Ught Detrital Minerals At a N'ew Spotlight -ILP. TIIRlVIKJlA.


O!llflartmen1 of GBC!Ogy, U rdver~fl.y, ~r KerB1 B" !<stlsvllfllllm COm.P1JlI ThlrwaJ' lip LJrBm !695 6B1.

Although beginnings of clastic sedimentary petrologic research was no1 biased e[ther toward the g,tudy <of heavy or light minerals, later there was gradual shift I,n the focus to heavy IBut the i'O's and later decades witnessed a r8S!;"Irgehce in the ,study of m~neraJogy of Ugh' detrital 5 I (V~z., quartz, fal'dspaf and rock fragments,) and thel'r Implications In sedimentary petrogenesis including nature of provenanee, transportational modification and sedimentation processes; Later studies of chemica' composition of detrital sedlmerlts and the:lr IUhUled analogues gaJned prominence ElslheS8 had considerable potential I., untavellng the nature of basin as wen as 1he source area. The link batw'sen petrofacies on the one hand and the climate ana nature of prove'II"IQoca on the other was reBm,phas~ed bV Suttner and students and Potter and no ... warkers .. Alongsidel, the detrital modes were applied by Dickinson and asseclates, to the plate tectonic environment.

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Desp.its Krynine's (1935. 1936. i 948) 'pioneering efforts In the appUcalion of 'light detri'taJ mineralogy (lDM) 'like their re,lative abundance and SlJrvivability. .n de.clphering the nature and fQf 'climatBI of pr,Qvenance and hence the genesi's, of clastic sedimentary rot:ksll for a. long while sedlmentclcqlsts had pursued an "unbalanced" approach by oommitting "an extra-emphasis" on the role Qf heavy minerals ,(HM) 011' heavY mlneralsultee (HMS) In the geneHJ,is ,of detrital eed'menls or reeks and In stratigraphic &nalys'ls.

However, by the early 70's, focus sNft,eO to the S'\udy of LDM's of sediments from spacl'nc ellrnattc domalrra, with ,B view to better under-stand the origin of arenites, Ans ers for some of the veKlng' questions rel,ating to the roles of: climate and tectonlc setting on the one hand and composition of tho pare'nt material and hence of primary detritus on thel 'other. haws, baen made much simpler by t.he sustainadefforts of Suttner and ,s1udents of the Indiana Universlrtv.

Another approech in 'the' appl'icatJon of LDM's, centered 'On tile use ot chemical cO'mposiUonal varfabUity of LDM's or the, chernlca! maturity I in th~ study of arenites on thai one hand and o;f cllmate or tectonics on the other. PetUjohn and Potter through some seminar papers, In the Journal of GeologYi further clarified some of the pclnts for rurtheranco of active research In various parts of the world. In thl,s paper, app'lication or the commonest light minerals like quartz, raJdspar and rock fragments, (,also k,nown as the frame work minerataQV· or detrital modes] expressed 88 C:F:R. In the stud V o,f provenence of arenites is reviewed.



Petrographers have been cl'asify'ng components of detrital sedimentary rocks viz .• arenites. Into frame, work grains, matrix and cement, Most of the time. the light" detrita.l minerals which cOnstitute the frame work grains of the rock are derived from the process of weathering of most ubiquitous primary rocks, like plutonic Igneous rocks, quartzo·feldspa1nlc gneisses or schlste, granites. basans Of sedimentary rocks themselves. The detrrtus derlve~ from sedimentary rocks are deslgna.ted wi1h prefix multi .. , cycHc or pClly-c.yc"c or racy'clad.

The types of weathering', vlz., physical and chemical. and the extent or duration of weathBrlng~ source rocks and physlo,gra'phy of the site Jargely dictate the natura of primary detritus suppUed to the I'ower order streams. Mare ever, th,e composition or this detritus 151 contn;,r~ed by the nature of the parent rock and is generally dornl nated by the fOl1owi'ng cQ,ns11ttJsms.


Quartz is the most Important and durable detti1a1 constituent, of sedimentary roIFol't.!'S'n avarag~ng 6.5% In sandstone, 30% In shale and 5% ln carbonate rocks (B!att et al., "972) 'n fact" Henry Clifton Sorby (18771 1880 quoted in Blatt at a1.1972) suggested docUmenta1~cn of the characteristics of mineral constituents of pri'mary rocks in order 10 understand the provenance of the sedimentary rocks In general. Further. the primary detritus derived form the parent material must also- be made the subject of study. BI,aH (1967) undertook a plonee,r,ing study of quartz derived from gruss from the desert areas of western Untted Stats's.


Among the feldspars. potash fetdspsrs are mucH mora stable than the plagiocJases In the wea1he'rlng environment. The prllmary detritus resultl'19 from ehernleal weathering dOB'S not result In the' CClmp~9te destruction of potash feldspar. Further. weathering of feldspar takes place In the sediment Its 011 as weH as during transport by the process of breaking Into smaner sizes. With I'onger residence 1~me. the mare intense is the destruction af fefdspar.


Rock fragments are those frame work 'grains having one or more mlneral phases. and hence may be pcly-m~neraliC' 01 monomineralj.c. It Is very common to notice such gra.ins in the sediments. Their abundance is a function of the degree of weathering as we~1 as the sxtent of transport the de'tritus has been through,

Beau (1916) carried ,oul a study of first eycle detritus of granitic plutons under humid (Appalachian mountains) and arid (Rocky mountains) climatic conditions. He lJa.d recognized composltionmlrends that depended on composlncn In respect of the four components v~z .• polv .. mlnaraUc rock fragments I monomlnerallc roctt

45 -

fragments, mene-rnlnerallc reslstates and mcnornlnerallc lablles in the samples. which can be summarlsed asc-

,8. Bock fragmenis (R), domilrlatedf all size frae1ions of the s,edtment In add climate' tha.n in humid climate

b. In both clUmates. the content of R decreased with decrease In sediment slze, Yet the rate af decrease was much sharp In arld climate.

c. Feldspars increased wUh decre:aslnggraJn size In both climates but the qLlartzifeldspar ratio is 11.0 In humid and ~n arid ellrnate, BaslJ tnferred tha.I the detrital medes of sana normally re'lected the climate of 1he source area,

Baau (1'976) depicted the results af modal a"BI~yslls in "series of trJ-angu~ar ,d,lag,r,ams, and arQued tha.t the model given abovB can be used te check the patt;!o-clinnale lof formation of ancient sandstones deposited near the source area.

James at 80"1(1981) looked Into the relatlveSfability of mllcrocilne and S'odic pla~tocla'Se under hum,id and arid climates. However, as 1he same weetherirrg products 'can res,ult< from the diagenetic alteraUcm of plI'e~existlrmg mlnerals, too difference in composition of alteratlon products of fe~d5Ip,ar under sub-aerial 'weathering concti'tlons is net a lreBable criterion 91 past cJi,mQta. IdeaUy. weathering of feldspar ln humid climate fav,oLlrs ptodueti:on of kaolinite and arid climate favours smectiite c1a-y.


In 1,Q42, Krynine had lnterpreted the detrlt~l mineralogy in 'srrns o·f 1he gaos,ynG1inal cycle. The detr~tal mineralogy In tum is controlled by the' nature, of th~ source rockst rata of upUH olf the source area and the rate of 'subsldBinc~ of the basin of depcslt~on. ~n a later con1rlbuUon, Middleton (1'960)1 also endea,vorea to achieve the similar '1.081& by mak'ng US'9 of the chernlcal compo.mon of sandstones.

Dickinson (1970). Schwab (1975) and Crook (1974) take the crad'it for some of the 8arl')f attempts in felatlng Oomposltlon of sandstones or pe'lrofacles ana'lysls 1c plate 'tectonics. Tabl,e~1 shows the' nine prevenances Idenilliad on the basis of taotonlc setting with the hel'p of 4 different. ternary plots. vlz., DOFl. QmFLt" QpLvL.s and dQmPK~ of detritus orig'inating form thE! various provenances.

11 h~s also been aemom;;,trBtJld that. sandstone compoSlrijon is a function of trans,porl (Suttnef1 1974; Franz~nem and Potter. 19'93) I deposiiional environment (Davies and 'Ethridge. 1975) and by paleo-climate {Basu1 1978; Suttner et al., 1 ;,81),. Therefore, pe'trofacles analysis of ancient sandstones may help Illuminate thai teetonic 5etti'ng of ancient detrital sequences. Occurrence or oiherwise ·of certain minerals may also signai the changes in fhe tectonic affribLrte of the source BrOBj like upUft and 'erosion erF on lire pluton1lc suite or ophiolite assembhage.


In a recent paper. Suttner (Hi'n~9) posed some ~mpcr1BnI chaUenges facing the studenits of detrital sedIments. F,ar Bxample~ attempts ought 10 be made to assess the duration or resldance time of 'grains iln weathering envrronment Secondly we nave to the sunlivabHHy of grains during transport. Another

related 'luesUon Is ,tna role of pedogenels I'n thB modification of grains. The

signature of temporary 'storage gf sediment in channels and valleys should be sorted out from those of permanent storage k1 the basin. Another ares needing ,cl9reNI work re~Q.t8s tattle extent or d~agene:tic IModlflcatlon of orlg~nal fr8Jm8 Work mineralogy.

SI:gnaturBs, useful in the estmatlon lot rates of tectcnlc prQeQs8eB~ Uke uplift, subsidence and denudation 11'1 the ICUrel! ares ate. are In 1he 8IJdJmsnt recDrd. Issues like' how far back tn the 'geolog~c put did the atandstones occur and If so did the bound,ry ,condUiona between now and then differed'to any degree needs to b~ understoQd. In facti for students of d81r1fa~ reeks, there fs bound 10 bel a continuati'on of excltemenl in future alsa,


An.alysls of the detrital modes or Ipercenta:ge abundance of quartz (Q), f,eldspars; (FJ and rock fragments (A) In sediments as wen as sed~mBntary rocks has proved ime,ff as a powerfut teel In the description of provenance .. its geography, climate and teetonles (Oh::ldnson. 1970; Dlck~nson at at. 198B),. from a plot the detrital modes (i.e.~ percentage contents of quartz, (Q). re'ldspars (F) and rock' fragme:nts (R) In a 1'liiangular diagram (the QFR ·diagram). lit, should be' 'possible to, cla,sslfy arenites Into Its '¥arietie.5 (Dk:k1,n-son. 1'970). Suttnar andl Outta (1986) used the phr'Qse cQmpasltlonaJ maturity synonymous wUh Q: F:R perctintage.


I thank Drs.LJ. Buttner arid A. Sou (Indlana Unlversityr U.S.A.) for promptly afteri'n" assi'slance on our work related tofhls theme • .Dr.V.Rajzm.anl:t::kam (Tamil Uni,ver,sUy I ThanJavur) ler extendl,ng an Invlts'Ucn to wrrte this artlele and Dr.Anlrudhan. S. (Unh/. of Kerals;. Karlavettom) for many hours, Df brain storming.

Table 1. The types, of p:rovenancssand tectonic settings (Dickinson ,and Suzeck~ 197'9).

a. Continental

b. MaQmB.t~c arc

Crstonlc: Interllor; transitional; uplifted basement. DI!l:U58cted; trBnsiUona~; un~d~~ec1ed

c, Recycled orogen Subducted complex; camelo" orogen; foreland uplift,



Basu, A119'76~ Petrology of Holocene fluvla' sand derived from p'lutoni,c source rocks; ~mpllc ation to paleoclimate int8'rp retat ion: JoU! Sed. Petr,ology. 48" 694 .. 709.

B~att, H" 1967, Orj'grnal charaGts'rlstlcs of clastic quartz gr8.ins~ Jour. Sed.

Petro,1ogy. 31,401 .. '424.

Crook. A.W .• 1Q'14, Aulhigel1f#sis and Geotectonics: significance of compositional. varfatlon ~n ti,ysch arenites: In Dott. A.H" sedimentation. BEPM Spll. Pub. No· .• 19 . . 3Q4 .. 31Q.

'Davies. D.K., and Ethridge, F.G., 1975. S,andstone composition and deposHJooal environment Am. Assoc. Petrolleum Geologists Bun., 63, 21,84 - 2182"

D~ckl,nsQn, W.R •• 19'70~ Jnterpreting detrital modes Qf Q'ra:ywBcke and arkosB': ,Jour. Sed. Petrology. 40, 697·707.

Diek:inson. W. A., and Suzcek, C.A.., 1979. PI,am tectonics and sandstone oomposi:th:m: Ammer. A.ssQC, Petroleum Geologists Bun., 63.2-31.

lDicktnson~ W. R.I 19a5. Interpreting prcvenancB relations from detrital mod as of saridstQnes~ in,Zuffa. G.G.(ed.). Provenance of arenites: 333",361.

Franzlnelli, E,.~ and PaHer, P.E., 1983, P:etrology, chemistry and texture of modem river sands: The Amazon river system: Jour. Geology. 911~ 23-39.

James~ W.O.} Mack, a.H. and Suttner, L.J., 1981 t Relative alternaUon or mlcrocUna and sodle p'ag'oclase ~nsem~-a.rid and humid ellrnatas: J'Qur. Sed.

Pe1rotogy,. 3611 115-125,

Krynlne, P.O .• 1936, Arkose depo,slts In thel num~d troplos: a study ,o·r

. ,sedimentation in southern Mexico: Am. Jour. Sci.~ 5th san.e6, 29, 35f3 M 363.

Krynlne" p" D., 1936j, Geomorphology andsedtmentatlon, In the humId tropics:

Amolr. Jour. S.d'J 32, 297 .. 305. ' '

Kryninel P.D'n 194;8, The megascopic study and classlfWcation of sedimentary rocks: Jour. Geo~., 56,1 '3- -1165.

M[ddle,ton, G.V.; 1960, Chemical composition of sand 51 ones; Geol. Soc. Amer.

Bull., 71;1 1011 - 1028. .

SchWab. F,L,. 1'975, Framework mlneraloQV and chemical composUlon of continental !margin type eandstQne9,~ Gsa,logy. 3. 4487", 490,


SuMner! LJ.] 1'914, Sedim,entafy petrographic provlnces:An evaluation: Soc ..

Econ. Paleon.t0Iogis1iS and Mlneratogists, 'Spec. Pub., 21, 75-84.

Suttner~ L.J'I' Basu. A'J and Mack, G,.M., 1981, i Climate and origin of quartz arenites: ,Jour. ,Sed. PetrolQ9Y, 5' 112,35 - 1246.

Suttner'. L,J., and Dutta, P"K.i 1986" Afluvlat. sandstone composJtlon and

. Ral'Bcclimate; Frame work mineralogy: Jour. Sed, Petrmogy, 56, 329·345.

Suttner. LJ'i' 1999, Recent advances In the s1udles of detrital mine,raJoQ'Y 'of sand and aandst0r18S: Jeur. Geol. Edrl" 37,235 - 240.

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