Hyperspectral (VNIR-SWIR) analysis of roll front uranium host rocks and industrial minerals from Karnes and Live Oak Counties, Texas Coastal Plain

Journal of Geochemical Exploration
By: , and 



VNIR-SWIR (400–2500 nm) reflectance measurements were made on the surfaces of various cores, cuttings and sample splits of sedimentary rocks from the Tertiary Jackson Group, and Catahoula, Oakville and Goliad Formations. These rocks vary in composition and texture from mudstone and claystone to sandstone and are known host rocks for roll front uranium occurrences in Karnes and Live Oak Counties, Texas. Spectral reflectance profiles, 569 in total, were reduced to 125 representative spectral signatures, which were analyzed using the U.S. Geological Survey's (USGS) Material Identification and Characterization Algorithm (MICA). MICA uses an automated continuum-removal procedure together with a least-squares linear regression to determine the fit of observed sample spectral absorption features to those of reference mineral standards in a spectral library. The reference minerals include various clay, mica, carbonate, ferric and ferrous iron minerals and their mixtures. In addition, absorption feature band-depth analysis was done to identify rock surfaces exhibiting absorption features related to uranium and zeolite minerals, which were not included in the command files used to execute MICA.

Rocks from each of the four geologic units produced broadly similar spectral signatures as a result of comparable mineral compositions, but there were some notable differences. For example, Ca- and Na-montmorillonite was matched most frequently to the spectral absorption features in 2-μm (∼2000–2500 nm) wavelengths, while goethite occurred often at 1-μm (∼400–1000 nm) wavelengths. The latter is related to limonitic iron-staining in and around oxidized zones of the uranium roll front as described in previous papers. Rocks of the Jackson Group differed from those of the Catahoula, Oakville and Goliad units in that the former exhibited spectral features we interpret as being due to the presence of lignite-bearing mudstone layers. Goliad rocks exhibit spectral features related to dolomite, gypsum, anhydrite, and an unidentified green clay mineral that is possibly glauconite. Jackson Group rocks also exhibit weak but well-resolved absorption features at 964 and 1157 nm related to either or both zeolite minerals clinoptilolite and heulandite. These zeolite minerals and a few spectra exhibiting hydrous silica absorption features are indicative of alteration of volcanic glass in tuffaceous mudstone and claystone layers. A few sample spectra exhibited strong absorption features at around 1135 nm related to the uranium mineral coffinite. Both the 1135 nm coffinite and 1157 nm zeolite absorption features overlap somewhat, potentially making them difficult to distinguish without additional hyperspectral field, laboratory or remote sensing data.

The results of this study were compared to mixtures of minerals described for ore, gangue and alteration minerals in deposit models for sandstone-hosted uranium, sedimentary bentonite and sedimentary zeolite. Use of these spectra can help facilitate mapping of both waste materials from the legacy mining of the above commodities, as well as future exploration and resource assessment activities.

Study Area

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Hyperspectral (VNIR-SWIR) analysis of roll front uranium host rocks and industrial minerals from Karnes and Live Oak Counties, Texas Coastal Plain
Series title Journal of Geochemical Exploration
DOI 10.1016/j.gexplo.2023.107370
Volume 257
Year Published 2024
Language English
Publisher Elsever
Contributing office(s) Central Mineral and Environmental Resources Science Center, Eastern Energy Resources Science Center, Eastern Mineral and Environmental Resources Science Center, Texas Water Science Center, Geology, Energy & Minerals Science Center
Description 107370, 20 p.
Country United States
State Texas
County Karnes County, Live Oak County
Google Analytic Metrics Metrics page
Additional publication details