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A comparative study of uranium–thorium accumulation at the western edge of the Arabian Peninsula and mineral deposits worldwide

الوقود النووي، هل هو وتر جديد للقوس ؟ دراسة مقارنة لتراكمات اليورانيوم والثوريوم على الحافة الغربية للجزيرة العربية والرواسب المعدنية حول العالم

Abstract

Jordan, located at the western edge of the Arabian Plate, stands out from the remaining part of the Arabian Peninsula by its abundance in radioactive elements, mainly uranium, in a way so far not found elsewhere on the Arabian Peninsula. Uranium (U) and thorium in Jordan are concentrated in eight different types of ore mineralization: (1) intrusive-related (intramagmatic), (2) vein-type, (3) superficial, (4) sandstone-hosted (5) limestone-hosted, (6) U-Th-REE placer-type, (7) black shales, and (8) phosphorites. The major concentration of radioactive elements are synsedimentary and diagenetic in nature, mainly in near-shore marine depositional environments where uranium contents are abnormally high in the late Cretaceous to Paleogene phosphorites and increasing towards the mobile shelf of the Tethys ocean. These uraniferous phosphorites form the source of uranium that was redeposited within terrigenous chemical residues of lacustrine-fluvial depositional systems in Central Jordan (calcretes). Faultbound radiometric anomalies are caused by hot brines being vented along with the Jordan-Dead-Sea rifting. Presumably, low-grade U accumulation in (hot) black shales and marls of Silurian age are responsible for these radiometric anomalies. In the present paper, the Jordanian uranium concentrations are compared with reference types of uranium deposits elsewhere in the world to get an idea if the geological, chemical, and mineralogical features of analogue uranium mineralization in Jordan are indicative of economic targets. The uranium concentration in Jordanian phosphorites has been tracked beyond the border into Syria, Iraq, Israel, and Saudi Arabia. The uranium potential in neighboring countries is assessed based on the current geological data available for the Mediterranean Phosphorite Belt which is poised to become a another string to the bow with respect to energy supply on the Arabian Peninsula.

Abstract

تقع الأردن على الحافة الغربية للصفيحة العربية وتمتاز عن بقية أجزاء الجزيرة العربية بوفرة العناصر النشطة إشعاعيا وخاصة اليورانيوم بشكل لم يتواجد حتى الآن في الجزيرة العربية. يتركز اليورانيوم والثوريوم في الأردن في 8 أنواع من تمعدن الخامات: (1) التداخلي (داخل الصهير)، (2) نمط العروق، (3) السطحي، (4) المستضاف بالحجر الرملي، (5) المستضاف بالحجر الجيري، (6) نمط مراقد اليورانيوم والثوريوم والعناصر الأرضية النادرة، (7) الطفل الأسود، (8) صخر الفوسفات. أغلب تراكيز العناصر المشعة مزامنة للترسب أو لاحقة النشأة، غالبا في بيئة بحرية قريبة من الشاطيء، بحيث يزداد محتوى اليورانيوم في صخور فوسفات العصر الكريتاوي والباليوجين باتجاه الرف المستقر لمحيط التيشس. صخر الفوسفات الحاوي على اليورانيوم يشكل المصدر لليورانيوم الذي أعيد ترسيبه، ضمن الرواسب الفتاتية الكيميائية المستخلصة في أنظمة الترسيب النهري والبحيري في وسط الأردن (كالكريت). الشذات الإشعاعية المحدود بالصدوع ناتجة عن خروج المحاليل الملحية الساخنة على طول خسف الأردن – البحر الميت. يفترض أن تراكمات اليورانيوم ذات الرتبة المنخفضة في صخور المارت والطفل الأسود (الساخن) للعصر السيلوري هي المسئولة عن هذه الشذوات الإشعاعية. في هذا البهث ستتم مقارنة تراكيز اليورانيوم في الأردن مع أنماط مرجعية لرواسب اليورانيوم في انحاء أخرى من العالم، لتكوين فكرة عن ما إذا كانت الخصائص الجيولوجية والكيميائية والمعدنية لتمعدن اليورانيوم في الأردن تدل على وجود أهداف اقتصادية. لقد تمت متابعة تراكيز اليورانيوم في صخور الفوسفات الأردنية إلى ما وراء الحدود إلى سوريا والعراق واسرائيل والسعودية. إن الامكانيات المحتملة لليورانيوم في دول المجاورة قد تم تقيمها بناء على البيانات الجيولوجية الحالية المتوفرة لحزام الفوسفات المتوسطي زالذي يرجح أن يصبح وترا آخر في القوس بالنسبة لموارد الطاقة في الجزيرة العربية.

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Acknowledgement

I would like to express my gratitude to the staff members of the Jordan Atomic Energy Commission for discussion in the office and in the field. N. Xoubi, K.El-Kaysi, A.-H. Wriekat and W. El-Noor were of great assistance in the run-up to this study. I would like to extend my gratitude also to K. Toukan chairman of the commission (JAEC). My colleagues A.M. Abed and G. Jarrar were of great assistance during my field trips in Jordan. B. Weber took some snapshots of specimens from the study sites in Germany. I express my gratitude to P. Laznicka (West Lakes, South Australia) and G. Saffarini (Jordan University-Amman, Jordan) who reviewed this paper for the AJGS. I extend my gratitude also to the editor-in-chief of AJGS A. Al-Amri.

Excalibur Mineral Corp. provided Fig. 14a–d.

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Dill, H.G. A comparative study of uranium–thorium accumulation at the western edge of the Arabian Peninsula and mineral deposits worldwide. Arab J Geosci 4, 123–146 (2011). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12517-009-0107-4

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Keywords

  • Uranium
  • Thorium
  • Type of deposit
  • Metallogenesis
  • Arabian Peninsula
  • World