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Characteristics of marine uranium-bearing sedimentary rocks

October 20, 1950

Many marine sedimentary black shale and phosphorite formations contain 0.01 to 0.02 percent uranium, and one, the alum shale of Sweden, contains as much as 0.5 percent. The published fact that uranium is already being recovered on a laboratory scale from Swedish deposits forcefully suggests that similar deposits in the United States and possibly many other countries may prove to be an important future source of uranium.The marine uranium-bearing black shales are rich in organic matter and sulfides and contain little or no carbonate. The best are found in relatively thin formations of pre-Mesozoic age. The nature of the uranium-bearing mineral or compound is not known. In contrast, nonmarine black shales, as a group, are not uraniferous.All marine phosphorites tested thus far are uraniferous and so too are the phosphatic nodules found in many marine black shales. With some exceptions, the uranium increases in a general way with increase in phosphate content and is believed to be in the phosphate mineral. Like the black shales, the phosphorite formations are characteristically thin; many are associated with unconformities or, in other words, periods during which little else in the way of sediment accumulated.Significant concentrations of uranium in marine sediments other than black shales and phosphorites are thus far known only in beach placer deposits and the gold-bearing conglomerates of the Witwatersrand district, South Africa.Uranium may be found in other types of marine sediments on further prospecting, but especially promising are the sediments rich in organic matter, phosphate, or both, found in relatively thin formations believed to be the entire depositional products of long periods of geologic time. Such formations are most characteristic of those areas where, at the time of deposition, the adjacent land masses were so stable and low that the influx of clastic materials was small; the basin of deposition was large or of such configuration that fine-grained sediments could accumulate; and chemical conditions in the seawater prevented deposition of large amounts of carbonate.

Citation Information

Publication Year 1950
Title Characteristics of marine uranium-bearing sedimentary rocks
DOI 10.2113/gsecongeo.45.1.35
Authors Vincent E. McKelvey, John Marshall Nelson
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Economic Geology
Series Number
Index ID 70215452
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization