Sequence stratigraphic analysis and the origins of Tertiary brown coal lithotypes, Latrobe Valley, Gippsland Basin, Australia

G. R. Holdgate, A. P. Kershaw, I. R.K. Sluiter

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    The methods of sequence analysis have been applied to the onshore Gippsland Basin and in particular to the Latrobe Valley Group coal measures which include up to five coal seams each exceeding 100 m in thickness. The methods appear to provide new depositional concepts to the evolution of these seams, and the development of coal lithotypes. In the eastern half of the Latrobe Valley evidence for marine transgressions into the coal measures are recorded in most of the interseam sediment splits by the presence of contained foraminifera and dinoflagellates. To the west (inland) these splits pinch out into continuous coal. However, they can be followed westwards as enhanced organic sulphur levels along sharply defined boundaries between light coal lithotypes below and dark coal lithotypes above. The dark lithotype immediately overlying each of these boundaries contains the highest sulphur value and warmer climate pollen assemblages (Sluiter et al., 1995, this volume). Colorimeter and lithotype logging strongly supports an upwards lightening cyclicity to coal colour at 12-20 m intervals through the approx. 100 m thick seams, with cycle boundaries defined at sharp planar to undulating surfaces. The lightening upward lithotype cycles together with their unique boundary conditions (i.e. enhanced organic sulphur levels, warm climatic indicators and laterally equivalent marine clay splits) are interpreted as parasequences and parasequence boundaries respectively. Each major coal seam can comprise up to five parasequences and is interpreted to represent deposition during an outbuilding high stand systems tract at one of several maximum periods of Tertiary coastal onlap. The top of each major seam shows evidence of truncation (erosion?) on a regional scale and these surfaces are interpreted to represent the sequence boundaries. The major seams are usually conformably underlain by marine clays and extensive aquifer sands, being deposits of the late transgressive systems tracts. The low stands and early parts of the transgressive systems tracts appear not to be represented in the Latrobe Valley due to its (more) basin margin location, but are probably present down-dip in the equivalent marine facies of the Seaspray Group. Stratigraphic correlation of the sequence boundaries identified in the coal measures to the adjacent, internationally dated marine Seaspray Group, provides a basis for chronostratigraphic correlation of the coal successions to the coastal onlap charts of Haq et al. (Exon Mesozoic-Cenozoic chronostratigraphic chart, version January 1988, and August 1989). From this dating it appears that each major seam is confined to high stands of third order eustatic cycles. It therefore follows that the lithotype cycles (parasequences) that comprise each seam are related to fourth order eustatic cycles. By analogy all the coal cycles may have developed under subtropical conditions as ombrogenous forested peat swamps in a similar manner to the Holocene, though tropical, swamps of Indonesia.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)249-275
    Number of pages27
    JournalInternational Journal of Coal Geology
    Issue number2-4
    Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 1995

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