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Persistent U(IV) and U(VI) following in-situ recovery (ISR) mining of a sandstone uranium deposit, Wyoming, USA

November 23, 2015

Drill-core samples from a sandstone-hosted uranium (U) deposit in Wyoming were characterized to determine the abundance and distribution of uranium following in-situ recovery (ISR) mining with oxygen- and carbon dioxide-enriched water. Concentrations of uranium, collected from ten depth intervals, ranged from 5 to 1920 ppm. A composite sample contained 750 ppm uranium with an average oxidation state of 54% U(VI) and 46% U(IV). Scanning electron microscopy (SEM) indicated rare high uranium (∼1000 ppm U) in spatial association with P/Ca and Si/O attributed to relict uranium minerals, possibly coffinite, uraninite, and autunite, trapped within low permeability layers bypassed during ISR mining. Fission track analysis revealed lower but still elevated concentrations of U in the clay/silica matrix and organic matter (several 10 s ppm) and yet higher concentrations associated with Fe-rich/S-poor sites, likely iron oxides, on altered chlorite or euhedral pyrite surfaces (but not on framboidal pyrite). Organic C (<1.62%), total S (<0.31%), and P (<0.03%) were in low abundance relative to the overall bulk composition. Microbial community analysis showed a diverse group of bacteria present with a wide range of putative metabolisms, and provides evidence for a variety of redox microenvironments co-existing in core samples. Although the uranium minerals persisting in low permeability areas in association with organic carbon were less affected by oxidizing solutions during mining, the likely sequestration of uranium within labile iron oxides following mining and sensitivity to changes in redox conditions requires careful attention during groundwater restoration.


Publication Year 2015
Title Persistent U(IV) and U(VI) following in-situ recovery (ISR) mining of a sandstone uranium deposit, Wyoming, USA
DOI 10.1016/j.apgeochem.2015.08.017
Authors Tanya J. Gallegos, Kate M. Campbell, Robert A. Zielinski, P.W. Reimus, J.T. Clay, N. Janot, J. J. Bargar, William Benzel
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Applied Geochemistry
Index ID 70159787
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Eastern Energy Resources Science Center; Toxic Substances Hydrology Program