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PROVENANCE STUDY ON THE

SANDSTONE OF THE SEMANGGOL


FORMATION IN BUKIT MERAH,
TAIPING, NORTH PERAK
Marinna Alyssa Binti Kamalul Ariffin
Bachelor of Technology (Hons)
Universiti Teknologi Petronas
Tronoh, Perak Darul Ridzuan
Email: marinna.alyssa@gmail.com

Abstract The Semanggol Formation is extended from north of displaced areas; (1) Padang Terap (north Kedah), (2) Kulim
Kedah southwards to north of Perak. However, the provenance Baling (south Kedah) and lastly, (3) Gunung Semanggol
study on the formation in north of Perak, Bukit Merah, Taiping (north Perak). Based on Burton (1973a) and Abdullah, I et al.
has yet been discussed. Hence, this study is made with the (1989), the Semanggol Formation was probably deposited in
objective of determining and understanding the origin of the
the same which was then separated into three areas by wrench
sandstone of the Semanggol Formation in Bukit Merah, Taiping,
Perak by referring to the quartz mineral composition. The faults explaining the location of the formation in North Kedah,
methods used were e.g. geological fieldwork as well as a South Kedah, and North Perak. The area of focus is of the
laboratory analysis e.g. thin section petrography. From the QFL Semanggol Formation in northern Gunung Semanggol of
diagram made on the thin section petrography, it is seen that the Bukit Merah, Taiping, North Perak. Gunung Semanggol is
majority of the minerals is of quartz mineral that ranges from 80 located in the Kerian district, Perak. It is as high as 390m
90% indicating that the sandstone is mature and comes from a above sea level. It can be divided into two parts; (1) northern
passive continental margin. They fall under the sublitharenite ans (2) southern of Gunung Semanggol. The mountain is
group as they are medium to fine grained, subangular to located 13km northwest of Taiping. Gunung Semanggol is
subrounded and are poorly to moderately well sorted. Based on
apart of the Semanggol Formation.
the QFL Ternary Diagram, QFL and QmFL Tectonic
Discrimination Diagrams, it is indicative that the sandstone Provenance means where the sediments came from and
originated from a low grade metamorphic provenance. The how they are at the present time. Derived from the latin
sandstone had undergone a recycled orogeny as well as the proverb provenire, provenance incorporates all questions in
craton interior provenance where in this case, the sandstone was remaking the lithospheric history of the Earth (Basu, 2003). It
deposited in a fore deep basin constructed on the leading edge is to work backwards using the present sediments to get an
of the Sibumasu (continental block) and the uplifted idea of the rock origin. It is usually confined to sedimentary
accretionary complex (recycled orogeny) where they may have rocks, where in this project, sandstone is used. The focus of
been recycled through the processes of uplifting of the this project in understanding the origin of the sandstone is to
accretionary complex, weathering and erosion. As the Semanggol (1) develop a better understanding on the area, and (2) identify
Formation in Bukit Merah only contains two out of three of the and interpret the environment of deposition and processes
informal units; rhythmite and conglomerate, it could indicate
involved in the sedimentation of the particles at the Semanggol
that the Semanggol Formation in Bukit Merah is the shallow or
upper part of the fore deep basin of a flysch deposit. The Formation in Bukit Merah, Perak.
sandstone of the Semanggol Formation may have been of the As the evolution of the earth and its geology is
Paleozoic Kati Formation(?) that lies between the Bintang and dynamic, understanding the provenance study of the
Kledang Groups. sedimentary rock (in this case, sandstone), can further allow
geologists to reassure and support their claim as well as to help
Keywords Semanggol Formation, Bukit Merah, provenance, understand the evolution in terms of geology of Peninsular
sandstone. Malaysia. However, as the quartz mineral is a significant
indicator of provenance, the method involved will be thin
INTRODUCTION
section petrography.

1.1 BACKGROUND 1.2 PROBLEM STATEMENT

The Semanggol Formation stretches from north of Despite the Semanggol Formation being an informal
Kedah southwards to north of Perak. It is believed that this unit, it has been area of interest in the geology field. However,
formation is of Permo Triassic age. As stated Jasin & Harun many of the researches made are focused in the Kedah area.
(2007), the formation can be found at three separate fault The researches made in the Bukit Merah area are on the
tectono stratigraphy and geology. Hence, no study on the was later uplifted by the Late Triassic granite intrusion. The
provenance have been made. However, it has been presumed formation at Gunung Semanggol does not represent the
that the Semanggol Formation of Middle to Late Permian complete succession of the Semanggol Formation due to its
is consistent with a deepwater basin. Therefore, this study will absence of the top and bottom formation where the top has
emphasize on the provenance study of the sandstone of the been eroded and the bottom was unable to be identified (Foo,
Semanggol Formation in Bukit Merah, Taiping, North Perak. 1990).

1.3 OBJECTIVE

The objectives of the research is to determine the origin


of the sandstone of the Semanggol Formation as well as to
identify and interpret the environment of deposition and
processes involved in the sedimentation of the particles in
Bukit Merah, Perak of the Semanggol Formation.

1.4 SCOPE OF STUDY

The research will focus on the sandstone in the


northern part of the Semanggol Formation in Bukit Merah,
Perak. In detail, the study is made to understand the origin of
the sandstone in that area. The research is divided into two
phases where in the first phase, a geological map of the area is
produced and rock samples are collected for thin section
petrography. At the second phase, the results are analyzed to Figure 1.0: Localities of the Semanggol Formation after
determine the origin of the sandstone. This project requires the Metcalfe (2000).
knowledge and understanding in sedimentology and
petrography. 2.2 SEMANGGOL FORMATION LITHO
STRATIGRAPHY
LITERATURE REVIEW
Figure 2.0 show the stratigraphic chart from
Hutchinson and Tan (2009) describing the sedimentary
2.1 SEMANGGOL FORMATION HISTORY
succession general nomenclature as per Burton (1973a). As
seen in (a), the older Chert Member is a parallel laminated
In 1959, Alexander had named the Semanggol
cherty, fine sandstone, siltstones and shales that were
Formation from the Middle Triassic argillaceous arenaceous
interpreted to be deepwater environment across the
rocks found at the outcrop near the west coast of Gunung
Semanggol Basin. However, as no carbonates were found, it is
Semanggol, North Perak. It was then presumed that the
believed the water depths had exceeded the Carbonate
formation was named after the Gunung Semanggol.
Compensation Depth (CCD) levels. The age is believed to be
Geologists have applied this name to exposures found of
Late Permian to Early Triassic. The middle section (b), is the
predominantly Triassic clastic facies as said by Courtier
Rhythmite Member which is a variably thick bedded, buff
(1974), it bears a marked lithological resemblance to the
coloured medium to fine grained massive sandstone with
lithologies exposed on the Semanggol ridge in north Perak.
minor pebbles at the base probably believed to be of Lower
The Semanggol Formation has indefinitely appeared widely in
Middle Triassic in age. It also has thick interbedded siltstones
geological publications despite being an informal unit. As
and mudstones that easily resemble the lower and older Chert
stated by Jasin and Harun (2007), the formation can be found
Member. Finally the youngest, (c) is the Conglomerate
at three separate fault displaced areas; (1) Padang Terap
Member that is estimated to be Upper Triassic (?) where Foo
(north Kedah), (2) Kulim Baling (south Kedah) and (3)
(1990) mapped thick variably bedded cobblestones, breccias
Gunung Semanggol (north Perak) as shown in Figure 1.0.
and coarse grained sandstones typically towards the eastern
Based on Burton (1973a) and Abdullah I. et al.(1989), the
flank of Gunung Semanggol.
Semanggol Formation was probably deposited in the same
The depositional setting for the Semanggol Formation
basin which was then separated into three areas by wrench
in Bukit Merah of Middle to Late Permian is consistent with a
faults explaining the locations of the formation. In Padang
deepwater basin as illustrated by Mansor M.Y. (2015). The
Terap, the formation of all three units i.e. conglomerate,
thick repetitive pelagic sediments was believed to be tropical
rhythmite, and chert, while in Kulim Baling, the units found
offshore marine below CCD with large areas containing
are chert and rhythmite. The rocks in this area also consist the
planktonic activity as no carbonates were found. The
Ordovician Early Devonian Mahang Formation. Lastly, in
subsequent Lower Triassic submarine fan of coarser clastics
the Gunung Semanggol area, there are two units exposed; the
were erosional sediments transported into the basin from
conglomerate and rhythmite units. However, the formation
proximal subaerial uplift areas. The upper Conglomerate a fore deep basin created on the leading edge of the
Member indicates the area was shallowing up and depositing Sibumasu block and the accretionary complex.
chert clast bearing, granules to cobble sized breccias and Sashida et al. (1995) had proposed that the
conglomerates with interbedded mudstones. In present time, accretionary wedges associated with the collision of Sibumasu
the beds are believed to form steeply folded ridges and were the source areas for the turbidites in the Rhythmite
lowlands between the main granite belts of NW Peninsular Member of the Semanggol Formation. The statement
Malaysia. proposed is in fact consistent with the concentration of
conglomerate of conglomerate and coarser grained turbidites
in the eastern part of the Semanggol basin and the inferred
paleoslope direction but it is however inconsistent with the
conglomerate sandstone found in Gunung Semanggol,
where the paleoslope is initially interpreted to face northeast
and is proven by the younger conglomerate sediments found
in the area had subsequently been derived to face east.
Metcalfe (2000) suggested that the Semanggol
Formation consists a major unconformity with Upper Permian
cherts forming part of the accretionary complex, overlain
unconformably by undeformed Middle Triassic cherts. The
implication is that the suture, marking the collision zone
between East Malaya and Sibumasu is a broad zone extending
well to the west of the Bentong Raub Suture.

Figure 2.0: The Stratigraphy Chart of the Semanggol


Formation from Hutchinson and Tan (2009) METHODOLOGY

The outcrop is highly focused at the northern region


of Gunung Semanggol where field observations were made,
the strike and dip angle were taken and five samples were
collected based on the sandstone layers present. Three samples
were taken from the bottom portion and two samples were
Figure 2.1: Gunung Semanggol, Bukit Merah Cross Section taken from the upper portion as shown in Figure 3.0.
of Surface Outcrops from Mansor (2015)

2.3 REGIONAL SETTING OF THE SEMANGGOL


FORMATION

It was shown that prior to the destruction of the Palaeo


Tethys Ocean, it was floored partly by deep marine ribbon
bedded chert ranging in age from Late Devonian to early
Permian by Metcalfe (2000). It was also presumed that the
Southeast Asian region comprised of complex tectonic collage
of allocthonous continental fragments (Metcalfe, 1998; Spiller
& Metcalfe, 1995). Meanwhile, the Sibumasu block was Figure 3.0: Collection of Samples taken at the Outcrop in
drifting northwards into lower latitudes while the Palaeo Bukit Merah, Taiping, Perak.
Tethys oceanic plate was widening. It is also believed that the
remnants of this ocean were thrusting westwards over the
Sibumasu terrain as part of the accretionary complex where 3.1 THIN SECTION PETROGRAPHY
ample supply of eroded chert and clastics could be transported
into the Semanggol basin. From there, Metcalfe has assumed Basic mineralogy by volume which includes
the Semanggol basin originated as a fore deep, with the percentages of minerals, its sorting and roundedness was
possibility that the cherts found in the Semanggol and Kati determined. The study will be focused on the quartz mineral in
formations were remnants of this ocean. In 2013, Metcalfe the sandstone as it is a sensitive indicator of provenance
stated that the collision between the Sibumasu block and studies. As indicated by Krynine (1946a), the shape of quartz
Sukothai Arc had begun in early Triassic and was completed mineral if elongated could indicate a metamorphic origin. A
by Late Triassic where the Triassic cherts, turbidites and Quartz, Feldspar and Lithic (QFL) Ternary Diagram and the
conglomerates of the Semanggol Formation were deposited in QFL and QmFL Tectonic Discrimination Diagram is made to
determine the textural maturity and provenance is then largely variant, the sorting is classified as poor. Also, since
determined. As said by Dickinson and Suczek (1979), the their quartz content is relatively high (more than 75%), they
sedimentary provenance, nature of sedimentary processes are presumed to be mature.
within the depositional basin and the kind of dispersal paths
linking provenance to basin influences the sandstone
4.2 SANDSTONE CLASSIFICATION AND
composition.
PROVENANCE DETERMINATION

RESULTS AND DISCUSSION Based on the QFL Ternary Diagram shown in Figure
4.1, all of the sandstone samples collected at the outcrop
Table 1.0: The Detrital Composition in Percentages of the Sandstone consist of more than 75% quartz. Hence, they can be classified
Samples taken in Bukit Merah, Taiping. under the subarkose, sublitharenite or quartz arenite. However,
Based on Table 1.0 of their QFL percentages, they are
Sample Quartz % Feldspar % Lithic %
classified as sublitharenites. This indicates that the rocks are
Layer #
more mature as the maturity increases with higher amount of
85 5 10
1 quartz. Sublitharenites are typically medium - to fine grained
89 1 10 and are typically subangular to subrounded which are poorly
2
to moderately well sorted. Hence, indicating the rocks are in
84 1 15
3 fact, sublitharenites. The provenance of the sandstones are
90 1 9 then determined on the basis of the petrographic modal
4
analyses and the QFL and QmFL tectonic discrimination
84 1 15
5 diagrams as shown in Figures 4.7 and 4.8. The detrital
84 1 9 framework of the sandstone assemblages are able to provide
Min
15
the information on the composition and the tectonic setting of
Max 90 5 the provenance as well as the depositional environment as
86.4 1.8 11.8 quoted by Dickinson et al. (1983).
Mean

4.1 TEXTURAL MATURITY AND PROVENANCE

A better sorted and more rounded grain with lesser content


of clay typically means a more mature sand as shown by Folk (1951)
in Figure 4.0.

Figure 4.1: QFL Ternary Diagram for the Classification of


Sandstone Samples from Semanggol Formation, Bukit Merah

4.3 PROVENANCE DETERMINATION FROM THE


Figure 4.0: Stages of Textural Maturity as indicated by Folk MODAL COMPOSITION
(1951)
Based on the petrography analysis, the study is
The sandstone samples can be grouped under the focused on the characteristics and features of the quartz
immature to mature group as the samples are ranging from mineral e.g. the shape of the quartz mineral. As indicated by
poorly sorted to moderately well sorted and from subangular Krynine (1946a), the shape of the quartz grains can be a useful
to subrounded. Meanwhile, their clay is relatively high to indicator for provenance studies where elongated grains are
moderate and acts as cement, filling the pore spaces among presumed to be of a metamorphic origin. It is seen that the
the detrital grains. A more rounded grain shape basically sandstone samples contain polycrystalline quartz especially in
indicates the sand is more mature and had undergone a longer samples Layer #1 to #3 as shown in Figures 4.2 to 4.4.
time of transportation. As the sizes of sediment are mixed and Polycrystalline quartz are a significant indicator for
provenance studies as more polycrystalline quartz indicates a
low grade metamorphic origin with at least 50% and a
higher grade metamorphic source usually has about 30%
polycrystalline quartz to monocrystalline quartz and finally of
about 15% polycrystalline quartz indicates a plutonic igneous
source. Also, a metamorphic source can be indicated if the
polycrystalline has ten or more crystal units present (Scholle,
1979). Also, if the monocrystalline has a strong undulatory
extinction with high percentages of polycrystalline showing Figure 4.5: Thin Section of Layer #4 20X Magnified L; plane
sutured or crennulate boundaries and high number of - polarized R; cross - polarized
subcrystals with sheared quartz are signs of a metamorphic
source. Hence, as layers #1 to #3 have a majority of
polycrystalline quartz present with more than 10 individual
crystals and the monocrystalline quartz in layers #4 and #5 as
shown in Figures 4.5 and 4.6 are monocrystalline quartz with
a strong undulose extinction angle of more than 5, therefore,
the sandstone samples from the Semanggol Formation in
Bukit Merah, Taiping comes from a low grade metamorphic
provenance. Figure 4.6: Thin Section of Layer #5 20X Magnified L; plane
- polarized R; cross - polarized

4.4 PROVENANCE DETERMINATION FROM


TECTONIC DISCRIMINATION
From the petrographic modal analyses, two types of
the tectonic discrimination ternary diagrams; the QFL and
QmFL as shown in Figures 4.7 and 4.8 can be obtained. Based
on Figure 4.7 of the QFL tectonic discrimination diagram, it
shows that the sandstone samples are of the recycle orogenic
Figure 4.2: Thin Section of Layer #1 4X Magnified L; plane - group. The recycle orogenic group are often derived from
polarized R; cross - polarized uplifted, deformed and metamorphosed continental passive
margin sequences that are typically dominated by sedimentary
and metasedimentary lithic grains that have been eroded from
fine grained quartzrose sandstones, siltstones, shales, and
their low grade metamorphic equivalents (Dickinson, 1970;
Dickinson and Suczek, 1979; Dickinson et al., 1983). Also, as
these sediments have typically gone through one cycle of
weathering, they tend to start off as relatively rich in quartz.
The source area may initially supply abundant sedimentary and
Figure 4.3: Thin Section of Layer #2 4X Magnified L; plane - metamorphic rock fragments that over time, the sands sourced
polarized R; cross - polarized from such orogeny becomes progressively more quartz rich.
As the sandstones are derived to be from metamorphic terrain,
the Semanggol Formation in Bukit Merahs provenance may
have been of the Paleozoic Kati Formation(?) located on the
Western zone. As the Kati Formation lies between the granites
of the Bintang and Kledang Group, the consist of siliceous
metasediments e.g. metamorphosed reddish brown purplish
carbonaceous shale, siltstone, mudstone and rare sandstone
with minor conglomerate lenses of carbonaceous limestone
Figure 4.4: Thin Section of Layer #3 20X Magnified L; plane deposited in quiet deep waters hence, making it a high
- polarized R; cross - polarized possibility that the origin of the sandstones of the Semanggol
Formation in Bukit Merah to come from the Kati
Formation(?). In addition, many recycled orogeny were
formed by the collision of terrains that were once separate
continental block (Boggs, 2013). This is indicative of the
Semanggol Formation as the formation is said to have been
constructed on the leading edge of the Sibumasu block and the
uplifted accretionary complex.
In the QmFL discrimination diagram shown in Figure environment of the area. Based on the sandstone samples
4.8, the sandstone samples are of the craton interior and the collected from the formation, the sandstones consists traces of
quartzrose recycle area which is indicative of the samples heavy minerals such as zircon. Also, as the quartz mineral
coming from a continental block and recycled orogeny contain polycrystalline quartz with more than ten individual
provenance. It is typical of minerals that are quartz rich and crystal units and monocrystalline quartz with a strong undulose
lithic and feldspar poor to fall into these categories. This is extinction angle of more than 5 , the sandstones of the
typical of those subsiding passive margins. As it is believed Semanggol Formation in Bukit Merah are indicative of a low
that since the Semanggol Formation in Bukit Merah only grade metamorphic provenance. Based on the QFL ternary
contains two out of three of the informal units; rhythmite and diagram, the sandstones are found to be part of the
conglomerate, it could indicate that the Semanggol Formation sublitharenite group as they contain more than 75% quartz, are
in Bukit Merah is the shallow or upper part of the fore deep medium to fine grained, subangular to subrounded and are
basin hence, resulting in the Semanggol Formation in Bukit poorly to moderately well sorted. Based on Crook (1974) and
Merah to be at the continental block and the recycle orogeny. Schwab (1975), quartz rich rocks are typically associated
with passive continental margins. Therefore, it could be said
that the sandstone of the Semanggol Formation have originated
from the Kati Formation(?) a metasediment formation formed
in Paleozoic age. The depositional setting for the Semanggol
Formation of Bukit Merah of Middle to Late Permian is
consistent with that of a deepwater basin as the formation is
seen to be younging upwards and consist of slump structures.
It was also said that the Semanggol Formation was deposited
in a fore deep basin constructed on the leading edge of
Sibumasu and the uplifted accretionary complex which can be
explained as the conglomerate unit is of the younger age and
the chert is of the older age. However, as the Semanggol
Formation in Bukit Merah only consist of the rhythmite and
conglomerate units, the formation here may have been on the
Figure 4.7: QFL Tectonic Discrimination Diagram for the shallower part of the fore deep basin of a flysch deposit
Sandstone Samples from Semanggol Formation, Bukit Merah, explaining why the chert unit is not seen on the outcrop. The
Perak processes involved may have been that the sandstones were
recycled through the processes of uplifting of the accretionary
complex, weathering and erosion.

FUTHER STUDY
To understand and reassure on the origin of the sandstone and
its depositional evolution, different studies could be conducted
such as geochemistry, paleomagnetism, and paleocurrent
analysis at the Gunung Semanggol formation. By conducting
several tests, a more accurate and comprehensive comparison
can be made. Also, a project on a wider scale of focus on the
formation could also be done for validation purposes of the
formations lithology which can also be useful in determining
the distribution of the Semanggol Formation from the north of
Kedah all the way southwestwards to Bukit Merah area.

Figure 4.8 : QmFL Tectonic Discrimination Diagram for ACKNOWLEDGEMENT


the Sandstone Samples from Semanggol Formation,
Bukit Merah, Perak With the utmost gratitude to my supervisor, Dr. Suhaili Ismail
for the opportunity in conducting this study, his guidance and
CONCLUSION patience that was provided throughout. My sincerest
appreciation goes out to Mr. Khor Wei Chung, Mr. Md Yazid
Provenance study is a crucial step in further Mansor, Mr. Mohamad Shaufi Sokiman and the technicians in
understanding the evolution and origin of a specific area as UTP for their assistance throughout the process especially to
well as its sediments. As this project emphasizes on the Mr. Amirul Qhalis Abu Rashid. Lastly, I would like to thank
sandstone formation at the western region of Bukit Merah, all my family and friends for their love and endless moral
Perak, geologists are able to comprehend on the depositional support.
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