Mineralium Deposita

, Volume 47, Issue 8, pp 859–874 | Cite as

Structural and biological control of the Cenozoic epithermal uranium concentrations from the Sierra Peña Blanca, Mexico

  • Samuel Angiboust
  • Mostafa Fayek
  • Ian M. Power
  • Alfredo Camacho
  • Georges Calas
  • Gordon Southam


Epithermal uranium deposits of the Sierra Peña Blanca are classic examples of volcanic-hosted deposits and have been used as natural analogs for radionuclide migration in volcanic settings. We present a new genetic model that incorporates both geochemical and tectonic features of these deposits, including one of the few documented cases of a geochemical signature of biogenic reducing conditions favoring uranium mineralization in an epithermal deposit. Four tectono-magmatic faulting events affected the volcanic pile. Uranium occurrences are associated with breccia zones at the intersection of fault systems. Periodic reactivation of these structures associated with Basin and Range and Rio Grande tectonic events resulted in the mobilization of U and other elements by meteoric fluids heated by geothermal activity. Focused along breccia zones, these fluids precipitated under reducing conditions several generations of pyrite and uraninite together with kaolinite. Oxygen isotopic data indicate a low formation temperature of uraninite, 45–55°C for the uraninite from the ore body and ∼20°C for late uraninite hosted by the underlying conglomerate. There is geochemical evidence for biological activity being at the origin of these reducing conditions, as shown by low δ34S values (∼−24.5‰) in pyrites and the presence of low δ13C (∼−24‰) values in microbial patches intimately associated with uraninite. These data show that tectonic activity coupled with microbial activity can play a major role in the formation of epithermal uranium deposits in unusual near-surface environments.


Uranium deposits Epithermal deposits Silicic volcanics Biogenic activity Stable isotope geochemistry Geothermal systems Cenozoic tectonics Breccias 



The authors thank A.L Saucedo (University of Manitoba), P. Goodell (University of Texas, El Paso), I. Reyes-Cortes, and R. de la Garza (Facultad de Ingeniería, Universidad Autónoma de Chihuahua) for fruitful discussions, comments, and assistance on the field. We are also indebted to Manuel Pubellier, David Thomas, and Virgil Lueth for valuable comments on the manuscript. This work was partially funded by an NSERC Discovery and CFI Grant to Fayek and the Canada Research Chair program. This manuscript greatly benefitted from the thorough reviews by Dr. Aleshyn and Associate Editor Michel Cuney and comments by the Editor Bernd Lehmann.

Supplementary material

126_2012_408_MOESM1_ESM.doc (74 kb)
Appendix 1 Sulfur and carbon isotopic composition of sulfides and organic carbon, respectively (DOC 73 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Samuel Angiboust
    • 1
    • 2
  • Mostafa Fayek
    • 2
  • Ian M. Power
    • 3
  • Alfredo Camacho
    • 2
  • Georges Calas
    • 4
  • Gordon Southam
    • 3
  1. 1.Institut des Sciences de la Terre de Paris, UMR 7193 CNRSUniversité Pierre et Marie Curie-Paris 6ParisFrance
  2. 2.Department of Geological SciencesUniversity of ManitobaWinnipegCanada
  3. 3.Department of Earth SciencesUniversity of Western OntarioLondonCanada
  4. 4.Institut de Minéralogie et de Physique des Milieux CondensésUniversité Pierre et Marie Curie-Paris 6, UMR CNRS 7590ParisFrance

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