The Pennsylvanian stratigraphy of the western Cumberland Basin has been influenced by salt tectonics, specifically the formation of the Minudie Anticline, a salt wall. South of the Minudie Anticline, along the shoreline of the Joggins Fossil Cliffs UNESCO World Heritage Site, the post–Boss Point Formation succession comprises an ∼ 3 km succession of strata assigned to the Little River, Joggins, Springhill Mines, and Ragged Reef formations. North of the Minudie anticline, the Grande Anse Formation lies in angular unconformity on the Boss Point and basal Little River formations. Biostratigraphic studies have not been able to discern whether the Grande Anse Formation is equivalent to all, or just one, of the Joggins to Ragged Reef units south of the salt wall (the Minudie Anticline).
To further investigate the relationship of the Grande Anse Formation with the units along the Joggins shoreline, forty sandstone samples from the post–Boss Point Fm strata were selected for a chemostratigraphic study, using inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry (ICP-MS) to determine major-element compositions. Transformed ICP-MS data, subjected to a Kruskal-Wallis test and post-hoc tests, show that there is no significant difference between Grande Anse and Ragged Reef formations in the mean values of almost all analyzed elements. In contrast, there are significant differences when comparing these two units and the older Little River, Joggins, and Springhill Mines formations in the case of elements usually encountered in detrital mineral phases (Si, Al, Ti, Na, and Fe). Sandstones of the Grande Anse and Ragged Reef formations show greater compositional maturity than the Little River, Joggins, and Springhill Mines formations. This trend is explained by a gradual overall change in paleoclimate from semiarid conditions during deposition of the Little River Formation to humid conditions during deposition of the Grande Anse and Ragged Reef formations, causing greater chemical weathering of the sediment. These findings indicate that > 2 km of sediment (Little River, Joggins, and Springhill Mines formations) accumulated south of the salt wall during the major episode of salt diapirism, followed by erosion of any topographic high associated with the salt wall, and accumulation of a further > 500 m of sediment (the laterally equivalent Ragged Reef and Grand Anse formations), all within a timespan of only ∼ 2 Myr.