Abstract

The Bowen Basin is a Permo-Triassic, back-arc extensional to foreland basin that developed landward of an intermittently active continental volcanic arc associated with the eastern Australian convergent plate margin. The basin has a complex, polyphase tectonic history that began with limited back-arc crustal extension daring the Early Permian. This created a series of north-trending grabens and half grabens which, in the west, accommodated quartz-rich sediment derived locally from surrounding uplifted continental basement. In the east, coeval calc-alkaline, volcanolithic-rich, and volcaniclastic sediment was derived from the active volcanic arc. This early extensional episode was followed by a phase of passive thermal subsidence accompanied by episodic compression during the late Early Permian to early Late Permian, with little contemporaneous volcanism. In the west, quartzose sediment was shed from stable, polymictic, continental basement immediately to the west and south of the basin, whereas volcanolithic-rich sediment that entered the eastern side of the basin during this time was presumably derived from the inactive, and possibly partly submerged, volcanic arc. During the late Late Permian, flexural loading and increased compression occurred along the eastern margin of the Bowen Basin, and renewed volcanism took place in the arc system to the east. Reactivation of this arc led to westward and southward spread of volcanolithic-rich sediment over the entire basin. Accordingly, areas in the west that were earlier receiving quartzose, craton-derived sediment from the west and south were overwhelmed by volcanolithic-rich, arc-derived sediment from the east and north. This transition from quartz-rich, craton-derived sediments to volcanolithic-rich, arc-derived sediments is consistent with the interpreted back-arc extensional to foreland basin origin for the Bowen Basin.

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