Petrology of the non-mineralized Wheeler River sandstone-hosted alteration system and the Eagle Point and Millennium basement-hosted unconformity-related uranium deposits, Athabasca Basin, Saskatchewan: implications for uranium exploration
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A study of the Millennium and Eagle Point basement-hosted deposits was conducted to obtain a comprehensive understanding of the alteration in these two atypical uraniferous systems and to apply these findings in formulating effective exploration strategies. In addition, an investigation of the Wheeler River “apparently barren” sandstone-hosted alteration system was conducted to provide insights into the critical events needed in order to form sandstone-hosted unconformity-related deposits. At Millennium, the atypical alteration halo, wherein the inner chlorite halo is much smaller than other basement-hosted deposits, is the result of pervasive muscovite alteration of the basement rocks by Na-K-Fe basinal brines during the pre-ore stage at ca. 250°C. As alteration of the basement rocks progressed, the basinal brines acquired Ca, Fe and Mg while creating up to 20% voids in the basement rocks. Prior to the mineralizing event, the chemically modified basinal fluids formed a minor Fe-rich chamoisite halo that demarcates a redox front during the ca. 1590 Ma syn-ore stage, where uranium ore was precipitated. At Eagle Point, the atypical alteration halo, wherein dolomite and calcite alteration is more significant than other basement-hosted deposits, is the result of more intense pre-Athabasca Basin alteration. The Eagle Point deposit is also distinct by significant late remobilization of primary uraninite into secondary structures that occurred at ca. 535 Ma. At the Wheeler River “apparently barren” alteration system, the critical factor for the lack of uranium mineralization in the sandstone is the temporal relationship between the different fluids with the uranium-bearing oxidized basinal fluids present prior to the reduced chemically modified basinal fluids and reduced basement fluids. However, the possibility of a small basement-hosted uranium deposit at Wheeler River cannot be excluded because the sudoite-producing basement fluids may represent basinal brines that reacted with basement lithologies to become reducing and Mg-rich, and therefore may have precipitated uraninite during this process. The results of this study support the genetic model in which basinal fluids were likely the source of uranium deposits and that the basement fluids were unlikely significant sources of uranium in sandstone-hosted deposits.