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Petrography and provenance of the Early Permian Fluvial Warchha Sandstone, Salt Range, Pakistan

Ghazi, Shahid, Mountney, Nigel P.
Sedimentary geology 2011 v.233 no.1-4 pp. 88-110
X-ray diffraction, cement, clay, climatic factors, gneiss, humid zones, illite, iron oxides, kaolinite, plagioclase, provenance, quartz, sandstone, scanning electron microscopy, smectite, weathering, Pakistan
The Warchha Sandstone of the Salt Range of Pakistan is a continental succession that accumulated as part of a meandering, fluvial system during Early Permian times. Several fining-upward depositional cycles are developed, each of which is composed of conglomerate, cross-bedded sandstone and, in their upper parts, bioturbated siltstone and claystone units with distinctive desiccation cracks and carbonate concretions. Clast lithologies are mainly of plutonic and low-grade metamorphic origin, with an additional minor sedimentary component. Textural properties of the sandstone are fine- to coarse-grained, poorly to moderately sorted, sub-angular to sub-rounded, and with generally loose packing. Based on modal analyses, the sandstone is dominantly a feldspathoquartzose (arkose to sub-arkose). Detrital constituents are mainly composed of monocrystalline quartz, feldspars (more K-feldspar than plagioclase) and various types of lithic clasts. XRD and SEM studies indicate that kaolinite is the dominant clay mineral and that it occurs as both allogenic and authigenic forms. However, illite, illite-smectite mixed layer, smectite and chlorite are also recognised in both pores and fractures. Much of the kaolinite was likely derived by the severe chemical weathering of previously deposited basement rocks under the influence of a hot and humid climate. Transported residual clays deposited as part of the matrix of the Warchha Sandstone show coherent links with the sandstone petrofacies, thereby indicating the same likely origin. Illite, smectite and chlorite mainly occur as detrital minerals and as alteration products of weathered acidic igneous and metamorphic rocks. Based primarily on fabric relationship, the sequence of cement formation in the Warchha Sandstone is clay (generally kaolinite), iron oxide, calcareous and siliceous material, before iron-rich illite and occasional mixed layer smectite–illite and rare chlorite. Both petrographic analysis and field characteristics of the sandstone indicate that the source areas were characterised by uplift of a moderate to high relief continental block that was weathered under the influence of hot and humid climatic conditions. The rocks weathered from the source areas included primary granites and gneisses, together with metamorphic basement rocks and minor amounts of sedimentary rocks. Regional palaeogeographic reconstructions indicate that much of the Warchha Sandstone detritus was derived from the Aravalli and Malani ranges and surrounding areas of the Indian Craton to the south and southeast, before being transported to and deposited within the Salt Range region under the influence of a semi-arid to arid climatic regime.