A comparative study of detrital zircon ages from river sediment and rocks of the Karoo Supergroup (Late Carboniferous to Jurassic), Eastern Cape Province, South Africa : implications for the tectono-sedimentary evolution of Gondwanaland’s southern continental margin

Doctoral thesis OPEN
(2014)
  • Subject: River sediments - South Africa - Eastern Cape | Sedimentary rocks - South Africa - Eastern Cape | Zircon - South Africa - Eastern Cape | Karoo Supergroup | Gondwana (Continent)

M.Sc. (Geology) The Mzimvubu River, situated in the Eastern Cape Province of South Africa, drains essentially strata of the Late Carboniferous to Jurassic Karoo Supergroup with minor intersection of the underlying Devonian Msikaba Formation near the mouth of the river at Port St. Johns. Rock- and river sediment samples were collected at specific points from within the Mzimvubu River drainage basin, based on changes in the geology through which the rivers flow. Detrital zircon age population data was obtained by LA-ICP-MS for each sample in order to meet the two-fold objective of the study; firstly to investigate the reliability of using detrital zircon grains as indicators of sedimentary provenance and secondly to determine possible source areas for the Karoo strata and underlying Msikaba Formation. Through the comparison of detrital zircon age population data for the rock units of the Karoo Supergroup and Msikaba Formation to that of the river sediment, it is concluded that detrital zircon grains hold value in deciphering the geological history of a sedimentary basin. This interpretation is based on similar distributions and trends that are present in both the zircon age populations of the rock- and sediment samples. However, complexities associated with detrital zircon analysis pertaining to rock type and depositional settings are noted and therefore certain procedures that can be implemented during field sampling have been suggested in this study so as to ensure accurate results are obtained. This will further ensure that reliable interpretations of the geological history of a sedimentary basin are achieved. Additionally, by utilising the detrital zircon population data obtained in the first part of the study in conjunction with published scientific data, the provenance of the Karoo Supergroup in the southeastern part of the Main Karoo Basin has been determined. From this data it was determined that, especially the upper part of the Karoo Supergroup in the Eastern Cape Province of South Africa, was deposited much later than previously thought and that many of the stratigraphic layers in the Karoo Basin were deposited coevally in different parts of the basin with lithostratigraphic boundaries being time-transgressive. Ultimately the data allowed for the construction of a tectono-sedimentary model to explain the deposition of the upper Cape- and Karoo Supergroups that started with the deposition of the Msikaba Formation in a passive continental margin setting, to deposition of the lower part of the Karoo Supergroup in an Andean type of foreland basin, with rifting starting during the times of deposition of the Molteno Formation. The deposition of the Molteno-, Elliot- and Clarens Formations took place as Gondwanaland was breaking apart coeval with the formation of the Karoo Igneous Province.
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