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Paleomagnetic and petrologic evidence bearing on the age and origin of uranium deposits in the Permian Cutler Formation, Lisbon Valley, Utah

June 1, 1985

An approximate age for uranium deposits in red beds of the Permian Cutler Formation, Lisbon Valley salt anticline, Utah, was obtained using paleomagnetic techniques. Progressive thermal demagnetization of samples of mineralized sandstone isolates stable magnetization components having high (≳400 °C) unblocking temperatures that define a tilt-corrected mean direction of D = 358.1°, I = 65.5°, α95 = 3.3°. This direction is close to expected Late Cretaceous to middle Tertiary mean directions at Lisbon Valley. In contrast, thermal cleaning of samples of unmineralized sandstone isolates tilt-corrected southeasterly, shallow mean directions (D = 140.5°, I = −9.5°, α95 = 8.6°, and D = 155.9°, I = −4.4°, α95 = 10.9°, for two localities in the Lisbon Valley area). These results are closely similar to results from the Cutler Formation elsewhere on the Colorado Plateau and from other Lower Permian strata in North America. In unmineralized sandstone, the stable remanent magnetization is carried predominantly by martite of postdepositional or detrital origin, whereas in mineralized sandstone, the stable magnetization is carried largely by authigenic specular hematite as uranium- and vanadium-bearing clusters in interstitial areas, and it thus reflects the time of mineralization. Partial dissolution of martite grains and grain-coating ferric oxide pigment prior to formation of abundant interstitial specular hematite has minimized or eliminated the influence of late Paleozoic magnetic components in mineralized sandstone.

These results, combined with information on the structural development of the Lisbon Valley area and on nearby uranium deposits in the Triassic Chinle Formation, suggest that the growth of the Lisbon Valley anticline during Late Cretaceous to early or middle Tertiary time promoted oxidative destruction of Chinle orebodies and led to a redistribution of uranium and iron from the Chinle into the Cutler. Acidic solutions generated during destruction of sulfide minerals in Chinle orebodies may account for the simultaneous transport of significant quantities of iron and uranium and for the partial dissolution of martite in the Cutler host beds. Neutralization of these solutions by reaction with host-rock constituents (especially calcite) caused precipitation of amorphous ferric oxide, which incorporated uranium by adsorption and which aged to form specular hematite.