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General Uranium Exploration Overview
Uranium is a very dense metal, which can be used as an abundant source of concentrated energy. On a scale arranged according to the increasing mass of their nuclei, uranium is the heaviest of all the naturally occurring elements (hydrogen is the lightest).
Uranium has various military and civilian uses. The largest significant commercial usage of uranium is in nuclear power reactors, but it also has usage in the construction industry, medical appliances and medicine, and even agriculture.
The Uranium (U3O8) deposits of Saskatchewan, Canada are arguably the richest in the world. In 2004, Aben began to acquire uranium prospects by staking what it considers to be highly prospective ground within the eastern flank of the Athabasca Basin of northern Saskatchewan.
The Athabasca Basin is an ancient sedimentary basin which hosts the World's most significant uranium mines and produces almost 30% per cent of the current world uranium production of 108 million pounds U3O8. Athabasca uranium deposits also have grades substantially higher than the world average grade of about 0.2% U3O8. The two dozen or so known uranium deposits within the Athabasca Basin have average grades of more than 3.0% U3O8. The two largest deposits, Cigar Lake and McArthur River have average grades of 20% and 24% U3O8 respectively. The near surface uranium mines in the Cluff Lake mine area produced more than 60 million pounds of uranium with gold as a by-product.
The Athabasca Basin is host to unconformity-associated type Uranium deposits. Mineralization occurs at, above or below the unconformity which separates the Proterozoic Athabasca Sandstone Group from the underlying metamorphosed gneissic rock. Uranium mineralization within the Athabasca Basin is primarily hosted by meta-sediments including pelites and calc-silicates and by sandstone of the Athabasca formation. The pelites are commonly graphitic (free carbon) which may have acted as a chemical reductant, fixing uranium from water circulated by large hydrothermal systems. Some Athabasca uranium deposits are associated with faults and these faults may cause displacements of the basal unconformity.
In the eastern portion of the Athabasca Basin (underlain by the basement zone called the Wollaston Domain), there are two types of uranium deposits found - one which has uranium, nickel, cobalt and arsenic (Polymetallic) and a second which is primarily uranium (Monometallic). The Polymetallic deposits have a high grade core which lies just below the unconformity and a lower grade envelope which can extend well up into the Athabasca sediments. The Monometallic deposits lie completely within the basement along faults within graphitic gneiss. The characteristics of the deposition of these deposits provide exploration tools in the search for other deposits - for Polymetallic deposits the presence of the other metals and large alteration zones which can extend to or near the Athabasca surface and for Monometallic deposits the presence of faults and graphite. Typically the alteration increases as the deposit is approached.
The three primary characteristics sought today by explorers in the Athabasca Basin are:
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