Facies relationships and cyclicity of high-latitude, Late Permian coal measures, Bowen Basin, Australia

Michaelsen, Per, and Henderson, Robert A. (2000) Facies relationships and cyclicity of high-latitude, Late Permian coal measures, Bowen Basin, Australia. International Journal of Coal Geology, 44 (1). pp. 19-48.

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Abstract

The Late Permian Moranbah Coal Measures are developed throughout the northern and central Bowen Basin, eastern Australia, and are subject to large-scale opencut coal mining activity. They were deposited in a rapidly subsiding retroarc foreland basin, during frequent base-level changes. Contemporaneous compressive deformation and volcanism facilitated the supply of abundant volcanoclastic sediments, resulting in rapid, but punctuated, basinal aggradation. To the south and east, transgressive–regressive cycles were marked by the inter-digitation of paralic–shallow marine and alluvial strata. Lonestones (dropstones) are common within the marine deposits and are attributed to ice-rafting indicative of a cold-climate depositional regime. Two basin-wide chronostratigraphic units, the P-tuff bed and the Harrow Creek superseam, have been used to evaluate the facies architecture of the stratigraphic interval they enclose. The lithofacies mosaic of the 25–75 m thick sequence has been examined by means of 26 widely distributed coreholes and two detailed district-scale studies based around the Moranbah–Goonyella and German Creek minesites. Eight alluvial–shallow marine facies associations have been recognised. Their architectural and temporal relationships allow the accurate reconstruction of the coal-bearing depositional system. Two dissimilar, stacked, depositional systems tracts, A (organics) and B (clastics) are recognised. The P-tuff bed is enclosed by facies of tract A, forming a thick, low-ash, coal-bearing interval which was emplaced essentially synchronously across the basin. It represents a time of clastic sediment starvation when basin-wide peat mire accumulation prevailed. Four similar extensive coal-bearing intervals within the Moranbah Coal Measures are also considered to represent basin-wide episodes of peat accumulation. This pattern is in strong contrast to traditional views of coal measure development, which argue that coals formed within a contemporary facies mosaic, in which fluvial channels, levees and crevasse splays were also represented. The second depositional systems tract (B) is characterised by clastic packages, dominated by large-scale (up to 4 km wide and 50 m thick), sandstone bodies deposited by low sinuosity trunk river systems, flanked by substantial crevasse splay deposits (up to 3 km wide and 30 m thick). It represents the product of catastrophic flooding events. The cyclothemic succession of systems tracts A and B is interpreted in terms of eustatic sealevel cycles. The tract A coal-bearing intervals represent relative sealevel lowstands. Systems tract B represents relative sea level highstand with its lower interval at German Creek to the south consisting of paralic and marine facies. The cycles had durations in the order of 400 to 600 ky and are considered to represent 4th order sealevel cycles of the Permian Period.

Item ID: 12887
Item Type: Article (Refereed Research - C1)
ISSN: 1872-7840
Date Deposited: 18 Jul 2012 23:39
FoR Codes: 04 EARTH SCIENCES > 0403 Geology > 040310 Sedimentology @ 100%
SEO Codes: 85 ENERGY > 8501 Energy Exploration > 850101 Coal Exploration @ 100%
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