Unconformity-related uranium deposits, Athabasca area, Saskatchewan, and East Alligator Rivers area, Northern Territory, Australia

CIM Bulletin, Vol. 74, No. 831, 1981

LA. CLARK and G.H.R. BURRILL, Saskatchewan Mining Development Corporation, Saskatoon, Saskatchewan

Most unconformity-type uranium deposits in Saskatchewan occur within a few tens of metres above and/or below the basal unconformity of the 1.45-b.y. Athabasca Sandstone. Graphitic basement rocks coincident with post-Athabasca faulting or brecciation at or near the unconformity are important in localizing uranium deposits which form as tabular, ribbon-like bodies with grades averaging over 2 per cent uranium and containing up to 50,000 tonnes U3O8. Some of these deposits have similar contents of nickel and arsenic. In the genetic model proposed to explain these deposits, traces of uranium were leached from the sandstone and weathered basement rocks by oxidized formation waters sweeping through the sandstone and along brecciated faults. Over basement meta-pelites, a thick clay regolith adsorbed uranium from the solution. Thus fixed, the uranium was reduced through an indirect reaction with graphite, possibly involving methane. The clay mineral surfaces were thus continuously cleared to allow further adsorption. Basement faults localized along weak graphitic units were re-activated, offsetting the sandstone formation, probably at the time of an early uranium deposition about 1.2 b.y. ago, and served as vents for spent ore solutions. Fluid convection was induced by topographic relief and/or crustal heating from radioactive decay in basement plutons or mantled Archean domes with uranium and/or thorium contents a few ppm above those of adjacent rocks. Heat from radioactive decay within the incipient uranium deposit would develop in about a million years. The self-generating convection cell would continue uranium deposition until all permeability was plugged by minerals. In some instances, convection was re-initiated after subsequent faulting and brecciation. While some deposits were further enriched, heavy flows of oxidized fluids re-dissolved and partially depleted other uranium deposits.The East Alligator Rivers uranium deposits in Northern Territory, Australia, occur within Middle Proterozoic quartz-chlorite and quartz-muscovite schists overlain by sandstone. Highest grades occur in silicified breccias where carbonate beds were leached out. Mineralization ages are both pre- and post-Kombolgie Sandstone, but, to date, no significant uranium mineralization has been encountered in the sandstone. There are many general similarities with Saskatchewan deposits, but important differences in detail.
Keywords: Ore genesis, Uranium ore, Saskatchewan, Australia, Exploration, Jabiluka deposits, Ranger deposits, Rabbit Lake deposit, Midwest deposit, Key Lake deposit, Alligator Rivers deposits.