Precipitation and alteration of coffinite (USiO4·nH 2O) in the presence of apatite

Artur P. Deditius, Satoshi Utsunomiya, Véronique Pointeau, Rodney C. Ewing

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Abstract

A mineral assemblage of coffinite, USiO4-TiH2O, n= 0-2, carbonate-fluorapatite (CFAp) and (Ca, Sr)-(meta)autunite (MAut) from the Woodrow Mine, Grants uranium region, New Mexico, has been investigated in order to understand the influence of a Prich micro-geochemical environment on precipitation of coffinite and its subsequent alteration under oxidizing conditions. Finegrained coffinite (< 10 μm) precipitated under reducing conditions replacing CFAp, pyrite and aluminosilicates. Electron-microprobe analyses (EMPA) of coffinite indicate limited incorporation of P 2O5 and CaO, <2.7 and <3.0 wt%, respectively, into the coffinite structure during replacement of CFAp. The chemical formula of coffinite is (U0.95±0.09Ca 0.15±0.021.10± 0.1(Si0.84±0.08P 0.06±0.02)<0.90 ± 0.08- Analysis by high-angle annular dark-field scanning transmission electron microscopy (HAADF-STEM) revealed that coffinite initially formed as crystals as large as 100 nm at the edges of altered CFAp. Subsequently, infiltration of (Na, Ba, Sr)-rich oxidizing fluids into fractures resulted in precipitation of Sr-rich M-Aut (up to 4 wt% of SrO) at the expense of coffinite and CFAp. Highresolution TEM reveals that Na-rich fluids caused a distortion of the ideal coffinite structure and stabilized amorphous domains that formed due to alpha-decay event radiation damage. Subsequently, the Na-enriched amorphous areas of coffinite were preferentially altered, and secondary porosity formed at the scale of ∼1 urn. Porosity also was formed during alteration of CFAp to M-Aut, which facilitated the migration of oxidizing fluids over distances of ∼ 150 μm; in to CFAp, as evidenced by precipitation of M-Aut. We report, for the first time, the precipitation of coffinite at the expense of apatite and the subsequent alteration of coffinite under P-rich, oxidizing conditions. These results show that micro-scale dissolution of apatite can create conditions conducive to the precipitation of U(IV)- and U(VT)-minerals, leading to the reduced mobility of U-species under both reducing and oxidizing conditions.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)75-88
Number of pages14
JournalEuropean Journal of Mineralogy
Volume22
Issue number1
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Jan 1 2010

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All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Geochemistry and Petrology

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