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Wet Mountains, Colorado, thorium investigations, 1952-1954

March 7, 1954

A 22-square mile tract (McKinley Mountain Area) of pre-Cambrian rocks and veins containing thorium was mapped at the scale of 1:6,000. This tract lies on the west flank of the Wet Mountains, Custer and Fremont Counties, northeast of Westcliffe, Colo.

The bedrock is a complexly interlayered sequence of gneisses of metasedimetary origin, migmatite and granitic gneisses that have been transected by an albite syenite stock and numerous northwest-trending dikes, veins, and fractures. Hornblende-plagioclase and biotite-quartz-plagioclase gneisses are the principal metasedimentary rocks; pyroxene-scapolite, garnet, sillimanite, and quartzite zones are locally present. The most prominent rock is a poorly foliated, microcline, alaskitic granite gneiss which occurs as layers ranging from more than 500 feet in thickness down to migmatitic “lit-par-lit” type of injections less than an inch thick. Of less wide distribution, but of similar occurrence, are quartz monzonite and leuco-granodiorite gneisses. Although the foliation of the rocks generally is steep and trends northeast over most of the area, several northeast-trending folds have been mapped in the northern half of the area; a vertically plunging fold occurs in the southwest. The albite syenite is nonfoliated and is about 595 million years old (late pre-Cambrian) by the Larsen zircon method of age determination. Many of the dikes are related to the stock.

More than 800 radioactive occurrences were found along the northwest-trending veins. Almost all the radioactivity is due to thorium which in its purest form occurs as a hydrated thorite-like mineral. The veins also contain carbonate minerals, barite, quartz, red and yellow iron oxides, and minor sulfides; no genetic relation of these minerals to the thorium has been established. Although most of the deposits are only weakly radioactive, richer concentrations are scattered as pockets and lenses along the veins.

Citation Information

Publication Year 1954
Title Wet Mountains, Colorado, thorium investigations, 1952-1954
DOI 10.3133/tei354
Authors Robert Adam Christman, M. R. Brock, R. C. Pearson, Q. D. Singewald
Publication Type Report
Publication Subtype USGS Numbered Series
Series Title Trace Elements Investigations
Series Number 354
Index ID tei354
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse