Abstract

Petrographic, major, trace, and rare earth element compositions of sandstones from the upper Miocene Kudankulam Formation, Southern India, have been investigated to determine their provenance, tectonic setting, and weathering conditions. All sandstone samples are highly enriched in quartz (Q) but poor in feldspar (F) and lithic fragments (L). The major-element concentrations of these sandstones reveal the relative homogeneity of their source. Geochemically, the Kudankulam sandstones are classified as arkose, subarkose, litharenite, and sublitharenite. The CIA values (chemical index of alteration; mean value ∼ 44.5) for these sandstones and the A-CN-K diagram suggest their low-weathering nature. Similarly, their Fe2O3* + MgO (mean ∼ 2.7), Al2O3/SiO2 (∼ 0.09), K2O/Na2O (∼ 2.2) ratios and TiO2 contents (∼ 0.3) are consistent with a passive-margin setting. The Eu/Eu* (∼ 0.5), (La/Lu)cn (∼ 21), La/Sc (∼ 5.9), Th/Sc (∼ 1.9), La/Co (∼ 5.7), Th/Co (∼ 1.8), and Cr/Th (∼ 5.3) ratios support a felsic source for these sandstones. Chondrite-normalized REE patterns with LREE enrichment, flat HREE, and negative Eu anomaly also are attributed to felsic source-rock characteristics for Kudankulam sandstones. Total REE concentrations of these sandstones reflect the variations in their grain-size fractions. The source rocks are probably identified to be Proterozoic gneisses, charnockites, and granites of the Kerala Khondalite Belt, which must have been exposed at least since the late Miocene. Finally, the unusual Ni enrichment in the Kudankulam sandstones, unaccompanied by a similar enrichment in Cr, Co, and V, may be related to either the presence of pyrite in the sandstones or, more likely, the fractionation of garnet from the source rocks during transportation.

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