial reserves in sandstone deposits with average grades ranging from 0.02 to 0. Sandstone deposits constitute about 18% of world uranium resources and are of major economic importance in Kazakhstan. Sandstone deposits represent only about 7% of Australia's total resources of uranium . and Mulga Rock in WA and Angela. deposits commonly occur in palaeochannels incised into underlying basement rocks. Other large sandstone deposits occur in Niger.07% U. tectonic/lithologic deposits . Major examples are the Elliot Lake deposits in Canada and the Witwatersrand gold-uranium deposits in South Africa.01% U3O8. all amenable to ISL mining methods. Uzbekistan. NT. Gabon (Franceville Basin). elongate lenticular bodies parallel to the depositional trend. Other deposits are Manyingee.4% U3O8) and individual orebodies are small to medium in size (ranging up to a maximum of 50 000 t U3O8). Honeymoon. recently by in situ leach (ISL) mining. marine algae). and South Africa (Karoo Basin).05 0. average grades range as high as 0. Where uranium is recovered as a by-product of gold mining. the largest being Beverley. the grade may be as low as 0. Within the Frome Embayment.arcuate bodies of mineralisation that crosscut sandstone bedding. Oobagooma. The mining .occur in sandstones adjacent to a permeable fault zone. six uranium deposits are known.15% U3O8. and interbedded basic volcanics with abundant ferro-magnesian minerals (eg chlorite). Fluvial transport of detrital uraninite was possible at the time because of the prevailing anoxic atmosphere. In deposits mined exclusively for uranium. Quartz-pebble conglomerate deposits Detrital uranium occurs in some Archaean-early Palaeoproterozoic quartz-pebble conglomerates that unconformably overlie granitic and metamorphic basement.
volcanic deposits are quantitatively very minor . Uranium mineralisation is in fine-grained surficial sand and clay. Kazakhstan. Surficial deposits comprise about 4% of world uranium resources. The uranium mineralisation is carnotite (hydrated potassium uranium vanadium oxide). In Australia. ferric oxide. They formed where uranium-rich granites were deeply weathered in a semi-arid to arid climate. from the massive veins of pitchblende at Jachymov deposit (Czech Republic).Ben Lomond and Maureen in Qld are the most significant deposits. Volcanic and caldera-related deposits Uranium deposits of this type occur in acid to intermediate volcanic rocks and are related to faults and shear zones within the volcanics. Uranium occurs in veins or disseminated and is commonly associated with molybdenum and fluorine. fissures. being formed before there was any oxygen in the atmosphere. The Yeelirrie deposit in WA is by far the world's largest surficial deposit. These deposits overlie Archaean granite and greenstone basement of the northern portion of the Yilgarn Craton. Other significant deposits in WA include Lake Way. dolomite. These deposits usually have secondary cementing minerals including calcite. also Trekkopje. Calcrete deposits represent a similar proportion of Australia's total resources of uranium. the largest being the Langer Heinrich deposit. These are similar in lithology and age to the Witwatersrand conglomerates. No such economic deposits are known in Australia. although quartz-pebble conglomerate containing low-grade uraninite and gold mineralisation exists in several ArchaeanPalaeoproterozoic basins in Western Australia. the calcrete uranium deposits occur in valley-fill sediments along Tertiary drainage channels. the Michelin deposit is of this kind. cemented by calcium and magnesium carbonates. and in playa lake sediments. Calcrete uranium deposits also occur in the Central Namib Desert of Namibia. Canada and Australia. and Lake Maitland. The dimensions of the openings have a wide range. Uranium deposits in calcrete are the largest of the surficial deposits. Russian Federation and Mexico. and halite. Significant resources of this type occur in China. These deposits make up only a small proportion of the world's uranium resources. Vein deposits Vein deposits of uranium are those in which uranium minerals fill cavities such as cracks. faults and fissures in some of the ore bodies in Europe. Intrusive deposits .operations in the Elliot Lake area have closed in recent years because these deposits are uneconomic under current uranium market conditions. Centipede. breccias and stockworks. In WA. Surficial deposits Surficial uranium deposits are broadly defined as young (Tertiary to Recent) near-surface uranium concentrations in sediments or soils. gypsum. Schinkolobwe deposit (Democratic Republic of the Congo) and Port Radium deposit (Canada) to the narrow pitchblende-filled cracks. In Canada. veins. pore spaces. Thatcher Soak.
The best-known examples of this type are deposits in the Arizona Strip in Arizona. Qld. Uranium concentrations are 0. for example. Uranium mineralisation is mostly within permeable sandstone breccias within the pipe. Major world deposits include Rossing (Namibia). See also WNA paper Uranium from Phosphates. uranium is sometimes extracted as a by-product. Western Australia. Where phosphoric acid is produced. Valhalla and Skal near Mount Isa are Australian examples.015% U3O8. 60km east of Mount Isa. In Australia.Included in this type are those associated with intrusive rocks including alaskite. the Rudnoye and ZapadnoKokpatasskaya deposits in Uzbekistan. granite. Morocco. . though Japanese interests are working on the Uzbek deposits. pegmatite. in North and South Dakota. and the Gera-Ronneburg deposit. Metasomatite deposits Metasomatite deposits consist of unevenly disseminated uranium in structurally deformed rocks that were affected by sodium metasomatism. Examples include the uraniferous alum shale in Sweden. SA. USA. which was mined 1958-63 and 1976-82. containing synsedimentary disseminated uranium adsorbed onto organic material. and monzonites. Very large phosphorite deposits occur in the USA (Florida and Idaho). Ilimaussaq (Greenland) and Palabora (South Africa). Phosphorite deposits Sedimentary phosphorites of marine origin contain low concentrations of uranium in finegrained apatite. Jordan and other Middle Eastern countries and these are mined for phosphate. Several of these have been mined. Uranium has been adsorbed on to carbonaceous matter and consequently no discrete uranium minerals have formed. The orebody occurs in a zone of calcium-rich alteration within Proterozoic metamorphic rocks. USA and at Mulga Rock. None are known to be economic. the main ones are Radium Hill (SA) which was mined from 1954-62 (mineralisation was mostly davidite) and the large bodies of low grade mineralisation at Crocker Well and Mount Victoria in the Olary Province. Major examples of this type include Espinharas deposit (Brazil) and the Zheltye Vody deposit (Ukraine). Collapse breccia pipe deposits These occur in circular.the introduction of sodium (or potassium or calcium) into these rocks. deposits in the Guangxi Autonomous Region. Greece. The principal uranium mineral is pitchblende. Black shale deposits Black shale-related uranium mineralisation consists of marine organic-rich shale or coal-rich pyritic shale. vertical collapse structures filled with coarse fragments and a fine matrix of the penetrated sediments. Lignite deposits Uranium mineralisation occurs in lignite and in clay and sandstone immediately adjacent to the lignite. in the Serres Basin. The collapse pipes are 30-200 metres in diameter and up to 1000 metres deep. the Chatanooga shale in the USA. China. Germany. in Florida.01-0.. Metamorphic deposits In Australia the largest of this type was Mary Kathleen uranium/rare earth deposit.
UTi2O6. saleeite (magnesian) and torbernite (with copper).UO3. better known as U3O8). The commonest are gummite (a general term like limonite for mixtures of various secondary hydrated uranium oxides with impurities). the davidite-brannerite-absite type uranium titanates. A large variety of secondary uranium minerals is known. These include carnotite (uranium potassium vanadate). including autunite (with calcium). and hydrated uranium silicates such as coffinite. .Uranium Minerals The major primary ore mineral is uraninite (basically UO2) or pitchblende (U2O5. many are brilliantly coloured and fluorescent. though a range of other uranium minerals is found in particular deposits. uranophane (with calcium) and sklodowskite (magnesian). Brannerite (uranium calcium titanium iron oxide. basically uranium titanate . hydrated uranium phosphates of the phosphuranylite type. and the euxenite-fergusonite-samarskite group (niobates of uranium and rare earths).
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