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Sci Rep. 2019 Apr 2;9(1):5530. doi: 10.1038/s41598-019-42032-0.

Uranium-rich diagenetic fluids provide the key to unconformity-related uranium mineralization in the Athabasca Basin.

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Department of Geology, University of Regina, Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada.
Department of Geology, University of Regina, Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada.
China University of Geosciences, Beijing, China.
Geological Survey of Canada, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada.
Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences, McGill University, Montreal, Canada.


The Proterozoic Athabasca Basin is well known for its unusually large-tonnage and high-grade 'unconformity-related' uranium (U) deposits, however, explanations for the basin-wide U endowment have not been clearly identified. Previous studies indicate that U-rich brines with up to ~600 ppm U and variable Na/Ca ratios (from Na-dominated to Ca-dominated) were present at the sites of U mineralization, but it is unknown whether such fluids were developed solely in the vicinity of the U deposits or at a basinal scale. Our microthermometric and LA-ICP-MS analyses of fluid inclusions in quartz overgrowths from the barren part of the basin indicate that U-rich brines (0.6 to 26.8 ppm U), including Na-dominated and Ca-dominated varieties, were widely developed in the basin. These U concentrations, although not as high as the highest found in the U deposits, are more than two orders of magnitude higher than most naturally occurring geologic fluids. The basin-scale development of U-rich diagenetic fluids is interpreted to be related to several geologic factors, including availability of basinal brines and U-rich lithologies, and a hydrogeologic framework that facilitated fluid circulation and U leaching. The combination of these favorable conditions is responsible for the U fertility of the Athabasca Basin.

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