Redox front geochemistry and weathering: theory with application to the Osamu Utsumi uranium mine, Poços de Caldas, Brazil

Lichtner, Peter C.; Waber, Niklaus (1992). Redox front geochemistry and weathering: theory with application to the Osamu Utsumi uranium mine, Poços de Caldas, Brazil. Journal of Geochemical Exploration, 45(1-3), pp. 521-564. Elsevier 10.1016/0375-6742(92)90138-X

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Numerical calculations describing weathering of the Poços de Caldas alkaline complex (Minas Gerais, Brazil) by infiltrating groundwater are carried out for time spans up to two million years in the absence of pyrite, and up to 500,000 years with pyrite present. Deposition of uranium resulting from infiltration of oxygenated, uranium bearing groundwater through the hydrothermally altered phonolitic host rock at the Osamu Utsumi uranium mine is also included in the latter calculation. The calculations are based on the quasi-stationary state approximation to mass conservation equations for pure advective transport. This approximation enables the prediction of solute concentrations, mineral abundances and porosity as functions of time and distance over geologic time spans. Mineral reactions are described by kinetic rate laws for both precipitation and dissolution. Homogeneous equilibrium is assumed to be maintained within the aqueous phase. No other constraints are imposed on the calculations other than the initial composition of the unaltered host rock and the composition of the inlet fluid, taken as rainwater modified by percolation through a soil zone. The results are in qualitative agreement with field observations at the Osamu Utsumi uranium mine. They predict a lateritic cover followed by a highly porous saprolitic zone, a zone of oxidized rock with pyrite replaced by iron-hydroxide, a sharp redox front at which uranium is deposited, and the reduced unweathered host rock. Uranium is deposited in a narrow zone located on the reduced side of the redox front in association with pyrite, in agreement with field observations. The calculations predict the formation of a broad dissolution front of primary kaolinite that penetrates deep into the host rock accompanied by the precipitation of secondary illite. Secondary kaolinite occurs in a saprolitic zone near the surface and in the vicinity of the redox front. Gibbsite forms a bi-modal distribution consisting of a maximum near the surface followed by a thin tongue extending downward into the weathered profile in agreement with field observations. The results are found to be insensitive to the kinetic rate constants used to describe mineral reactions.

Item Type:

Journal Article (Original Article)


08 Faculty of Science > Institute of Geological Sciences

UniBE Contributor:

Waber, Niklaus


500 Science > 550 Earth sciences & geology








Niklaus Waber

Date Deposited:

09 Feb 2016 14:28

Last Modified:

09 Feb 2016 14:28

Publisher DOI:



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