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Release of uranium from uraninite in granites through alteration: Implications for the source of granite-related uranium ores

journal contribution
posted on 2023-05-21, 11:43 authored by Zhang, L, Chen, Z, Wang, F, Noel WhiteNoel White, Zhou, T

Uraninite is the main contributor to the bulk-rock uranium concentration in many U-rich granites and is the most important uranium source for granite-related uranium deposits. However, detailed textural and compositional evolution of magmatic uraninite in granites during alteration and associated uranium mobilization have not been well documented. In this study, textures and geochemistry of uraninites from the Zhuguangshan batholith (South China) were investigated by scanning electron microscopy (SEM) and electron probe microanalysis (EPMA). The geochemical data indicate that the Longhuashan and Youdong plutons are peraluminous leucogranite, the Changjiang pluton is highly fractionated high-K calc-alkaline granite, and the Jiufeng pluton belongs to a high-K calc-alkaline association.

Uraninites from the Longhuashan and Youdong granites have lower concentrations of ThO2 (0.9-4.0 wt %) and rare earth elements (REE)(2)O-3 (0.1-1.0 wt %) than those from the Changjiang and Jiufeng granites (ThO2 = 4.4-7.6 wt %, REE2O3 = 0.7-5.1 wt %). Uraninites observed in the Longhuashan, Youdong, Changjiang, and Jiufeng granites yielded chemical ages of 223 +/- 3, 222 +/- 2, 157 +/- 1, and 161 +/- 2 Ma, respectively. The samples (including altered and unaltered) collected from the Longhuashan, Youdong, and Changjiang granites are characterized by highly variable whole-rock U concentrations of 6.9 to 44.7 ppm and Th/U ratios of 0.9 to 7.0, consistent with crystallization of uraninite in these granites being followed by uranium leaching during alteration. Alteration of uraninite, indicated by altered domains developing microcracks and appearing darker in backscattered electron (BSE) images compared to unaltered domains, results in the incorporation of Si and Ca and mobilization of U. In contrast, the least altered samples of the unmineralized Jiufeng granite have low U concentrations (5.3-16.4 ppm) and high SREE/U (13.6-49.4) and Th/U ratios (2.1-5.6), which inhibit crystallization of uraninite, as its crystallization occurs when the U concentration is high enough to exceed the substitution capacity of other U-bearing minerals. These results indicate that the Longhuashan, Youdong, and Changjiang granites were favorable uranium sources for the formation of uranium deposits in this area. This study highlights the potential of uraninite alteration and geochemistry to assist in deciphering uranium sources and enrichment processes of granite-related uranium deposits.


Publication title

Economic Geology










School of Natural Sciences


Economic Geology Publ Co

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Socio-economic Objectives

Environmentally sustainable mineral resource activities not elsewhere classified; Precious (noble) metal ore exploration; Other mineral resources (excl. energy resources) not elsewhere classified