Some Aspects of the Genesis of Heavy Mineral Assemblages in Lower Proterozoic Uranium-Gold Conglomerates

H. Clemmey
Department of Earth Sciences, University of Leeds, Leeds, LS2 9JT

Abstract: Some genetic models for Lower Proterozoic gold- and uranium-bearing pyritic conglomerates favour a modified placer origin in which low levels of atmospheric oxygen are used to account for the survival of uraninite and pyrite. There are many difficulties with such models—for example magnetite is absent in the ore-bearing horizons although it is stable in anoxic conditions, while it is abundant in over- and under-lying strata. Compact and porous pyrite grains are not in hydraulic equivalence and the deposits lack a normal detrital heavy-mineral assemblage. Moreover uranium and gold show evidence of diagenetic remobilization, the uranium becoming associated with secondary titaniferous phases and uranium and gold being enriched in reduzate facies sediments.

New evidence concerning the genesis of the deposits is derived from a clast of ferric iron clay thought to represent a precursor sediment of the Witwatersrand Basin. Reworking of such clays and transport of a magnetite and ferric clay assemblage with subsequent sulphidation, could account for the porous pyrites, the absence of magnetite and the lack of hydraulic equivalence of the mineral grains in the conglomerates. The presence of oxygen, as indicated by the ferric iron clasts, would account for the evidence of mobility of uranium and of gold and would enhance their extraction from source rocks; particularly the release of gold from a precursor auriferous iron formation source. It is suggested that some aspects of the genesis of uranium deposits of the Witswatersrand and Elliot Lake may be similar to those of the Phanerozoic ‘Roll Front’ ores involving interaction between oxidizing uraniferous groundwaters and previously sulphidized and reduzate facies sediments.

Mineralogical Magazine; December 1981 v. 44; no. 336; p. 399-408; DOI: 10.1180/minmag.1981.044.336.05
© 1981, The Mineralogical Society
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