, Volume 78, Issue 3, pp 209-219

The chemical and isotopic record of rock-water interaction in the Sherman Granite, Wyoming and Colorado

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Abstract

Chemical, isotopic, radiographic, and rock-leaching data are combined to describe the effects of rock-water interactions in core samples of petrographically fresh, 1.43 b.y.-old Sherman Granite. The data serve to identify sensitive indicators of incipient alteration and to estimate the degree, pathways, and timing of element mobilization. Unfractured core samples of Sherman Granite are remarkably fresh by most chemical or isotopic criteria, but incipient alteration is indicated by the abundance and distribution of uranium and the degree of radioactive equilibration of uranium with its decay products. Uranium abundances which are out of equilibrium with lead decay products indicate remobilization of a portion (3 to 60 percent) of original uranium in late Phanerozoic time. Association of uranium with minor but pervasive secondary alteration products also indicates some remobilization. The amount of apparent uranium mobility in unfractured Sherman Granite (3 to 60 percent) is small compared to the results of similar studies of Archean granites from nearby localities. Chemical and isotopic data evaluated as a function of core-sample depth suggest a uranium migrational pathway involving near-surface leaching and reconcentration at depth. Movement of solutions through the upper 200 ft (60 m) of Sherman Granite is fracture controlled, and brecciated granite shows more obvious petrographic, chemical, and isotopic evidence of alteration and multi-element redistribution. Laboratory experiments using freshly crushed Sherman Granite confirm that uranium is leached in preference to elements such as Si, Mg, Ca, and K, and that leachable uranium is situated close to the solid-liquid interface; perhaps as uranium along grain boundaries, in crystal defects, or on cleavage traces of minerals that exclude uranium from their structure.