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A stream sediment geochemical survey of the Ganga River headwaters in the Garhwal Himalaya

January 1, 2007

This study models geochemical and adjunct geologic data to define provinces that are favorable for radioactive-mineral exploration. A multi-element bed-sediment geochemical survey of streams was carried out in the headwaters region of the Ganga River in northern India. Overall median values for uranium and thorium (3.6 and 13.8 ppm; maxima of 4.8 and 19.0 ppm and minima of 3.1 and 12.3 ppm respectively) exceed average upper crustal abundances (2.8 and 10.7 ppm) for these radioactive elements. Anomalously high values reach up to 8.3 and 30.1 ppm in thrust zone rocks, and 11.4 and 22.5 ppm in porphyroids. At their maxima, these abundances are nearly four- and three-fold (respectively) enriched in comparison to average crustal abundances for these rock types. Deformed, metamorphosed and sheared rocks are characteristic of the main central thrust zone (MCTZ). These intensively mylonitized rocks override and juxtapose porphyritic (PH) and proterozoic metasedimentary rock sequences (PMS) to the south. Granitoid rocks, the major protoliths for mylonites, as well as metamorphosed rocks in the MCT zone are naturally enriched in radioelements; high values associated with sheared and mylonitized zones are coincident with reports of radioelement mineralization and with anomalous radon concentrations in soils. The radioelement abundance as well as REE abundance shows a northward enrichment trend consistent with increasing grade of metamorphism indicating deformation-induced remobilization of these elements. U and Th illustrate good correlation with REEs but not with Zr. This implies that zircon is not a principal carrier of U and Th within the granitoid-dominant thrust zone and that other radioelement-rich secondary minerals are present in considerable amounts. Thus, the relatively flat, less fractionated, HREE trend is also not entirely controlled by zircon. The spatial correlation of geologic boundary zones (faults, sheared zones) with geochemical and with geophysical (Rn) anomalies infers ore mineralization by hydrothermal processes generated during multiple episodes of deformation and thrusting. The geologic setting of the anomalies also suggests that crystalline rocks (MCT Zone) along the nearly 2500 km length of the LesserHimalayan belt, where in the vicinity of thrust and fault zones, have potential for radioelement mineralization. Zones of higher concentrations of radioelements delineated by this study and locations of anomalous radon discharge determined by other investigations may indicate a potential health hazard over the long term. However, the low human population density precludes direct manifestation of health effects attributable to chronic exposure to these radioelements; however, the magnitude of natural concentrations suggests the need for more detailed studies and monitoring. 

Publication Year 2007
Title A stream sediment geochemical survey of the Ganga River headwaters in the Garhwal Himalaya
DOI 10.2343/geochemj.41.83
Authors P.K. Mukherjee, K.K. Purohit, N.K. Saini, P.P. Khanna, M.S. Rathi, A. E. Grosz
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Geochemical Journal
Index ID 70030747
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse