Basin inversion and structural architecture as constraints on fluid flow and Pb–Zn mineralization in the Paleo–Mesoproterozoic sedimentary sequences of northern Australia

Gibson, George M.; Edwards, Sally

As host to several world-class sediment-hosted Pb–Zn deposits and unknown quantities of conventional and unconventional gas, the variably inverted 1730–1640 Ma Calvert and 1640–1575 Ma Isa superbasins of northern Australia have been the subject of numerous seismic reflection studies with a view to better understanding basin architecture and fluid migration pathways. These studies reveal a structural architecture common to inverted sedimentary basins the world over, including much younger examples known to be prospective for oil and gas in the North Sea and elsewhere, with which they might be usefully compared. Such comparisons lend themselves to suggestions that the mineral and petroleum systems in Paleo–Mesoproterozoic northern Australia may have spatially, if not temporally overlapped and shared a common tectonic driver, consistent with the observation that basinal sequences hosting Pb–Zn mineralization in northern Australia are bituminous or abnormally enriched in hydrocarbons. Sediment-hosted Pb–Zn mineralization coeval with basin inversion first occurred during the 1650–1640 Ma Riversleigh Tectonic Event towards the close of the Calvert Superbasin with further pulses taking place during and subsequent to the onset of the 1620–1580 Ma Isa Orogeny and final closure of the Isa Superbasin. Mineralization is typically hosted by the post-rift or syn-inversion fraction of basin fill, contrary to existing interpretations of Pb–Zn ore genesis where the ore-forming fluids are introduced during the rifting or syn-extensional phase of basin development. Mineralizing fluids were instead expelled upwards during times of crustal shortening into structural and/or chemical traps developing in the hangingwalls of inverted normal faults. Inverted normal faults predominantly strike NNW and ENE, giving rise to a complex architecture of compartmentalized sub-basins whose individual uplifted basement blocks and doubly plunging periclinal folds exerted a strong control not only on the distribution and preservation of potential trap rocks but the direction of fluid flow, culminating in the co-location and trapping of mineralizing and hydrocarbon fluids in the same carbonaceous rocks. An important case study is the 1575 Ma Century Pb–Zn deposit where the carbonaceous host rocks served as both a reductant and basin seal during the influx of more oxidized mineralizing fluids, forcing the latter to give up their Pb and Zn metal. A transpressive tectonic regime in which basin inversion and mineralization were paired to folding, uplift, and erosion during arc–continent or continent–continent collision, and accompanied by orogen-parallel extensional collapse and strike-slip faulting best accounts for the observed relationships.



Gibson, George M. / Edwards, Sally: Basin inversion and structural architecture as constraints on fluid flow and Pb–Zn mineralization in the Paleo–Mesoproterozoic sedimentary sequences of northern Australia. 2020. Copernicus Publications.


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