Metal-rich fluid inclusions provide new insights into unconformity-related U deposits (Athabasca Basin and Basement, Canada) - Université de Lorraine Access content directly
Journal Articles Mineralium Deposita Year : 2016

Metal-rich fluid inclusions provide new insights into unconformity-related U deposits (Athabasca Basin and Basement, Canada)

Antonin Richard
Michel Cathelineau
Marie-Christine Boiron
Julien Mercadier
Michel Cuney
  • Function : Author


The Paleoproterozoic Athabasca Basin (Canada) hosts numerous giant unconformity-related uranium deposits. The scope of this study is to establish the pressure, temperature, and composition (P-T-X conditions) of the brines that circulated at the base of the Athabasca Basin and in its crystalline basement before, during and after UO2 deposition. These brines are commonly sampled as fluid inclusions in quartz- and dolomite-cementing veins and breccias associated with alteration and U mineralization. Microthermometry and laser ablation-inductively coupled plasma-mass spectrometry (LA-ICP-MS) data from five deposits (Rabbit Lake, P-Patch, Eagle Point, Millennium, and Shea Creek) complement previously published data for the McArthur River deposit. In all of the deposits investigated, fluid inclusion salinity is between 25 and 40 wt.% NaCl equiv., with compositions displaying a continuum between a ``NaCl-rich brine'' end-member (Cl > Na > Ca > Mg > K) and a ``CaCl2-rich brine'' end-member (Cl > Ca a parts per thousand aEuro parts per thousand Mg > Na > K). The CaCl2-rich brine has the highest salinity and shows evidence for halite saturation at the time of trapping. The continuum of compositions between the NaCl-rich brine and the CaCl2-rich brine end-members combined with P-T reconstructions suggest anisothermal mixing of the two brines (NaCl-rich brine, 180 +/- 30 A degrees C and 800 A +/- 400 bars; CaCl2-rich brine, 120 A +/- 30 A degrees C and 600 A +/- 300 bars) that occurred under fluctuating pressure conditions (hydrostatic to supra-hydrostatic). However, because the two brines were U bearing and therefore oxidized, brine mixing was probably not the driving force for UO2 deposition. Several scenarios are put forward to account for the Cl-Na-Ca-Mg-K composition of the brines, involving combinations of seawater evaporation, halite dissolution, mixing with a halite-dissolution brine, Mg/Ca exchange by dolomitization, Na/Ca exchange by albitization of plagioclase, Na/K exchange by albitization of K-feldspar, and Mg loss by Mg-rich alteration. Finally, the metal concentrations in the NaCl-rich and CaCl2-rich brines are among the highest recorded compared to present-day sedimentary formation waters and fluid inclusions from basin-hosted base metal deposits (up to 600 ppm U, 3000 ppm Mn, 4000 ppm Zn, 6000 ppm Cu, 8000 ppm Pb, and 10,000 ppm Fe). The CaCl2-rich brine carries up to one order of magnitude more metal than the NaCl-rich brine. Though the exact origin of major cations and metals of the two brines remains uncertain, their contrasting compositions indicate that the two brines had distinct flow paths and fluid-rock interactions. Large-scale circulation of the brines in the Athabasca Basin and Basement was therefore a key parameter for metal mobility (including U) and formation of unconformity-related U deposits.

Dates and versions

hal-01284128 , version 1 (07-03-2016)



Antonin Richard, Michel Cathelineau, Marie-Christine Boiron, Julien Mercadier, David A. Banks, et al.. Metal-rich fluid inclusions provide new insights into unconformity-related U deposits (Athabasca Basin and Basement, Canada). Mineralium Deposita, 2016, 51 (2), pp.249-270. ⟨10.1007/s00126-015-0601-4⟩. ⟨hal-01284128⟩
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