Abstract

The Cenozoic-age Lower Rhine Basin is located in the NW part of the European Cenozoic Rift System. In Miocene times, a combination of warm climatic conditions and basin subsidence resulted in the deposition of up to 100m of lignite (i.e. Main Seam of the Ville Formation). The Main Seam can be subdivided into the Morken, Frimmersdorf and Garzweiler seams, separated by two intercalated transgressive sand units, namely the Frimmersdorf and Neurath sands, deposited in a shallow-marine, tide-dominated environment. The lignite seams of the Ville Formation are currently worked by RWE Power AG, in the Garzweiler II open-cast mine. In the Frimmersdorf Seam (between the Frimmersdorf Sand and the Neurath Sand), the presence of small-scale sand bodies, together with their variable dimensions, affects the industrial exploitation of the seam. Moreover, their irregular distribution complicates their precise and early recognition. Indeed, so-called barren lignite (≥ 17% of sand) and completely clean units can occur within a few metres of each other. Initial classification of these highly variable sand bodies suggests a variety of both pre- and post-depositional causal mechanisms, providing evidence of an extremely complex depositional and post-depositional system. Syn-depositional sand bodies were deposited in a swamp area that was located in the fluvial-dominated sub-environment of an extended tidal estuary. The post-depositional formation of sand bodies is related to the intrusion of fluidized sands from the underlying Frimmersdorf Sand. These sand injectites within the Frimmersdorf Seam are considered to be linked to seismic activity within the Lower Rhine Basin.

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