Geochronology and Sediment Provenance of the Precipice Sandstone and Evergreen Formation in the Surat Basin, Australia: Implications for the Palaeogeography of Eastern Gondwana

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A new view of the palaeogeography and tectonic evolution of eastern Gondwana during the late Mesozoic is emerging, driven largely by the detrital zircon record of sedimentary basins comprising the Great Australian Superbasin (GAS). The updated model suggests that a long-lived magmatic arc was present on the eastern margin of Australia, which is in stark contrast to some previous views that eastern Australia was situated well-inland of a plate boundary. However, the active magmatic arc model is derived from Late Jurassic-Cretaceous strata, with tectonic processes and sediment pathways operating in the Early Jurassic still poorly understood. The Lower Jurassic Precipice Sandstone in the Surat Basin – an important stratigraphic component of the GAS – affords an opportunity to fill such a knowledge gap. The Precipice Sandstone is also economically important due to its aquifer capacity and prospectivity for CO2 sequestration. Previous work has hypothesized that the formation contains deposits sourced from multiple terranes, yet this has not been rigorously tested. In this study, we used detrital zircon geochronology, CA-TIMS dating, petrography, and palaeocurrent analysis to characterise the sedimentary provenance of the Precipice Sandstone and the overlying Evergreen Formation. Our analysis revealed mixed provenance with multiple source terranes within the Tasmanides. The bulk of sediment was derived from the Thomson Orogen, with a lesser contribution from the New England Orogen. We found no evidence for sediment derived from the Lachlan Orogen, despite a distinct northward palaeocurrent component. Syn-depositional volcanic material within the interval corroborates the notion of continued arc magmatism along the eastern Gondwana margin, which contributed sediment to the GAS throughout the Early Jurassic. Radiometric ages place the Precipice-Evergreen succession in the Sinemurian-Toarcian which falls within the broader Hettangian-Aalenian age range suggested by recent palynostratigraphic data and suggest diachronous deposition across the basin. Despite pronounced variations in formation thickness, the Precipice Sandstone shows relatively uniform provenance across the basin, showing little evidence for multiple depocenters.


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