Abstract

The Carnian-Rhaetian Callide Coal Measures are preserved in a small (22.5 km by 8 km), partially fault-bounded basin remnant in east-central Queensland, Australia. The <150 m thick coal-measure succession is interpreted to have accumulated during a phase of mild crustal extension that formed a series of discrete, intermontane basins in eastern Australia. The succession fines upward from a conglomerate-rich lower part into a finer-grained and coal-bearing upper section (including coal seams <34 m thick), and is interpreted as the deposits of an alluvial-plain environment. Anomalous, matrix-rich diamictites, breccias, and conglomerates have been recognized within the succession at several localities, in many cases interbedded with coals. These are interpreted as the product of debris flows. Two debris-flow lithofacies are recognized: (1) mixtures of fine carbonaceous material, clay, silt, sand, gravel, and volcaniclastic debris, and (2) breccias consisting principally of coal clasts in a coaly matrix with minor clastic and volcaniclastic debris. Facies 1 is found in sharp-based, simple or composite bodies (<15 m thick) that are elongate to lobate in plan (with some multi-lobate), and as much as at least 1500 m long and 600 m wide. Facies 2 is less common and occurs in sharp-based units as much as 1.5 m thick, at least 200 m in length, and 60 m in width. Both facies are characterized by abundant fine matrix and a very poorly sorted clast population, and show little internal organization or sedimentary structure other than variably developed imbrication of coarse clasts. Parts of some bodies show an erosional base (with up to several meters of coal removed), although a flat, apparently non-erosional contact is more common. The distribution of debris flows in the Callide Coal Measures shows a coincidence with mapped faults and interpreted structural lineaments. The debris flows may have been triggered by fault movements, which formed rupture topography on the flat alluvial plain, and caused destabilization of water-saturated clastic and organic sediments. Some debris-flow bodies may have been mounded, such that subsequent peat formation was restricted until those bodies were buried. The preservation of debris-flow units at different stratigraphic levels along mapped structures suggests multiple paleoseismic events or multiple debris-flow events along those structures. The mixing of volcaniclastic debris into debris-flow facies suggests that seismic events were coincident with (or perhaps caused by) nearby, explosive volcanic activity. The close relationship between debris-flow deposits and thick coal bodies on the inferred downthrown sides of faults at Callide further suggests that periodic, tectonic subsidence may have facilitated thick coal accumulation.

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