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Gondwana Research, L? 6, No. I , p p .

02003 International Association for Gondwana Research, Japan.
ISSN: 1342-937X


An Evaluation of Plate Tectonic Models for the Development of

A.J. Barber1 and M.J. Crow2
Southeast Asian Research Group, Department of Geology, Royal Holloway, University of London, Egkam, Surrey,
Formerly British Geological Survey, Keyworth, Nottingkam NG12 5GG, UK
Present address:28A Lenton Road, The Park, Nottingkam NC7 ZDT, UK

(Manuscript received March 3,2002; accepted July 5,2002)

Over the past two decades models have been developed which suggest that the Asian continent has been formed
since the Late Palaeozoicby the accretion of continental blocks derived from the northern margin of Gondwana. Sumatra,
forming the southwestern margin of the Southeast Asian promontory (Sundaland), is considered to be composed of
fragments of continental plates and magmatic arcs which were derived from Gondwana during the Late Palaeozoic and
Mesozoic. The Indochina Block forms the core of Sundaland, extending into the eastern part of the Malay Peninsula. The
greater part of Sumatra is considered to form part of the Sibumasu Block which accreted to the Indochina Block along
the Bentong-Raub Suture in the Triassic. A model has been proposed in which the southern part of the Sibumasu Block
in the western part of the Malay Peninsula, and Sumatra, is divided into Malacca and Mergui Microplates by the Mutus
Assemblage which represents another Triassic suture. A review of the Permo-Triassic stratigraphy of Malaya and Sumatra
provides no support for this model.
Comparison of the Permo-Carboniferous stratigraphy and palaeontology of northern Sumatra with that of the Malay
Peninsula and Peninsular Thailand, and in particular the occurrence of tilloids, links Sumatra fimdy to the rest of the
Sibumasu Block to the north. Comparison with the Permo-carboniferousstratigraphyof Bonaparte Gulf region of northwest
Australia shows a mirror image relationship,suggestingthat the Sibumasu Block separated from thispart of the Gondwanan
margin in the mid-Permian. On the other hand Permo-Carboniferous rocks in Central Sumatra contain a Cathaysian
fauna and flora, which relates this area to the Indochina Block rather than to Sibumasu. This anomaly was recognised
early in the study of the geology of Sumatra and led to the proposal of the Djambi Nappe, thrust over Sumatra from the
east. The Cathaysian fauna and flora is associated with an Early Permian Volcanic arc. It has been suggested that this was
an independent island arc accreted to the western margin of Sibumasu, but from the relationships of the volcanic rocks
to Permian sediments and the underlying basement, it is most probable that this arc was developed on the margin of
the Cathaysian Block and was emplaced in its present position outboard of Sibumasu by strike-slip faulting. The most
recently accreted pre-Tertiary tectonic unit on Sumatra is the Woyla Group, a Jurassic-Early Cretaceous oceanic
volcanic arc which, together with its associated accretionary complex of oceanic crustal material, was thrust over the
western margin of Sumatra in the mid-Cretaceous. Earlier plate models for the development of Sumatra are reviewed,
and a revised model is proposed. However there are still many difficulties in interpreting the stratigraphy and the
tectonic development of Sumatra which will require further detailed study, aimed at resolving the many outstanding

Key words: Gondwana, Sibumasu, Permo-Carboniferous, Permo-Triassic, Cretaceous.

Geological mapping of Sumatra by the Indonesian
Directorate of Mineral Resources and the Geological
Research and Development Centre (GRDC), Bandung, in
collaboration with the United States Geological Survey
(USGS) and the British Geological Survey (BGS),
culminated in the publication of a set of 1:250,000

Geological Map Sheets covering the whole of Sumatra.

This mapping is at a reconnaissance level only, and
requires detailed follow-up studies of critical areas. The
availability of a tremendous wealth of new data provided
by the mapping programme, supplemented by the followup palaeontological studies by Father Henri Fontaine and
his colleagues (Fontaine and Gafoer, 1989)has stimulated


Stratigraphy of Sumatra

a re-assessment of the stratigraphy, structure and tectonic

evolution of the island of Sumatra. As the results of the
new survey accumulated they were placed in the context
of the developing plate tectonic synthesis for the origin
of Southeast Asia, as a collage of terranes separated
from the northern margin of eastern Gondwana and
accreted to the southern margin of Asia during the
Palaeozoic and Mesozoic (see Metcalfe, 1996 and
references therein).
The purpose of this communication is to examine the
basic geological data from Sumatra, in order to distinguish
factual data from interpretation, and to direct attention
to those problems which should be the focus of future



Pre-Tertiarybasement rocks in Sumatra outcrop mainly

along the central spine of the Barisan Mountains, which
extend along the length of the island parallel to the southwest
coast (Fig. 1).To the northeast and southwest the basement
is overlain by Tertiary sedimentary and volcanic rocks, and
withinthe Barism, by the products of Quatemaryvolcanicity.
Rock units of all ages are transected by the currently active
Sumatran Fault System which follows the NW-SE trend
of the Barisans along the whole length of the island.
As a result of the Integrated Geological Survey of
northern Sumatra (Cameron et al., 1980) a general
stratigraphic scheme was developed which has been used








Fig. 1. Simplified geological map of Sumatra. Inset: the position of Sumatra in Southeast Asia.

Gondwana Research, V. 6, No. 1,2003


continental crystalline basement at depth, as the chemistry

of plutonic intrusions and extrusions, including
ignimbrites, indicates that magma sources lay within a
continental margin (McCourt et al., 1996) and the
occurrence of tin-bearing granite plutons is generally
regarded as indicating their derivation from an underlying
continental basement. No outcrops of Lower Palaeozoic
rocks have so far been identified in Sumatra. The
occurrence of a thick sequence of Lower Palaeozoic rocks
in the Langkawi Islands only a few hundred kilometers to
the north, suggests that rocks of this age may yet be
discovered. The oldest rocks in Sumatra were found in
boreholes in the Malacca Strait where sediments yielded
palynomorphs indicating an age near the CarboniferousDevonian boundary (Koning and Darmono, 1984).

on the 1:250,000 Geological Quadrangle Sheets of the

region (Fig. 2). Pre-Tertiary rocks in northern Sumatra
were classified into three major geological units: the
Carboniferous-Early Permian Tapanuli Group, the PermoTriassic Peusangan Group and the Jurassic-Cretaceous
Woyla Group. At the same time a mapping programme
was carried out by GRDC in the southern part of Sumatra
(Gafoer and Purbo-Hadiwidjoyo, 1986) and the three-fold
classification was extended to central and southern
Sumatra (McCourt et al., 1993).
It has been suggested that some of the occurrences of
high-grade metamorphic rocks in Sumatra represent a
Precambrian metamorphic basement, but there is as yet
no isotopic evidence to support this suggestion. There is
little doubt, however, that Sumatra is underlain by a


Sediments and Volcanics


Volcanics -Bentaro
Reef limestones - Lamno
Serpentinites, pillow lavas:
cherts, greywackes Geumpang, Lam Minet
Sandstones and shales,
cherts - Kualu, Tuhur
Limestones - Situtup,
Volcanics, sandstones,
limestones, shales - Palepat,
Silungkang , Mengkarang

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - I



Tillites - Bohorok, Mentuli

Limestones - Alas, Kuantai

Sandstones and shales Kluet, Kuantan
? in boreholes - - - - - - - -



Intrusive tin granites imply
an underlying continental

Fig. 2. Pre-Tertiary stratigraphic units in Sumatra as given by Cameron et al. (1980) and on GRDC Map Sheets.

Gondwana Research, V. 6, No. 1,2003


Northern Sumatra
Tapanuli Group
In northern Sumatra the area to the northeast of the
Sumatran Fault is underlain by the Tapanuli Group. From
northeast to southwest, outcrops of this group have
been classified as the Bohorok, Alas and Kluet Formations
(Fig. 3).
The Bohorok Formation to the northeast near Medan
is composed mainly of sandstones and shales, but also
contains pebbly mudstones, poorly-sorted breccioconglomerates, composed of subangular to rounded clasts
of a variety of rock types, scattered in a fine grained clay
or silt matrix. The pebbly mudstones have been
interpreted, by comparison with the similar deposits of
the Singa Formation in the Langkawi Islands, offshore
West Malaya, as diamictites of glacio-marine origin. No
macrofossils which could be used to determine the age
have yet been found in the Bohorok Formation, although

an Early to Middle Carboniferous microflora has been

reported from a borehole along the Malacca Strait in the
eastern part of Sumatra which bottomed in this formation
(Koning and Darmono, 1984).
The Alas Formation is composed characteristically of
massive limestones, locally oolitic and current-bedded.
The limestones are interbedded with sandstones and
shales, indistinguishable from those of the Bohorok
Formation. The limestones have yielded corals,
brachiopods and conodonts of Lower Carboniferous,
Vis6an age (FoGaine and Gafoer, 1989; Metcalfe, 1983).
As mapped, the Alas Formation also includes high-grade
metamorphic rocks. These have been attributed to the
effects of contact metamorphism of the sediments
(Cameron et al., 1980), but some of the metamorphic
rocks are garnetiferous and could have resulted from
regional metamorphism. The association of
unmetamorphosed fossiliferous limestones adjacent to
high-grade metamorphic rocks suggests that there may

Fig. 3. Dismbution of Pre-Tertiary stratigraphic units in northern Sumatra (based on GRDC Map Sheets).

Gondwana Research, V. 6, No. 1,2003


be an unconformity between the limestones and a

metamorphic basement within the area mapped as Alas
The Kluet Formation is composed of alternating quartzwackes, siltstones, shales and some limestones. The shales
are largely converted to slates, but on the west coast near
Tapaktuan again higher grade metamorphic rocks occur
within the area mapped as Kluet Formation (Cameron et
al., 1982) (Fig. 3). No age-diagnostic fossils have yet been
recovered from this formation. Low-grade metabasic rocks,
some with phenocrysts, are recorded from both the Alas
and Kluet Formations (Cameron et al., 1982).
Because of poor exposure, scattered outcrops and the
presence of large numbers of faults which disrupt the
sequence, it has not yet proved possible to determine the
stratigraphic relationships of the three formations which
make up the Tapanuli Group. As has been pointed out
above, the Alas Formation of Visean age is the only unit
for which there is direct fossil evidence of age. The
Bohorok and Kluet Formations have also been presumed
to be in part of Carboniferous age because they are closely
association with the Alas Formation in the field, and
because all three formations contain similar lithologies,
and in general show the same degree of deformation
(Cameron et al., 1980).
On the western shore of Lake Toba (Fig. l),to the south
of Medan, an outcrop of decalcified argillaceous limestone
is found associated with lithologies of the Bohorok or Kluet
Formations (Aldiss et al., 1983). All the rocks in this area
show the development of slaty cleavage. The limestone
has been called the Pangururan Bryozoan Bed, as it
contains large numbers of fenestellid bryozoa.
Unfortunately, the fenestellids are deformed and their
internal structure has been destroyed, so that they cannot
be used to determine the age precisely However, the
fenestellids and members of other fossil groups have been
determined at the British Natural History Museum, as
of either Late Carboniferous or Early Permian age (Aldiss
et al., 1983).
The recognition of the Pangururan Bryozoan Bed
encouraged the surveyors to correlate this unit with the
Bryozoan Bed of the Phuket region of Peninsular Thailand,
which is identified as of Lower Permian age by its fossil
content (Cameron et al., 1980; Young and Jantaranipa,
1970) (Fig. 4). Aldiss e t al. (1983) included the
Pangururan Bryozoan Bed within the Kluet Formation,
but there is no evidence of the precise stratigraphic
position of the Pangururan Bed within the Kluet, nor of
its relationship to the Bohorok Formation. In Thailand
the Bryozoan Bed is underlain by pebbly mudstones and
is both underlain and overlain by sandstone and shale
units. If a similar sequence occurs in Sumatra it is possible
Gondwana Research, V. 6, No. 1,2003

that the sandstones, shales and pebbly mudstones of the

Kluet/Bohorok Formation extend into the Lower Permian.
It is likely that the Bohorok Formation is at least in part
of Early Permian age, as brachiopods of this age have
been found in sediments interbedded with tilloids in
northwestern Peninsular Malaysia (Metcalfe, 2000). It
should be emphasised that no Upper Carboniferous, let
alone Lower Permian fossils have been identified with
certainty in the Tapanuli Group of Sumatra.
Comparable Carboniferous t o Early Permian
stratigraphic sequences, seen in Sumatra, northwest Malay
Peninsula and southern Thailand, and as far north as
Baoshan in China indicate that these areas were
contiguous at that time and all are considered to form
part of the Sibumasu Terrane (Metcalfe, 1984,1988; Wang
et al., 2001) (Fig. 4).
I t has been suggested that the Tapanuli Group
represents a continental margin sequence developed along
a rifted passive margin (Cameron et al., 1980). The
reduction in clast sizes in the mudstones and
conglomerates of the Bohorok and Kluet formations, with
a decrease in the frequency and grain size of sandstone
units in a southwesterly direction, suggest that in
Carboniferous-EarlyPermian times an open ocean lay in
this direction. In this scenario the turbiditic sandstones
and shales of the Kluet Formarion were deposited in rift
basins, and limestones of the Alas and Kluet Formation
were deposited on horst blocks of uplifted basement,
represented perhaps by the associated high grade
Comparisons can be made between the stratigraphic
sequence in Sumatra and the Permo-Carboniferous
sequence in the Bonaparte Gulf region of northwest
Australia (Roberts and Veevers, 1973) (Fig. 4). Unlike
Sumatra the rocks in Australia are unmetamorphosed.
Here, a limestone and turbiditic sandstone-shale unit, the
Bonaparte Beds, resembling the Kluet, is followed by
limestone and shale of the Tanmurra Formation.
Limestones in the Tanmurra Formation are similar to the
Alas limestones and contain Visean fossils. The Upper
Carboniferous is poorly represented in this area, but
elsewhere in northwest Australia is composed of terrestrial
sediments passing into marine deposits offshore. Onshore,
tillites, resembling the pebbly mudstones of the Bohorok,
overlie the Tanmurra Formation unconformably, and are
followed by shales, siltstones and coal deposits of the
Lower Permian Kulshill Formation, again passing into
marine deposits in boreholes offshore to the northwest
(Fig. 5).
The Bonaparte Gulf succession is a passive continental
margin sequence representing the mirror image of the
Tapanuli Group of Sumatra, but showing the opposite




SUMATRA Cameron et al(1980) THAILAND

Metcalfe 2000


~and Veever5


Mount Godwin

Ratburi Lst
Chuping Lst

Upper Formation
Bryozoan Bed

Pangururan BryozoanI
Bed ( 7 L Permian)





Hyland Bay
Kulshill (with coals)


. .


. I

. . . . . . .
. . . . . .L . . .. . . .

. .
g. 4.


. . . .

. ?.. . .


Bonaparte Beds

Comparison of the Carboniferous, Permian and Triassic sequences in the Sibumasu Terranes of northern Sumatra (after Cameron et al.,
1980; and GRDC Map Sheets), West Malaysia and Thailand (after Metcalfe, 2000) and the Gondwana Terrane in northwest Australia (after
Roberts and Veevers, 1973).

polarity towards an ocean lying towards the northwest

(Fig. 5). The similarity of the faunas of northwest Australia
and northern Sumatra suggests that Sumatra, and
Sibumasu as a whole, were derived from the northern
continental margin of Australia and once formed part of
Gondwana (Metcalfe, 1992, 1993). The separation of
Sibumasu probably commenced with extension and rifting
during the Carboniferous.This was followed by separation
of the continental blocks, with the development of
complementary passive margins. Complete separation
may have occurred during the Early Permian. If the pebbly
mudstones of the Bohorok Formation represent Late
Carboniferous-Early Permian glacial deposits, Sibumasu
could not have moved very far from the Gondwana glacial
environment at this stage.

Peusangan Group
During the mapping of northern Sumatra pre-Tertiary
rocks, mainly limestones, lying to the northeast of the
Sumatran Fault, but apparently less deformed than the
Tapanuli Group, were distinguished as the Peusangan
Group (Fig. 3). Outcrops of these rock units are isolated,
so that during the survey each occurrence was given a

separate formation name. Some of these occurrences have

yielded fossils of Permian or Triassic age, and sometimes
both (Fontaine and Gafoer, 1989), others are apparently
unfossiliferous, either because they are too highly
recrystallised or have not been examined thoroughly. The
relationships between the Carboniferous Tapanuli Group
and the Permo-Triassic Peusangan Group are assumed to
be unconformable, but no localities where an
unconformity may be seen have yet been described.
No fossils which could be of Early Permian age have so
far been found in northern Sumatra, apart from those of
the Pangururan Bryozoan Bed already discussed. Middle
to Late Permian fossils have been described from the
Situtup Formation (fusulinids), near Takengon (Cameron
et al., 1983), the Kaloi Formation (trilobite), south of
Langsa (Bennett et al., 1 9 8 l ) , and the Batumilmil
Formation (foraminifera) to the southwest of Medan
(Fontaine and Vachard, 1984). The Permian limestones
of northern Sumatra can be correlated with the Chuping
Limestone Formation of the northwest Malay Peninsula
and the Ratburi Limestone of southern Thailand (Fig. 4).
No fossils diagnostic of latest Permian or of Early Triassic
age have been found in northern Sumatra.
Gondwana Reseauch, V 6, No. 1, 2003


Fossils of Middle to Late Triassic age occur in the

Situtup Formation (foraminifera) (Cameron et al., 1983),
the Kaloi Formation (conodonts) and the Batumilmil
Formation (conodonts) (Metcalfe, 1984) (Fig. 3). Some
of these formations, Situtup, Kaloi and Batumilmil, have
yielded both Permian and Triassic fossils, but the
relationships between the Permian and Triassic rocks,
whether a continuous sequence or separated by an
unconformity, have not yet been established.
Metavolcanics, slates and phyllites are described as part
of the Peusangan Group in Aceh, associated with
limestones in the Uneuen, Situtup and Tawar (Toweren
Member) Formations (Cameron et al., 1983) (Fig. 3) .
These outcrops are much affected by thrusts, and it is

possible that these lithologies belong to either the Kluet

Formation or the Woyla Group, occurring in the same area,
which have been imbricated together with the limestone
units by thrusting.
A distinctive unit, the Kualu Formation outcrops to the
south of Medan, composed of thin-bedded sandstones,
siltstones and mudstones (rhythmites). A unit,
distinguished as the Pangunjungan Member, composed
of thin-bedded radiolarian cherts outcrops to the south
of Lake Toba (Fig. 1) (Clarke et al., 1982). As far as the
authors are aware no identifiable radiolaria have yet been
described from the Pangunjungan Member. The upper part
of the Kualu Formation is composed of sandstones. The
formation is fossiliferousand contains the distinctive thin-

Fig. 5. The Lower Permian palaeogeography of the Bonaparte Gulf

region of Northwest Australia (after
Roberts and Veevers, 1973).

Gondwana Research, V. 6, No. 1, 2003


shelled pelecypod Halobia sp. and ammonoids which

indicate a Middle to Late Triassic age. A limestone unit, the
Sibaganding Member, near Lake Toba (Fig. 1)has yielded
early Late Triassic conodonts (Metcalfe, 1986).
The Kualu Formation is directly comparable in
lithological sequence and fossil content to the Semanggol
Formation in the northwestern part of the Malay Peninsula
and the Sibaganding Member can be correlated with
the Kodiang Limestone (Metcalfe, 1992) of the same area
(Fig. 4).
The deposits of the Peusangan Group show that in the
Permian northern Sumatra (Sibumasu Block) formed part
of a shallow water continental platform or shelf, facing
the Meso-Tethys,far from any terrigenous source, on which
mainly carbonate sediments were deposited. As already
reported, the uppermost Permian and earliest Triassic
rocks are missing, but by the Middle Triassic the Sibumasu
Block formed part of a continental margin, which from
Middle to Late Triassic underwent extension, leading to
the development of deep faulted grabens, in which the
pelagic cherts of the Kualu Formation were deposited.
The grabens were separated by intervening horsts on
which shallow water carbonates were deposited. This
tectonic and sedimentary environment extended
eastwards into Peninsular Malaysia. However, cherts
which form part of the lower Semanggol Formation in
NW Peninsular Malaysia were found to contain Middle to
Late Permian radiolaria (Sashida et al., 1995). On the
other hand Spiller and Metcalfe (1995) reported Middle
to Late Triassic radiolaria from cherts in the same area.
Metcalfe (2000) points out that while the Permian cherts
are deformed, the Triassic cherts are relatively
undeformed, and suggests that the Permian and Triassic
cherts are not part of the same sequence. The Permian
cherts formed part of an accretionary complex, involved
in the Late Permian to early Triassic collision, while the
Middle to Late Triassic cherts were deposited in a foredeep
basin. Metcalfes (2000) interpretation is not incompatible
with the interpretation given here. Conglomerates occur
in the upper part of the Semanggol Formation in the Malay
Peninsula, signalling post-orogenic uplift of the source
region in Malaysia towards the end of the Triassic. In
Sumatra uplift in the Malay Peninsula is indicated by the
influx of sands in the upper part of the Kualu Formation.
Woyla Group
In northern Sumatra pre-Tertiary rocks of the Woyla
Group lie largely to the southwest of the Sumatran Fault
System, although some units extend across the fault.
The group has been divided into two units: an arc
assemblage and an oceanic assemblage (Cameron et al.,
1980) (Fig. 3).

The arc assemblage, which lies on the west coast of

Sumatra to the south of Banda Aceh (Fig. 3), is made up
of basaltic to andesitic volcanics and volcaniclastics
associated with massive or bedded limestones, interpreted
as fringing reefs to volcanic islands (Cameron et al., 1980).
Fossils from the limestones give a Late Jurassic-Early
Cretaceous age for the arc assemblage. The oceanic
assemblage, which is dissected by the Sumatran Fault, is
composed of serpentinites, amphibolitised gabbros, pillow
basalts, hyaloclastites, cherts and red manganiferous
shales, interpreted as imbricated segments of ocean floor
and its underlying mantle (Cameron et al., 1980).
No age-diagnostic fossils have yet been obtained from
the oceanic assemblage, not even the cherts, but since
both the arc and oceanic assemblages are intruded by the
Late Cretaceous Sikuleh Batholith they are considered to
be of approximately t h e same age. Both Woyla
assemblages are interpreted as representing a JurassicEarly Cretaceous oceanic arc, with associated fringing reefs
developed on oceanic crust, overthrust on to the Sumatran
margin in the mid-Cretaceous, and subsequently intruded
by a batholith forming part of a Late Cretaceous Andean
magmatic arc (Barber, 2000).

Central Sumatra
The Pre-Tertiary rocks of central Sumatra have been
correlated with the stratigraphic units defined in northern
Sumatra, with stratigraphic units corresponding to the
Permo-CarboniferousTapanuli Group, the Permo-Triassic
Peusangan Group and the Jurassic-Cretaceous Woyla
Group (McCourt et al., 1993) (Fig. 6).
Tapanuli Group
Quartzites and shales, identified in oil company
boreholes along the Malacca Straits have been used to
define a Quartzite Terrain (Eubank and Makki, 1981).
Similar quartz-rich rocks of Carboniferous age in Malaya,
on the northeastern side of the strait in the Kubang Pasu
and Kenny Hill formations, are considered t o be
stratigraphically equivalent to the Tapanuli Group of
Sumatra. In the Malay Peninsula these quartz-rich
sediments are described as having an easterly provenance
(Fontaine and Gafoer, 1989).
Rock units which have been correlated with the
Bohorok Formation of northern Sumatra outcrop in the
Tigapuluh Mountains on the northeastern side of the
Barisan Mountains (Suwarna et al., 1991; Simandjuntak
et al., 1991) (Fig. 6). The Mentulu Formation, in the
northeastern part of the outcrop, consists of pebbly
mudstones, identical to those in the Bohorok Formation,
interbedded with quartz sandstones and shales, the latter
Gondwana Research, V. 6, No. 1,2003


Fig. 6. Dismbution of Pre-Tertiarystratigraphic units in Cental Sumatra (based on GRDC Map Sheets). N.B. The Jurassic-CretaceousRawas Formation
outcrops with the Peneta and Asai Formations about 25 km south of the southern edge of the map.

commonly as slates. The Mentulu Formation passes

southwestwards, by loss of the pebbly mudstones, into
greywacke sandstones and shales of the Pengabuhan
Formation, and then by the increase in the argillaceous
component into the Gangsal Formation. A volcanic unit,
of andesitic and basaltic tuffs, the Condong Member,
outcrops along the northeastern margin of the mountains.
The Kuantan Formation (Silitonga and Kastowo, 1975),
outcropping in the Barisan Mountains to the east of Bukit
Tinggi (Fig. 61, and consisting of quartzites and quartz
sandstones with intervening shales, commonly altered to
slates or phyllites, with the local development of
limestones, has been correlated with the KIuet Formation
of northern Sumatra (Rock et al., 1983). The Kuantan
Formation is so similar to the Kluet Formation, that during
the mapping of the Padangsidempuan Sheet to the north
of the area where the Kuantan Formation had been defined
previously an arbitrary boundary was drawn between the
two formations (Aspden et al., 1982). Limestone units of
the Kuantan Formation in the Agam River and at the type
locality in the Kuantan Gorge, contain a wide range of
fossil groups, including algae, foraminifera, corals and
conodonts indicating a Carboniferous, VisCan, age
(Fontaine and Gafoer, 1989; Metcalfe, 1983).
Gondwana Research, I/: 6, No. 1,2003

Intensely folded, anomalous, muscovite, tremolite,

chlorite, carbonate and quartz schists forming a NW-SE
trending belt to the east of Lubuksikaping were identified
as Pawan and Tanjung Puah members and included within
the Kuantan Formation during the DMR/GRDC/BGS
mapping programme (Clarke et al., 1982). Pulunggono
and Cameron (1984) alternatively correlated these
tectonised units with the Triassic Tuhur Formation, which
occurs along strike to the southeast. However, neither of
these correlations provides a convincing interpretation of
this anomalous occurrence.
The Quartzite Terrain can be interpreted as littoral
and shelf deposits derived from the Malay Peninsula to
the east. The Mentulu and Kuantan Formations of Central
Sumatra can be interpreted in the same way as the
Tapanuli Group to the north, as representing a continental
margin sequence, with pebbly mudstones, sandstone and
shale units in basins, deposited by turbidity flows, while
limestones were deposited on horst blocks.
On the face of it the VisCan limestone units of the
Kuantan Formation could be correlated directly with the
Visean Alas Formation of northern Sumatra (Fig. 7).
However, Fontaine and Gafoer (1989) relate the faunas
in the two limestone units to different faunal provinces.



Fontaine and Gafoer (1989) maintain that the fauna in

the Alas Formation indicates a cool-temperate shallow
water environment, and is related to the Vis6an faunas of
Peninsular Thailand and elsewhere in the Sibumasu
Terrane, while the fauna of the Kuantan limestones
indicates a tropical shallow water environment, and is
related to that of East Malaya and the Indochina Block in
Laos, Vietnam and eastern Thailand. Also the glaciomarine environment in which the Mentulu pebbly
mudstones were deposited is completely incompatible
with tropical shallow water environment indicated by the
algal mats and reef corals of the Kuantan limestones. This
contrast in environments of deposition and the faunal
affinities of the Kuantan Formation suggest that the
western part of Central Sumatra represents part of a
Cathaysian terrane, separate from both the Kluet
Formation to the north and the Bohorok/Mentulu
Formation to the northeast (Fontaine and Gafoer, 1989)
(Fig. 6). Conveniently, the boundary between these two
terranes may be drawn through the outcrops of the
chlorite and tremolite schists of the Pawan and Tanjung

Cameron et al. (1980)


Peusangan Group
In Central Sumatra, Permian and Triassic rocks outcrop
in a broad belt extending NW-SE between the Sumatran
Fault Zone and the outcrop of the Kuantan Formation
(Fig. 6). There are no descriptions of the contacts between
the Carboniferous rocks of the Kuantan Formation and
the overlying Permian or Triassic rocks, but the
relationships are presumed to be unconformable.
The Menkarang Formation, famous for its JambiFlora,
outcrops in the Menkarang River and adjacent river
sections to the southwest of Bangko (Fig. 6). The
formation consists of conglomerates, sandstones,
siltstones, claystones, often carbonaceous, and some
limestones (Suwarna and Suharsono, 1994). Fossils,
including algae, fusulinid foraminifera, corals and
brachiopods, from calcareous beds underlying or
interbedded with the plant-bearing horizons, show that
the Mengkarang Formation is of Early Permian, Late



Puah members representing the Medial Sumatra Tectonic

Zone of Hutchison (1994).




Hutchison (1994)
Metcalfe (2000)

Redang Beds
(continental red beds)

Fig. 7. Comparison of the Carboniferous, Permian and Triassic sequences of the northern Sumatra Sibumasu Terrane (after Cameron et al., 1980 and
GRDC Map Sheets) and the Indochina (Cathaysian) Terranes of Central Sumatra (after GRDC Map Sheets) and the eastern Malay Peninsula
(after Hutchison, 1994 and Metcalfe, 2000).

Gondwana Research, V. 6, No. 1,2003


Asselian to Sakmarian age (Fontaine and Gafoer, 1989).

The marine fauna and flora, with an absence of annual
rings in tree trunks in the Menkarang Formation, indicate
that these rocks, like the Kuantan limestones, were
deposited in a tropical environment. The Jambi Flora was
described by Jongmans (1937) and has more recently been
re-assessed by Asama et al. (1975) and Vozenin-Serra
(1989) who conclude that the flora consists entirely of
Euramerican and north Cathaysian species, with no
Gondwanan forms. The fauna a n d flora of t h e
Mengkarang Formation indicates that these Lower
Permian rocks, together with the underlying Kuantan
Formation, form part of a distinct Cathaysian Terrane
The Palepat Formation, south of Muarabungo (Fig. 6),
is composed of andesitic and rhyolitic lavas and tuffs
interbedded with siltstones and limestones (Katili, 1969).
The limestones contain a rich fauna of brachiopods and
fusulinid foraminifera which indicate an Early Permian
age (Fontaine and Gafoer, 1989). The Silungkang
Formation to the east of Solok (Fig. 6) consists of a
volcanic lower member, similar to the Palepat Formation,
with andesitic lavas and tuffs interbedded with limestone,
shale and sandstone, passing up into an upper limestone
member. The rich fauna of large foraminifera and corals
indicates a Permian, Artinskian to Kazanian age (Katili,
1969; Fontaine and Gafoer, 1989). The Barisan Formation
of Rosidi et al. (1976) to the southeast, consists of
sandstone, shale, limestone and chert, in which the shales
are commonly converted to slates or phyllites. The eastern
part of this formation at Bukit Cermin includes a massive
limestone member containing fusulinids of Early Permian
age. Fontaine and Gafoer (1969) recommend that the use
of the term Barisan Formation should be discontinued
as the area of outcrop shown on the GRDC map (Rosidi
et al., 1976) includes units of various ages. Rosidi et al.
(1976) also defined the Ngaol Formation in the Tabir River
in the southeast of the Painan Sheet, which includes a
limestone member rich in Middle Permian fossils,
including fusulinids (Fontaine and Gafoer, 1989) (Fig. 6).
Since the outcrops mapped as Ngaol Formation also
include metamorphic rocks and sediments of Jurassic age,
Fontaine and Gafoer (1989) recommend that this name
should be abandoned. The Permian limestones and shales
of both the Barisan and Ngaol formations should be
regarded as part of the Silungkang Formation.
The Permian sequence of Central Sumatra can be
compared with that of the eastern part of the Malay
Peninsula which contains volcanics and a Late Permian
Cathaysian flora (Fig. 7).
As in northern Sumatra, no rocks of latest Permian or
earliest Triassic age have been reported from Central
Gondwana Research, V: 6, No. 1,2003


The Triassic Tuhur Formation outcrops extensively to

the southeast of Solok and extends northwards across the
equator (Fig. 6). Silitonga and Kastowo (1975)
distinguished Slate and Shaleand Limestonemembers.
The former consists of grey or black argillaceous sediments
with brown cherts and thin greywacke limestones. Similar
lithological units to the north of the equator (e.g., Cubadak
Formation - Rock et al., 1983) have yielded Late Triassic
ammonoids and the characteristic Middle to Late Triassic
pelecypod, Halobia. The Tuhur Formation may be directly
compared to the Kualu Formation of northern Sumatra.
The limestone member includes bedded sandy limestones
and massive conglomeraticlimestones.The conglomerates
contain limestone clasts with fusulinid foraminifera of
mid- to Late Permian age, indicating a Late Permian to
Middle Triassic unconformity (see also Turner, 1983).
Evidently, previously deposited Late Permian carbonates
were eroded from uplifted horst blocks and incorporated
into Middle Triassic conglomerates, which accumulated
on, or adjacent to, the horst blocks.
The absence of latest Permian and Early Triassic rocks
in Central Sumatra, together with the incorporation of
Middle Permian clasts in Triassic limestone conglomerates,
indicate that a period of uplift and erosion occurred during
this time interval. When deposition resumed in the Middle
Triassic it followed the same pattern as in northern
Sumatra, with shallow water limestones and deep water
cherts and shales, suggesting a period of extension, with
the development of horst blocks and intervening rift
basins. In the Triassic the distinction between the
Sibumasu Terrane of northern Sumatra and the
Cathaysian Terrane of Central Sumatra, seen in the
Carboniferous and the Permian had disappeared,
suggesting that the juxtaposition of these terranes
occurred between the Middle Permian and the Middle
Triassic and that subsequently they both formed part of a
continuous terrane.
Woyla Group correlatives
The Indarung Formation, outcropping in West Sumatra
near Padang (Fig. 6), is composed of basic volcanics,
sometimes pillowed, volcanic breccias and volcaniclastic
sediments closely associated with massive limestones and
chert (Yancey and Alif, 1977). Fossils in the limestones
indicate Late Jurassic to Early Cretaceous age and the
cherts have yielded radiolaria of Aalenian (Middle
Jurassic) age (McCarthy et al., 2001). These rocks have
been correlated with the Woyla Group of northern
Sumatra on the basis of lithological similarity and age
(Cameron et al., 1980) and they include components
which could belong to both volcanic arc and oceanic



To the south of Padang are outcrops of the Siguntur

Formation, described as quartzites, siltstones and shales
with compact limestones (Rosidi et al., 1976). The
limestones contain Late Jurassic to Early Cretaceous
fossils. The earlier suggestion, based on the presence of
quartzites, that this unit had a continental provenance
(Barber, 2000) is probably incorrect; the supposed
quartzites being most likely recrystallised cherts. The
Siguntur Formation is the same age, and has the same
origin as the Indarung Formation to the north.
Cretaceous quartz-rich sediments with fossiliferous
limestones occur at Siulak to the SE of Padang in a fault
block between strands of the Sumatran Fault (Rosidi et
al., 1976). This outcrop also includes andesites, dacites
and bedded tuffs, products of arc volcanism. Further to
the southeast, and to the northeast of the Sumatran Fault
System tuffs occur associated with red conglomerates and
sandstones in the Tabir Formation (Fig. 6), with quartz
sandstones, siltstones, shales and limestones in the Asai
and Peneta Formations, and with dolerites, basaltic lava
flows and volcaniclastic sandstones in the Rawas
Formation. Fossils in these formations include ammonites
which indicate a Middle Jurassic to Early Cretaceous age
(Suwarna and Suharsono, 1994). These rock units have
been interpreted as representing an Andean-type volcanic
arc constructed on continental crust with the deposits of
the associated forearc basin (McCourt and Cobbing, 1993;
Barber, 2000)-

Southern Sumatra
In southern Sumatra pre-Tertiary rocks occur only as
isolated inliers surrounded by Tertiary to Recent sediments
and volcanics. This has meant that it has not been possible
to trace with certainty the units recognised in the northern
and central parts of the island southeastwards into
southern Sumatra. The general absence of age-diagnostic
fossils from many outcrops and the varying degrees of
metamorphism has meant that correlations have often
been made on the doubtful basis of lithological similarity.
In compiling the tectonostratigraphic map of central
and southern Sumatra in figure 8 extensive use has been
made of data from boreholes put down in the search for
oil through the Tertiary sediments of the South Sumatra
Basin which penetrated the underlying pre-Tertiary
basement (de Coster, 1974).

Tapanuli Group equivalents

The Bohorok (Mentulu) and the Kuantan Formations
of Central Sumatra can be traced into southern Sumatra.
Pebbly mudstones and associated lithologies can be traced
in boreholes to the south of Jambi (Fig. 8).

Low-grade metamorphic sandstones and slates of the

Tarantam Formation in the Duabelas Mountains are along
strike and correlated with the Kuantan Formation of
Central Sumatra (Simandjuntak et al., 19911, and similar
rocks, sometimes more highly deformed and
metamorphosed to phyllites and schists, have been
encountered in boreholes to the southeast near Palembang
and in Lampung Province further south (Fig. 8). Similar
low-grade metasediments in the Garba Mountains (Tarap
Formation) and near Banda Lampung (Gunungkasih
Complex) have also been correlated with the Tapanuli
and Kuantan of northern and Central Sumatra (Gafoer et
al., 1994; Amin et al., 1994; Andi Mangga et al., 1994).
In a number of boreholes in the area to the south of
Palembang unfossiliferous indurated limestones were
encountered (Fig. 8). On the basis of seismic surveys,
Adiwidjaya and de Coster (1973) and de Coster (1974)
linked these occurrences into a continuous body which
they called the Kluang Limestone. De Coster (1974)
suggested that the limestone was Upper Cretaceous, while
Hutchison (1994) has suggested a correlation with the
Silurian Kuala Lumpur Limestone of Malaysia. Subsequent
drilling has not confirmed the continuity of this body,
which may be a series of discontinuous limestone bodies.
Since no fossils which would indicate the age of these
limestones have been reported, a more probable
correlation is with VisCan Iimestones of the Kuantan
Formation which occur as discontinuous bodies to the
northwest along strike.
Permo-Carboniferous rocks, composed of mudstones,
limestones, locally with fusulinids, and chert, as well as
pebblymudstones, occur in the island of Bangka, where
they form the Pemali Group (KO, 1986). KO (1986)
identified pebblymudstones in the Toboali district in the
southern part of the island. KOs (1986) report has been
used to extend the subcrop of the Bohorok Formation in
figure 8 southeastwards as far as Bangka.The pebbly
mudstones may be correlated with the Bohorok Formation
of northern Sumatra and the Mentulu Formation of
Central Sumatra. Permo-Carboniferous rocks on the island
are highly deformed and occur as a series of E-W outcrops
imbricated with, and thrust over, the less deformed li-iassic
Tempilang Formation (KO, 1986) (Fig. 8).

Peusangan Group equivalents

Permian and Triassic rocks occur in two areas of
southern Sumatra, in the Pendopo inlier to the northeast
of Bengkulu (Pendopo High in Fig. 8), and in the Bangka
and Billiton islands off the east coast of Sumatra. The
Pendopo inlier is composed of limestones with an
abundant mid-Permian fusulinid fauna, forming the core
of a faulted anticline in Tertiary sediments (Gafoer et al.,
Gondwana Research, V 6, No.1,2003


1986). These limestones are the same age as those of the

Silungkang Formation in Central Sumatra which lies to
the northwest along strike.
De Roever (1951) reported that fusulinids in a sample
from Bangka in the Geological Museum in Bandung,
together with his subsequent field investigations,indicated
that some of the shales and sandstones on the island were
of Permian age.
Permo-Carboniferous rocks also occur on the island of
Billiton to the east of Bangka. Jongmans (inVan Overeem,
1960) tentativelyidentified vague plant remains found
in the SE part of the island as belonging to the Cathaysia
(Glossopteris) flora of Late Carboniferous (Stephanian)
age. Van Overeem (1960) reports some ill-preserved
Fusulinae, possibly --- Fusulina schwagerina (sic) from
limestones in an offshore borehole to the NW of the island,
which would indicate a Middle Permian age. Yancey (in

Gondwana Research, V. 6, No. 1, 2003


Strimple and Yancey, 1976) reported that he had seen

illustrations of these fusulinids which are almost certainly
schwagerinids of Early Permian age. It is neccessary for
the fusulinids from both Bangka and Billiton to be
identified at least at generic level before a definite age
can be ascribed to them (personal communication, Ueno,
2002). However, Lower Permian rocks certainly occur on
Billiton, as a cassiterized Early Permian ammonoid,
Agathiceras sundaicurn Haniel, was reported by Van
Overeem (1960).
On Bangka the TriassicTempilang Formation is composed
of alternating sandstone-mudstones, comparable to the
rhythmites in the upper part of the Kualu Formation of
northern Sumatra. These rocks also outcrop in the Lingga
islands to the north, and together with bedded cherts are
encountered in boreholes in a belt parallel to the northeast
coast of Sumatra, near Jambi (Fig. 8).



Woyla Group correlatives

In southern Sumatra, rock units which have been

correlated with the Woyla Group of northern Sumatra
have been described from the Gumai and Garba
Mountains and from the neighbourhood of Bandar
Lampung (Fig. 8).
In the Gumai Mountains, to the east of Bengkulu, preTertiary units, occupying the core of an anticline in Tertiary
rocks, are described as the Saling, Lingsing and
Sepingtiang Formations (Gafoer et al., 1992). Both the
Saling and Lingsing Formations include andesitic and
basaltic lavas, breccias and tuffs but the Lingsing
Formation also includes clastic sediments, calcilutites and
cherts. Age determination on dykes associated with the
lavas gave a K/Ar age of 116+3 (Early Cretaceous)
(Gafoer et al., 1992). The basaltic lavas are tholeiitic in
composition and are associated in the field with
serpentinised peridotites and cherts, so that the
assemblage has been interpreted as representing a
disrupted ocean floor sequence (Gafoer et al., 1992). The
presence of andesitic lavas suggests that fragments of a
volcanic arc are also present. The Saling and Lingsing
Formations are overlain discordantly by limestones of the
Sepingtiang Formation which contain fossils indicating a
Late Jurassic to mid-Cretaceous age. As in northern
Sumatra these limestones have been interpreted as
representing fringing reefs related to the arc volcanics
thrust over the other units. These rocks are cut by granites,
regarded as of Late Cretacous age (Gafoer et al., 1992).
The pre-Tertiary rocks of the Gumai Mountains can be
correlated directly with the arc volcanic and oceanic
assemblages in the Woyla Group of northern Sumatra,
both in terms of their lithology and their age.
An inlier of pre-Tertiary rocks forms the Garba
Mountains to the southwest of Baturaja (Fig. 8). Here
the Tarap Formation of low-grade metasediments, which
have been correlated with the Tapanuli Group of northern
Sumatra, are imbricated with andesitic and basaltic lavas,
sheared serpentinite and bedded chert of the Garba
Formation (Gafoer et al., 1994). The Garba Formation
also includes lenticular bodies of melange, the Insu
Member, with blocks of volcanic rocks, chert, fine grained
clastics and massive limestones in a scaly clay matrix.
More continuous outcrops of bedded chert are
distinguished as the Situlangang Member. These rocks
are intruded by the Late Cretaceous Garba pluton. The
outcrops of these rock units are too small to be
distinguished in figure 8, but are shown on the Baturaja
Quadrangle Sheet (Gafoer et al., 1994). Although no
direct age determinations have been made on the
volcanics, and no fossils have been reported from the
cherts or the limestones, the lithological assemblage, the

contrast with the metamorphics of the Tarap Formation,

together with the age constraint provided by the pluton
make a direct correlation with the Woyla Group of
northern Sumatra highly probable.
Rocks similar to those of the Gumai and Garba Mountains
are encounteredin oil companyboreholesbeneath the Tertiary
South Sumatra Basin in a broad area extending to the
northeast of the mountains towards Palembang (Fig. 8).
Pre-Tertiary rocks form scattered outcrops among
Tertiary and Quaternary sediments and volcanics in the
region of Bandar Lampung in the far south of Sumatra
(Fig. 8). The greater part of these outcrops are migmatitic
gneisses and metasedimentary schists of the Gunungkasih
Complex. The gneisses have been interpreted as deformed
granitic and basaltic intrusions which formed the basal
parts of a Late Cretaceous magmatic arc (Barber, 20001,
while the metasediments, in which the intrusions were
emplaced, have been correlated with the Tarap Formation
of Garba and the Tapanuli Group of northern Sumatra
(Amin et al., 1994; Andi Mangga et al., 1994). The
Gunungkasih Complex is thrust southwestwards over
unmetamorphosed sandstones, shales, manganese
nodules, cherts, limestones, with occasional basalts, of
the Menanga Formation. The limestones contain
Orbitulina sp. a diagnostic mid-Cretaceous fossil. The
assemblage is interpreted as a deep water marine
sequence, with volcanic detritus derived from a volcanic
arc, deposited in a forearc environment. Again, the
Menanga Formation has been equated with the Woyla
Group of northern Sumatra (Amin et al., 1994; Barber,
2000) and constitutes part of the Woyla Nappe.

Critical Review of Plate Tectonic Models

Pulunggono and Cameron (I 984) Model
Following the completion of the Integrated Geological
Survey of Northern Sumatra the new data were integrated
with pre-existing data from the literature, and information
from boreholes acquired during petroleum exploration,
to compile a plate model to explain the distribution of
stratigraphic units in Sumatra and the adjacent part of
Malaysia (Pulunggono and Cameron, 1984; Pulonggono,
198s) (Fig. 9).
In this synthesis Sumatra and the Malay Peninsula are
considered to be composed of a series of microplates. The
East Malaya Microplate to the east, characterised by
Permo-Triassicmagmatism, is separated from the Malacca
Microplate, forming the western part of the Malay
Peninsula, by the Bentong-Raub Line, marked by a zone
of basic and ultrabasic rocks and melanges, which
represents the suture where the two microplates collided
in the Triassic (see Metcalfe, 2000).
Gondwana Research, V. 6, No. 1,2003


To the west and southwest the Malacca Microplate is

limited by the Mutus Assemblage characterised by
radiolarian cherts, red-mauve shales and rhythmic thinbedded sandstone and shale sequences with Late Triassic
fossils. Basalts, chlorite schist, gabbro and serpentinite
encountered in boreholes in the southeastern extension
of this zone suggested to Pulunggono and Cameron (1984)
that the Mutus Assemblage represented another suture,
marking the zone of collision between the Malacca Plate
and the Mergui Plate to the west. However, the
characteristic rock types of the Mutus Assemblage are not
restricted to this narrow zone, but are widespread across
Sumatra, being identical to those of the Middle-Late
Triassic Kualu and Tuhur Formations. These rock units
have been interpreted in the present account as deep water
deposits laid down in rifts developed during a Triassic
phase of extension. The concept of separate Malacca and
Mergui Plates, as proposed by Pulunggono and Cameron
(1984), can no longer be supported.
The Mergui Microplate, characterised by the PermoCarboniferous pebbly mudstones and a Permian arc


assemblage, is shown extending across the greater part

of Sumatra, including the outcrops of the Bohorok, Alas,
Kluet and Kuantan Formations (Fig. 9). The Permian
volcanic arc, represented by the Palepat and Mengkarang
Formations with the Cathaysian flora, is shown overlying
the southwestern margin of the Mergui Plate. In the
northern part of Sumatra the Situtup Formation near
Takengon is shown as a tectonic outlier of this arc, on the
basis of the volcanics associated with limestones. The
limestones contain the Middle Permian fusulinids
Pseudodoliolina sp. and Neoschwagerina sp. (Fontaine and
Gafoer, 1989) which are considered to be typical
Cathaysian forms (personal communication, Ueno, 2002)
which supports this interpretation.
Oceanic and Arc assemblages of the Jurassic-Cretaceous
Woyla Group, described as the Woyla Terrains, are shown
along the west coast of Sumatra, thrust under (rather
than over) the Permian arc and southwestern margin
of the Mergui Plate (Pulunggono and Cameron, 1984)
(Fig. 9). These terranes include areas in Sikuleh, Natal
and Bengkulu (not named) identified as microcontinental

(after Pulunggono & Cameron, 1984)


Arc Association

Mutus Assemblage


Pebbly Mudstone

Fig. 9. Microplates in western Indonesia from Pulonggono (198S), after Pulunggono and Cameron (1984).

Gondwana Research, V. 6, No.1,2003



blocks. Wajzer et al. (1991) demonstrated by isotopic

dating that the supposed Natal Terrane is a fragment of
an Eocene-Oligocene magmatic arc, and more recently
Barber (2000) has argued that the Sikuleh Terrane is part
of a Jurassic-Cretaceous intra-oceanic volcanic arc, other
fragments of which can be identified throughout western
and southern Sumatra. Pre-Tertiary rocks are not exposed
in the Bengkulu area, so that the whole concept of
microcontinental terranes accreted along the western
margin of Sumatra is in doubt.
Fontaine and Gafoer (I 989) Model
Comprehensive palaeontological studies of the PerrnoCarboniferous stratigraphic units in Sumatra by Fontaine,
Gafoer and their colleagues (Fontaine and Gafoer, 19891,
prompted a reassessment of their age, environment of
deposition and their provincial affinity (Fig. 10) Fontaine
and Gafoer (1989) interpreted the Carboniferous rocks
in the northern part of Sumatra as a series of
contemporaneous sedimentary facies formed on a
continental margin, with littoral and shelf facies sands in
the east, represented by the Kubang Pasu and Kenny Hill
Formations in the western part of the Malay Peninsula,
and quartzites and quartz sandstones encountered in oil
company boreholes along the Malacca Straits. In this
model pebbly mudstones of the Bohorok Formation
represent deposits from a melting floating ice-shelf or
icebergs, which are interbedded with turbiditic sands and
shales, passing into distal turbidites and deep water shales
further offshore in the Kluet Formation. The limestones
of the Alas Formation, with oolites and current bedding,
as described in the foregoing account, represent shallow
water carbonates deposited on a high, perhaps a horst
block, in the continental shelf environment.
Fontaine and Gafoer (1989) relate the fauna and algal
flora of the Visean Alas limestones to those found
elsewhere in the Sibumasu Block, in western Peninsular
Malaya, Thailand and Burma. On the other hand, they
relate the fauna and algal flora of the limestones in the
VisCan Kuantan Formation to those of the eastern
Peninsular Malaya and the Indochina Block in Thailand,
Laos and Vietnam. While the Alas limestones could have
been deposited in a cool environment, the fauna and flora
of the Kuantan limestones clearly indicate a tropical
environment of deposition. Since the the Alas and Kuantan
Formations are contemporaneous, they must have been
deposited on separate plates, and were only been brought
together in Sumatra by post-Carboniferous movements.
This relationship is indicated on the Carboniferous
palaeogeographic reconstruction of Sumatra (Fontaine
and Gafoer, 1989) (Fig. 10) by an arbitrary WNW-ESE
boundary, which has no present structural expression,

Fig. 10. Carboniferous palaeogeography (after Fontaine and Gafoer,


separating the Kuantan Formation from the outcrops of

the Kluet, Alas and Bohorok Formations to the north.
As reported above Vozenin-Serra (1989) reviewed the
Jambi flora of Central Sumatra and confirmed its
Cathaysian affinity. Fontaine and Gafoer (1989) were also
able to date the Jambi flora very precisely as earliest
Permian, from the fusulinid fauna in the marine sediments
interbedded with the plant beds. The presence of a
Cathaysian flora, together with Permian volcanics in
Central Sumatra led the geologists of the Netherlands
Indies Geological Survey, who mapped the area in the
1920s and 1930s, to draw a comparison between the
sequence in this area and the Permian sequence of the
Malay Peninsula, and to contrast this sequence with that
of the rest of Sumatra. In order to account for this anomaly
they proposed that the Permian sequence constituted the
Jambi Nappe which was derived from a root zone which
lay in the Riau Islands to the east. In this interpretation
unmetamorphosed Permian rocks of the nappe rest on a
thrust plane above metamorphic rocks of the Schiefer
Barisan (Zwierzycki, 1930) (Fig. 11). The low angle fault
shown by Zwierzycki (1930) as the base of the Jambi
Nappe was subsequently re-interpreted by Katili (1970)
as a strike-slip fault (Fig. 11).
Gondwana Research, V. 6, No. 1,2003







from Katili, 1970








from Zwierzycki, 1930

Fig. 11. The Jambi Nappe and the Lematang Line (from Pulunggono and Cameron, 1984, after Zwierzycki, 1930 and Katili, 1970).

Nevertheless, the Cathaysian flora and the similarities

of the Permian sequence to that of the eastern part of the
Malay Peninsula shows at that time Central Sumatra
formed part of the Cathaysian continental block. It also
shows that the affinities of northern Sumatra to the
Sibumasu Terrane and of Central Sumatra to Cathaysia
continued from the Carboniferous into the Middle
Permian, so that the the two blocks can only have come
together after this period.

(1989), between the Kuantan Formation and Carboniferous

rocks of the Tapanuli Group to the north.
Metcalfes (1996) map shows a group of
microcontinental blocks, the Woyla Terranes, on the

Metcalfe ( I 996) Model

Metcalfe has published many versions of his

interpretation of the distribution of tectonic blocks in
southeast Asia, of which that published in the Geological
Societys volume on the Tectonic Evolution of Southeast
Asia may be taken as representative (Hall and Blundell,
1996). In this model, although Sumatra is not discussed
in the text, the map showing the terranes and sutures in
East and Southeast Asia includes the major part of
Sumatra in the Sibumasu Terrane (Metcalfe, 1996)
(Fig. 12). However, the Bentong-Raub Line, which
separates the Indochina/East Malaya from the Sibumasu
Terrane in the Malay Peninsula is shown continuing into
Central Sumatra as proposed by Tjia (1989) following
the Tertiary Bengkalis Graben identified in oil company
seismic data, and then turning sharply to the NW,
following the boundary, proposed by Fontaine and Gafoer
Gondwana Research, V. 6, No. 1, 2003

Fig. 12. Accreted terranes in Southeast Asia after Metcalfe (1996).



East Malaya Terrane in the east, linked to Indochina and

South China, is characterised by limestones with fusulinids
in the Lower Permian, Mid-Late Permian arc volcanics
and an Upper Permian Cathaysian flora at Jengka Pass
and Linggiu (Fig. 7). East Malaya is separated from the
Sinoburmalaya Terrane to the west by the Medial Malaya
Line (= Bentong-Raub Suture).
To the east, Sinoburmalaya (cf. Sibumasu of Metcalfe,
1996) is characterised by quartz sandstones, occupying
the western part of the Malay Peninsula and the Malacca
Strait, and tilloid (pebbly mudstone)-bearing (= Singa
and Bohorok) formations to the west. Hutchison (1994)

southwestern margin of the Sibumasu Terrane. Metcalfe

(1996, his Fig.2), following Cameron et al. (1980),
identifiesthese terranes as the Sikuleh, Natal and BengMu
Terranes. As already discussed the microcontinental nature
of these terranes is in doubt.
Hutchison (1994) Model
The whole problem of the distribution, relationships
and tectonic history of the Gondwana and Cathaysian
Terranes in Sumatra and the Malay Peninsula has been
reviewed by Hutchison (1994). He recognises three
terranes in the Malay Peninsula and Sumatra (Fig. 13). The

















Lower to Mid Permian

with volcanic arc


Mid to Upper Permian

with volcanic arc








Carboniferous-Permian without
Diamictite (sand dominant)
Diamictite (Pebbly mudstone)

Q Medial Sumatra Line

Medial Malaya Line
(Bentong-Raub Suture)


Kluang Limestone
(age unknown)
Mutus Assemblage
(of unknown age)

Fig. 13. Tectonic units which have amalgamated to

make up Sumatra and the Malay Peninsula,
after Hutchison (1994).

Gondwana Research, V. 6, No. 1,2003


(Fig. 13) shows the Bentong-Raub Suture following a

sinuous course through southern Sumatra, following
reported occurrences of basic and ultrabasic rocks. This
course leaves the islands of Bangka and Billiton in the
East Malayan Terrane, consistent with the presence of
Permian sediments containing schwagerinid fusulinids in
the northern part of the Bangka (De Roever, 1951) and
offshore Billiton (Strimple and Yancey, 1976) and the
presence of poorly preserved plant remains, tentatively
identified as belonging to the Cathaysian flora (van
Overeem, 1960). However, as has already been reported,
in the southern part of the island, where De Roever (1951)
described an arkosic conglomerate, KO (1986) identified
a pebbly mudstone which may be correlated with the
Bohorok Formation. Hutchison (1994) acknowledges the
uncertainty of the course adopted in his model by a liberal
sprinkling of question marks. If KOs(1986) identification
of the pebbly mudstone is correct the Bentong- Raub
Suture must pass through Bangka, where it had been
placed in several earlier syntheses (Hutchison, 1975,
1983; Mitchell, 1977; Pulunggono and Cameron, 1984).
As yet no distinct lineament marking the trace of the
Bentong-Raub Suture has been identified in Bangka.
If the pebbly mudstones in southern Bangka and the
Mentulu and Bohorok Formations are correctly identified
as glacial deposits then the whole Sinobunnalaya Terrane
is clearly related to Gondwana (Northern Australia).
In Hutchisons (1994) synthesis, Sinoburmalaya is
separated to the southwest from the West Sumatra Terrane
by a Medial Sumatra Line (Fig. 13). In identifying the
West Sumatra Terrane, Hutchison (1994) follows Fontaine
and Gafoer (1989) who related the limestone fauna of
the Vis6an Kuantan Formation in Central Sumatra to those
of East Malaya, Laos, Vietnam and eastern Thailand. While
acknowledging that the limestones of the Visean Alas
Formation do not contain the same fauna as the Kuantan,
and that during mapping the surveyors had concluded
that there were sedimentary facies transitions between
the Bohorok, Kluet and Alas Formation (Cameron et al.,
1980), nevertheless, Hutchison (1994), extends the West
Sumatra Terrane northwards to include the outcrops of
the Kluet and Alas Formations (Fig. 13). He suggests that
the Medial Sumatra Line is a major strike-slip fault,
parallel to the Main Sumatran Fault, which brought the
Alas and Kluet Formations into juxtaposition with the
Bohorok Formation during the Cenozoic (Hutchison,
1994). Movement along the Medial Sumatra Line must
have occurred much earlier than the Cenozoic, as the Middle
to Late Triassic Kualu and Tuhur Formations, with similar
lithologies and faunas, occur on either side of the fault.
Hutchison (1994) strengthens his case for the
recognition of a Cathaysian West Sumatra Terrrane by
Gondwana Research, V. 6, No. 1,2003


incorporating the Lower Permian Jambi Series

(Zwierzycki, 1930) (cf. tTambi Nappe refered to above),
which includes the Menkarang Formation containing a
tropical Cathaysian flora and interbedded fusulinidbearing limestones, in this terrane. The Mengkarang
Formation is associated with volcanic rocks of the Palepat
and Silungkang Formations forming a NW-SE trending
belt along the southwestern margin of the West Sumatra
Terrane (Fig. 13). Following Pulunggono and Cameron
(1984), Hutchison (1994) identifies an outlier of this
volcanic belt in the volcanics of the Situtup Formation
near Takengon, where the limestones have yielded midPermian fusulinids of Cathaysian type.
As Hutchison (1994) points out, the West Sumatra
and East Malaya Terranes have similar volcanic arc
characteristics, are rich in fusulinid limestones and contain
a Cathaysian flora, but all these features are of different age.
The West Sumatra Terrane is not therefore demonstratively
a detached part of the East Malaya Terrane, although both
were evidently once part of Cathaysia.
Hutchison (1994) follows Pulunggono and Cameron
(1984) in identifymg the Mutus Assemblage, here shown
as separating the quartzites and pebbly mudstones
through Central and southern Sumatra (Fig. 13). Reasons
have been given earlier in this account for interpreting
this assemblage as a zone of deeper water sediments
occupying the site of a Triassic extensional rift. Also, in
southern Sumatra Hutchison (1994) illustrates the
subcrop of the Kluang Limestone identified from borehole
records (De Coster, 1974). De Coster (1974) suggested a
Cretaceous age for this massive limestone formation.
Hutchison (1994) by analogy with the Kuala Lumpur
Limestone in Malaya suggests a Silurian age. From the
position of this occurrence, along strike to the southeast
of the outcrop of the Kuantan Formation. As suggested
earlier, a more reasonable correlation is with limestone
units of the Carboniferous Kuantan Formation.

Models for the Woyla Group

Cameron et al. (1980) interpreted the JurassicCretaceous Woyla Group in northern Sumatra as an arc
assemblage, composed of basaltic and andesitic volcanics
with surrounding reef limestones, an oceanic assemblage,
composed of ocean floor materials, serpentinite, gabbro,
pillow basalts, volcaniclastics and ribbon-cherts,
imbricated into an accretionary complex. They suggested
that the arc had been constructed on continental crust,
as it is intruded by the Sikuleh granitoid batholith which
is associated with tin anomalies. They suggested that the
continental sliver, on which the arc was built, had separated
from the mainland of Sumatra by the development of a
short-lived narrow marginal sea, similar to the Andaman



Sea. Subsequently the arc collapsed back against the

continental margin, deforming the ocean floor materials
to form the oceanic assemblage. All these events occurred
within the Late Jurassic to Early Cretaceous, as the deformed
rocks are intruded by the mid-CretaceousSikuleh Batholith.
This model was extended to the south where similar
rocks are found in the Natal area (Rock et al., 1983).
However, when the supposed volcanic arc and its
associated granitoids were dated, as already mentioned,
it was found that they were of Oligocene-Eoceneage and
did not correspond to the volcanic arc of northern Sumatra
(Wajzer et al., 1991). In addition a Late Triassic
foraminifer was found in a limestone block within the
oceanic assemblage at Natal, extending the age of the
ocean floor back into the Triassic. Wajzer et al. (1991)
argued that the abundance of cherts in the oceanic
assemblage indicated that the ocean floor sediments had
been deposited far from land and that the oceanic
assemblage constituted part of a major ocean basin, rather
than a narrow marginal sea. In this model the volcanic
arc was interpreted as a mid-oceanic, rather than a
continental arc, which collided with Sumatra following
the subduction of the intervening ocean floor. A similar
model has been proposed by Mitchell (1992) for the
emplacement of a Late Jurassic-EarlyCretaceous volcanic
arc in western Myanmar which could be the northern
extension of the Woyla arc.
In a recent study, using correlations proposed by earlier
authors, Barber (2000) has shown that rock units
equivalent to the arc and oceanic assemblages of the Woyla
Group in northern Sumatra occur thoughout the western
part of Sumatra, and that the model proposed by Wajzer
e t al. (1991) can be extended to explain all these
occurrences. In this account it is proposed that the oceanic
island arc constitutes a Woyla Nappe, which was thrust
over the southwestern margin of Sundaland, composed
of the amalgamated Sibumasu and West Sumatra blocks,
during the mid-Cretaceous.

Revised Tectonic Model for Sumatra

A revised plate tectonic model, modified from earlier
models in the light of the data and the discussion above,
is presented as figures 1 4 and 15.
In figure 14, the East Malaya Block, characterised by a
Cathaysian flora and fauna, as proposed by Hutchison
(1994) and Metcalfe (1996) lies to the east, limited to
the west and south by the Bentong-Raub Suture which
separates it from the Sibumasu Block, characterised by a
temperate Visean fauna in the Alas Formation and the
occurrence of pebbly mudstones in the Bohorok
Formation. The Sibumasu Block is extended into the island
of Bangka to include the pebbly mudstone occurrence

described by Ko (1986), leaving Billiton and the northern

part of Bangka in the East Malaya Block. The BentongRaub Suture marks the junction along which the East
Malaya and Sibumasu blocks were amalgamated.
As proposed by Hutchison (1994), to the southwest of
the Sibumasu Block, and separated from it by the Medial
Sumatra Tectonic Zone lies the West Sumatra Block,
characterised by a tropical Visean fauna in the Kuantan
limestones, Early Permian volcanics in the Palepat and
Silungkang Formations and an Early Permian Cathaysian
flora (Jambi Flora) in the Mengkarang Formation. The
block also includes the fossiliferous Middle Permian
limestones of Silungkang, Ngaol and Pendopo. In figure 14
the block is shown extending to the northwest to include
the Sibolga Granite, considered to form part of the Early
Permian magmatic arc. The West Sumatra Block is not
considered to extend further to the northwest to include
the Carboniferous Alas and Kluet Formations as proposed
by Hutchison (1994). The continuity of the sediments of
the Bohorok, Alas and Kluet Formations, as described by
the surveyors (Cameron et al., 1980), is taken to indicate
that all these units form part of the Sibumasu Block.
However, the Situtup Formation with its typical Middle
Permian Cathaysian fusulinids may be a tectonic outlier
(Mippe) of the West Sumatra Block as Pulonggono and
Cameron (1984) and Hutchison (1994) have already
Further to the southwest, and occupying the whole of
the western part of Sumatra, is the volcanic island arc and
imbricated ocean floor materials of the Jurassic Cretaceous
Woyla Group, thrust over the western margins of the
Sibumasu and West Sumatra blocks in the Woyla Nappe.
In figure 1.5 A-D a series of cartoons represents the
major tectonic events in the development of Sumatra.
According to Sengor et al. (1988) and Metcalfe (1996)
the blocks which constituted Cathaysia, North and South
China and Indochina/East Malaya separated from the
northern margin of Gondwana with the development of
the Palaeo-Tethys in the Devonian. By the Early
Carboniferous Cathaysia, with the West Sumatra Block
forming part of its southern continental margin, lay in
tropical latitudes. The continental margin sediments are
represented by the Kuantan Formation with its tropical
Visean coral-algal fauna and flora.
Figure 15Ashows the situation in the Early Permian with
West Sumatra Block attached to Cathaysia. At this stage
subduction of the Palaeo-Tethys commenced beneath the
southern margin of Cathaysiain the Early Permian, generating
an Andean-type magmatic arc in the West Sumatra Block.
The arc is represented by intrusive granites, volcanic rocks
and associated sediments with their tropical faunas and
floras,of the Palepat, Mengkarangand SilungkangFormations.
Subduction with related volcanism also commenced in
Gondwana Research, V. 6, N071,2003



Fig. 14. Pre-Tertiarytectonic blocks in Sumatra and Peninsular Malaysia, modified from Hutchison (1994). The Situtup klippenin northern Sumatra
are regarded as tectonic outliers of the West Sumatra Block. P and Tp: the location of the Pawan and Tanjungpuah members of the Kuantan
Formation (Clarke et al., 1982), along the Medial Sumatra Tectonic Zone. No allowance has been made for post-Cretaceous movements
along the Sumatran Fault System. These amount to a maximum movement of only 200 lan in northern Sumatra.

the Early Permian along the section of the Cathaysian

margin represented by the East Malaya, but it is unlikely
that the West Sumatra Block lay adjacent to East Malaya,
as in East Malaya volcanism continued into the Late
Permian, but in West Sumatra ceased in the mid-Permian.
Figure 1 5 B illustrates the separation of the Sibumasu
Block from Gondwana in Northwest Australia during Late
Carboniferous and Early Permian times by extension,
rifting and the formation of new oceanic crust on the floor
of the opening rift. This new ocean crust formed part of
Meso-Tethys. Volcanism related to this extension may be
represented by metabasics in the Kluet and Alas
Formations. The separation of Sibumasu occurred at a
time when northern Gondwana was covered by
Gondwana Research, V. 6, No. 1,2003

continental glaciers and ice sheets. It is visualised that

ice sheets extended as ice shelves across the opening gulf.
As the ice shelves and icebergs melted they released
boulders and finer grained materials, to form tillite
deposits on the developing continental shelves in the
Bonaparte Gulf area of northwest Australia and the pebbly
mudstones of the Bohorok Formation in Sibumasu. During
the Permian Sibumasu drifted northwards into a more
temperate environment as Meso-Tethys expanded (Shi and
Archbold, 1995).
The sequence of events postulated by Sengor et al.
(1988) and Metcalfe (1996) for the separation of
continental blocks from Gondwana implies that West
Sumatra, like the other Cathaysian blocks, lay originally



Palaeo-Tethys subducting beneath the margin of Cathaysia


Palepat Magmatic Arc

volcaniclastics and carbonates
Silunkang and Mengkarang

I &I

I I 1

Continental block
including Indochina and

Site of future
strike-slip fault
(Median Sumatra Tectonic Zone)


Separation of Sibumasu from Gondwana
Transient Ice Shelf

Transient Ice Shelf


C. END PERMIAN - EARLY TRIASSIC Collision of West Sumatra and

Magmatic Arc
Sibumasu with East Malaya (Indochina) Block
No sedimentatv record


D. MID-CRETACEOUS Collision of Woyla Oceanic Arc with the margin

of Sundaland
Woyla Nappe
Overthrust with folding of Jur-Cret
continental marain sediments

Inverted Triassic Grabens

Semanggol Basin Semantan Basin

Tectonic Zone

B-R S : Bentong-Raub Suture

Fig. 15. Cartoons illustrating the plate tectonic evolution of Sumatra according to the model presented in this account. For justification see text.

to the north of Sibumasu. The problem to be addressed

is: How did the West Sumatra Block arrive in its present
position on the southern side of Sibumasu? The only
plausible explanation is that proposed by Hutchison
(1984) : that West Sumatra arrived in its present position
outboard of the Sibumasu Block by strike-slip faulting
along the Median Sumatra Tectonic Zone. The position
of this zone is indicated in figures 15A,C and D), A model
for the translation of continental blocks along active
continental margins is provided by the history of
Wrangellia translated along the Pacific margin of North

America by oblique subduction during the Late Mesozoic

and Cenozoic (e.g. Coneyet al., 1980). Hutchison (1994)
suggested that translation of the West Sumatra Block also
occurred during the Cenozoic, but the continuity of Middle
to Late Triassic sediments across the West Sumatra Block,
Sibumasu and East Malaya indicates that these block had
their present relationships by Middle Triassic times. The
translation of West Sumatra to its present position must
therefore have occurred in Late Permian or Early Triassic
times; as pointed out earlier in this account there is no
record of rocks of this period in Sumatra.
Gondwana Research, V. 6, No. 1,2003


In figure 15C it is suggested that also during the Late

Permian and Early Triassic period the segment of PalaeoTethys, which lay between the combined West Sumatra
and Sibumasu blocks and East Malaya, was subducted
beneath East Malaya until the blocks collided. The
Bentong-Raub Suture in Malaya represents the site of the
collision, much modified by later strike-slip faulting.
Following collision, the collision zone was invaded by
granite plutonism, accompanied by tin mineralisation.
During the Middle and Late Triassic, the whole of
Sumatra and Peninsular Malaya were subjected to E-W
extension, with the formation of several N-S graben
structures, such as the Kualu and Tuhur Basins in Sumatra
and the Semantan and Semanggol Basins in Malaya,
separated by intervening horst blocks. As the result of
extension the whole area subsided below sea level.
Carbonates were deposited on the horst blocks, while the
graben, cut off and far from sources of terrigenous
sediment, accumulated bedded cherts and thin shales.
The record of Middle to Late Permian cherts in the
Semanggol Formation (Sashida et al., 1995) which
suggests that the Semanggol Basin originated at an earlier
stage than envisaged here, has been explained by Metcalfe
(2000) who reports that these cherts were deformed by
the collision event, while Middle to Late Triassic cherts in
the same area show only tilting and open folding. Towards
the end of the Triassic, uplift of the eastern part of the
Malay Peninsula, perhaps associated with the intrusion
of the granites, provided a source of terrigenous sediments.
Turbiditic sands and shales were deposited in the graben,
the sands becoming coarser and more conglomeratic in
the more easterly of the graben towards the end of the
During the later part of the Mesozoic the southwestern
margin of the combined East Malaya-Sibumasu-West
Sumatra continental block, which can now be regarded
as Sundaland, formed a passive continental margin facing
the Meso-Tethys Ocean. In the Late Jurassic a subduction
zone developed within the ocean, outboard of Sumatra,
forming an oceanic island arc above the subduction zone.
Arc volcanoes, rising above sea level, were surrounded
by carbonate reefs. In the mid-Cretaceous, as the
intervening ocean floor (Meso-Tethys)was subducted, the
island arc collided with the continental margin of
Sundaland (Fig. 15D). The island arc with its forearc and
accretionary complex formed the Woyla Nappe which was
thrust over the Sundaland continental margin. JurassicCretaceous continental margin sediments of the Asia,
Peneta and Rawas Formations, were folded and
metamorphosed to the slate grade. It is suggested that
inversion of the Triassic basins, with folding of the basin
sediments, resulted from the far-field effects of the
Gondwana Research, V. 6, No. 1,2003


collision of the Sundaland continental margin with the

Woyla Arc (Fig. l5D). A mid-Cretaceous compression
event, identified by the structural studies of Harbury
et al. (1990) in the central Malay Peninsula, shows that
compression affected the whole of Sumatra and the Malay
Peninsula at this time.
Following the collision with the Woyla Arc it is
considered that the polarity of the subduction system
reversed, so that subduction of oceanic crust outboard of
the collided arc beneath Sumatra generated a Late
Cretaceous magmatic arc (Barber, 2000).

Outstanding Problems in Interpreting the

Tectonic Development of Sumatra

I. The age of the Tapanuli Group

The only unit in the Tapanuli Group of northern
Sumatra which has beeen dated reliably is the Early
Carboniferous Alas Formation. Since the Bohorok and
Kluet Formations both contain sandstones and shales
similar to those interbedded with the Visean limestones
of the Alas Formation, so that no clear boundaries can be
drawn between the three formations, it has been presumed
that these units are also of Carboniferousage, and broadly
contemporaneous. This presumption, together with the
observation that pebbly mudstones and conglomerates
decrease in frequency, with a reduction in clast size
towards the southwest, led to the deduction that the
formations in the Tapanuli Group represent different facies
of a continental margin sequence which faced an ocean
to the southwest (Cameron et al., 1980).0wing to the
apparent absence of fossils in the Bohorok and Kluet
Formations it has not even been established with certainty
that they are of Carboniferous age; it is possible that the
Tapanuli Group extends down into the Devonian and even
into the Lower Palaeozoic.
The upper limit to the age of the Tapanuli Group is
also uncertain. No fossils of Late Carboniferous or of
undoubted Early Permian age have been identified in
northern Sumatra, but it is probable that the Tapanuli
Group extends into the Early Permian. Although its
position within the stratigraphic succession has not been
established, the Bohorok Formation could be the youngest
formation within the Tapanuli Group. As already
described, the pebbly mudstones of the Bohorok
Formation have encouraged direct correlation, with the
pebbly mudstones of the Peninsular Thailand, the
Langkawi Islands and NW Malaysia, where tillites are
interbedded with sediments containing Early Permian
fossils. In Australia glacial deposits indicate that glaciation
commenced in the Namurian, reached its peak in the



Stephanian and Sakmarian and had ceased by the

Artinskian (Quilty 1984). These correlations suggest that
the Bohorok Formation is possibly of Late Carboniferous
to Early Permian age. I t is unfortunate that the fossiliferous
Pangaruran Bryozoan Bed has so far failed to yield precise
age-diagnostic fossils.
A Late Carboniferous-EarlyPermian age for the Bohorok
Formation means that these glacigene deposits are not
contemporaneous with the Visean Alas Formation and are
therefore not incompatible with the temperate coralbearing limestones of that formation. Because of their
difference in age it is not necessary to postulate, as
Hutchison (1994) has done, that the limestones and the
glacigene deposits were formed on separate plates. In this
study we follow the conclusion of Fontaine and Gafoer
(1989) that the VisCan Alas limestone faunas were
deposited on the Sibumasu Plate while the VisCan faunas
of the Kuantan limestones of Central Sumatra are related
to those of the Cathaysian Indochina Block and were
deposited on a separate West Sumatra Plate (Hutchison,
To resolve the problems in determining the age of the
Tapanuli Group it is necessary to initiate a diligent search
for fossils, particularly in the Kluet Formation and among
the sandstones and shales interbedded with the pebbly
mudstones of the Bohorok Formation. It is evident that
macrofossils are scarce, but there may be microfossils
especiallyin limestone bands, and the frequent occurrence
of fragmentary plant remains in shale and siltstone units
suggest that they may yield pollen or acritarchs in areas
of low-grade metamorphism.
2. Age($ of deformation and metamorphism in Sumatra

In their synthesis of the tectonic development of

Sumatra, Cameron et al. (1980) and Cameron and
Pulunggono (1984) concluded that there had been a major
phase of deformation in the mid-Permian. This conclusion
was based on the universal development of cleavage and
of fold structures in the rocks of the Tapanuli Group,
presumed to be of Carboniferous age, in contrast to the
less deformed mid- to Late Permian Peusangan Group.
This age of deformation was apparently confirmed by the
Pangururan Bryozoan Bed which is associated with the
Kluet and Bohorok Formations in the field, and shows
the same degree of deformation. The correlation of the
Pangururan occurrence with the Lower Permian Bryozoan
Bed of Peninsular Thailand confirmed that deformation
had occurred later than the Early Permian. There is no
explanation for a mid-Permian deformation event in the
scenario for the tectonic evolution of Sumatra outlined
above. In low-grade metamorphic terranes it is commonly
observed that while thin bedded shales and sandstones

may be strongly folded and may develop slaty cleavage,

interbedded massive limestones remain apparently
unaffected. The presence of the massive Alas limestones
of VisCan age amongst slaty rocks suggests that this might
be the explanation for the apparent mid-Permian
Throughout the outcrop sandstones, siltstones and
shales of the Tapanuli Group show folding and the
development of slaty cleavage. Locally metamorphism
reaches phyllite, and even amphibolite grade. It has
already been suggested that high-grade metamorphic
rocks included within the Alas Formation might represent
part of the underlying pre-Carboniferous crystalline
basement. This possibility could be tested by isotopic agedating of these rocks. Another area of high-grade rocks
occurs along the western coast of Sumatra near
Tapaktuan. Although there are major igneous intrusions
in this area and the metamorphism has been attributed
to contact effects, as has already been suggested, this
occurrence may represent the metamorphic footprint of
the overthrust Woyla Nappe. Again, this possibility needs
to be explored by isotopic age-dating of the metamorphic
In Central Sumatra folding and slaty cleavage is not
only found in the Carboniferous Kuantan Formation, but
is also developed in the Permian Barisan Formation, the
Triassic Tuhur Formation and even the Jurassic-Early
Cretaceous Rawas Formation (the Schiefer Barisan of
Tobler, 1922) (Fig. 8). The relative lack of deformation in
the Permian Palepat and Mengkarang formations (the
Vorbarisan)which are juxtaposed with the cleaved rocks
across the Musi Lineament was the justification for the
postulated Jambi Nappe (Fig. 11).In this area, and also
in southern Sumatra, deformation and metamorphism are
of certainly of post-Early Cretaceous age and are
associated either with the emplacement of the Woyla
Nappe in mid-Cretaceous times, or with the development
of the Late Cretaceous magmatic arc and associated strikeslip movements as explained by Barber (2000).
In central and southern Sumatra there is evidence that
tectonic movements occurred in Permo-Triassictimes. The
Triassic Tuhur Formation includes limestone
conglomerates which contain pebbles of limestone
containing Permian fusulinids (Silitonga and Kastowo,
1975), also Turner (1983) reported abundant mid- to Late
Permian corals and fusulinids reworked into Middle to
Late Triassic calciturbiditesjust to the north of the equator
in his Air Manis Formation. Because of the presence of
Permian fossils the latter occurrence was erroneously
included in the Permian Silungkang Formation by Rock
et al. (1983). These observations show that Permian rocks
were uplifted and subject to erosion before Middle Triassic
Gondwana Research, K 6, No. 1,2003


times. This uplift could be due to the rejuvenation of horst

blocks on an extended continental margin, as in the model
proposed in this account.
KO (1986) in his account of the geology of Bangka
Island reports that the Permian rocks are highly deformed,
with the development of isoclinal folding and slaty
cleavage, while the associated Middle to Late Triassic rocks
are only gmtly folded. Kos (1986) map shows Permian
and Triassic rocks imbricated together by thrusts (Fig. 8).
If Kos (1986) observations are correct they imply a postMiddle Permian and pre-Middle Triassic major
compressional tectonic event, which has not been
recognised in central or southern Sumatra. This event was
presumably the collision between the Sibumasu Block and
the East Malaya Block recognised in Peninsular Malaysia,
here dispersed across a broad zone, rather than
concentrated in a discrete Bentong-Raub Suture. On the
other hand the West Sumatra Block of central and
southern Sumatra was not involved in this event, as
Hutchison (1994) suggested.
The later imbrication of the Permian and Triassic rocks
on Bangka must be the effects of an important post-Triassic
event. Earlier, this event was attributed to the far field
effects of the mid-Cretaceous collision with the Woyla Arc.
However, in the Riau Archipelago to the south of
Singapore, Jongmans (1951) described the flat-lying
Bintan Formation, of Rhaetic age, juxtaposed against
folded earlier Triassic rocks suggesting that there is a very
Late Triassic unconformity in this area. If this observation
is confirmed imbrication of the Triassic rocks cannot be
attributed entirely to the collision with the Woyla Arc as
was suggested earlier for the inversion of the Triassic
basins on Sumatra and in the Malaya Peninsula.
3. The relationship between the West Sumatra, Sibumasu
and East Malaya Terranes

The major problem is: What was the original

relationship between the Cathaysian West Sumatra Block
and the East Malaya Block? As has already been pointed
out (Fig. 7), they have differences in their stratigraphic
sequence and must have developed separately, although
both evidently formed part of the southern margin of the
Cathaysian Province. Whereabouts was the West Sumatran
Block relative to the East Malayan Block in Carboniferous
and Permian times? Were these blocks originally adjacent
or widely separated? The Cathaysian Blocks separated
from Gondwana before the Sibumasu Block and these
terranes were successively accreted to the southwest
margin of Sundaland, how then did the West Sumatra
Block came to be attached to the outboard side of the
Sibumasu Terrane? The only possibility, as suggested by
Hutchison (1994), is that the West Sumatra Block was
Gondwana Research, V. 6, No. 1,2003


emplaced on the outboard side of Sibumasu by postPermian strike-slip faulting. The details of the movement
of the West Sumatra Block have yet to be resolved. The
original relationships may have been significantly
modified by movements along faults related to the
Sumatran Fault Zone during the Cenozoic.
Arguments have been presented in the foregoing
account for the separate development of the eastern part
of Sumatra, as part of the Sibumasu Terrane, and the West
Sumatra Terrane during the Carboniferous, and that this
separation continued until at least the Middle Permian.
It has previously been suggested (Wajzer et al., 1991;
McCourt et al., 1996) that the Lower Permian volcanic
rocks and the associated Mengkarang Formation with its
Cathaysian flora were formed as a Permian volcanic arc
which collided with the southwestern margin of
Sundaland, but it is clear that this volcanic arc was formed
on continental basement, as the Kuantan Formation with
its tropical Visean fauna formed a microcontinental
fragment which formed the basement to the volcanic arc.
As explained earlier it is likely that the juxtaposition of
the West Sumatra and the Sibumasu Blocks took place as
a result of strike-slip fault movements along the Medial
Tectonic Zone of Hutchison (1994) (Fig. 13). Unfortunately
this zone is covered by Tertiary and younger sediments
and is exceedingly poorly exposed. The only part of this
zone which can be studied easily is in the area near
Pekanbaru where it is represented by outcrops of highly
deformed chlorite and tremolite schists of the Pawan and
Tanjung Puah members, attributed to the Kuantan
Formation. These magnesium-rich rocks could have been
formed by the metasomatism of volcanic rocks, or be
derived from basic and ultrabasic rocks of oceanic
derivation, and could represent the trace of a collision
suture. The geochemistry of these rocks warrants
investigation and they should also be studied for evidence
of major strike-slip displacement.
As has already been pointed out, Hutchison (1994),
following Pulunggono and Cameron (1984), suggested
that the Situtup Formation near Takengon in northern
Sumatra, composed mainly of limestones, but also
including volcanic rocks, could be correlated with the
Palepat and Mengkarang Formations of Central Sumatra.
It is suggested that these outcrops are a detached fragment
of the West Sumatra Terrane, forming a Mippe on top of
the deformed rocks of the Tapanuli Group (Figs. 13, 14).
This interpretation suggests that the West Sumatra Block
collided with and was thrust over the Sibumasu Block.
However, this interpretation makes no sense in the context
of a strike-slip model for the juxtaposition of the West
Sumatra and Sibumasu Blocks. If the Situtup Formation
can be proven to be a detached tectonic outlier it provides



a vital piece of evidence supporting a collision model for

the juxtaposition of the West Sumatra Terrane and the
Sibumasu Terrane. I t is also important to determine the
relationships between the mid-Permian limestones and
the Middle to Late Triassic limestones included within
this group of outcrops. Understanding the Situtup
Formation and its relationship to the surrounding rocks
could provide the key to unravelling the tectonic evolution
of Sumatra.

The authors are grateful for the support of the Directors
of the British Geological Survey and the Indonesian
Directorate of Mineral Resources, the Geological Research
and Development Centre and the Research and
Development Centre for Oil and Gas Technology
(LEMIGAS) and for the cooperation of our Indonesian
colleagues in the field in Sumatra over many years. We
are grateful for the advice of Katsumi Ueno (Fukuoka
University) on the significance of the fusulinid faunas of
Sumatra. Critical reviews of the paper by Katsumi Ueno,
Ian Metcalfe and Charles Hutchison have led us to correct
several misunderstandings, remove ambiguities and to
modify some of the details of our original interpretation.

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