Joint 118th Annual Cordilleran/72nd Annual Rocky Mountain Section Meeting - 2022

Paper No. 25-1
Presentation Time: 8:30 AM-6:00 PM


KARL, Nick1, HALL, Susan2, VAN GOSEN, Bradley S.1 and MAUK, Jeffrey3, (1)US Geological Survey, PO Box 25046, MS 973, Denver, CO 80232, (2)U.S. Geological Survey, MS 939, Denver Federal Center, Denver, CO 80225-0046, (3)USGS, Geology, Geophysics, and Geochemistry Science Center, P.O. Box 25046, MS 973, Denver, CO 80225

Uranium fuels the 93 currently operating domestic nuclear reactors that produce about 20% of U.S. electricity annually. Almost all of the uranium consumed in the U.S. in 2020 was imported. Uranium was identified as a critical mineral in 2018 and is the focus of an ongoing undiscovered resource assessment by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS). The USGS mineral deposit database project (USMIN) has begun compiling data on uranium deposits in the U.S. that have records of significant past production or resources. Published USMIN datasets provide location, geologic description, and production and resource information as ArcGIS geodatabase, Microsoft Excel, and CSV file formats.

There are thousands of uranium occurrences in the ~200k mile2 area of the Colorado Plateau, which is the richest uranium province in the U.S. The Plateau has been explored and mined for uranium since the mid-1940s and has a high potential for additional uranium resources. Uranium has been mined in the Plateau by conventional underground and open pit methods and was primarily used as fuel to power domestic nuclear reactors. Although, due to poor economic conditions, there has been no uranium mined in the Plateau since 2016, the region hosts the only active uranium mill in the U.S. and exploration activity has recently increased in response to rising prices and global demand.

Most of the uranium in the region is contained within sandstone-hosted deposits, with most production coming from the Triassic Chinle Formation and Jurassic Morrison Formation. Other notable uranium deposits that have been mined within the Plateau occur in solution-collapse breccia pipes in northwestern Arizona. Vanadium commonly accompanies uranium in these deposits and has been intermittently recovered for use in steel production with potential future use in redox flow batteries. Additional research on the characteristics and extent of uranium deposits in the Plateau is currently being advanced through the continued collection of data for the USMIN project.