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TitleBioturbation, heavy mineral concentration, and high gamma-ray activity in the Lower Cretaceous McMurray Formation, Canada
 
AuthorFustic, MORCID logo; Nair, R; Wetzel, A; Siddiqui, R; Mathews, W; Wust, R; Bringue, MORCID logo; Radovic, J
SourcePalaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology vol. 564, 110187, 2020 p. 1-17, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.palaeo.2020.110187
Image
Year2020
Alt SeriesNatural Resources Canada, Contribution Series 20200671
PublisherElsevier
Documentserial
Lang.English
Mediapaper; on-line; digital
File formatpdf; html
ProvinceAlberta
Lat/Long WENS-114.0000 -110.0000 58.0000 54.0000
Subjectssedimentology; paleontology; geophysics; geochronology; mineralogy; economic geology; Science and Technology; Nature and Environment; core samples; ichnology; bioturbation; zircon; provenance; point bars; geophysical logging; gamma ray logging; facies analyses; sedimentary facies; radiometric dating; uranium lead dating; x-ray diffraction analyses; x-ray fluorescence analyses; thin section microscopy; petrographic analyses; mineralogical analyses; radioactivity; heavy mineral analyses; concentration; mineral enrichment; McMurray Formation; Athabasca! Oil! Sands; Phanerozoic; Mesozoic; Cretaceous
Illustrationslocation maps; logs; diagrams; charts; photographs; tables
ProgramGEM2: Geo-mapping for Energy and Minerals Western Arctic-Beaufort-Northern Yukon
Released2020 12 29
AbstractIn the Lower Cretaceous McMurray Formation (Alberta, Canada), many intervals of intensely bioturbated (Bioturbation Index = 5-6) fine-grained sediments are characterized by high gamma-ray (GR) readings. Several methods, including sedimentary facies analysis, thin-section petrography, handheld spectral gamma-ray, portable X-ray fluorescence, X-ray diffraction, inductively coupled plasma-mass spectrometry, microprobe of K-feldspar, energy dispersive spectroscopy, and detrital zircon geochronology by laser ablation-inductively coupled plasma-mass spectrometry, were used to investigate the interval of interest in core samples. The mineralogical analysis shows that these intervals are enriched in heavy mineral grains, and particularly in zircons. The content of radioactive elements is variable. Thorium is commonly elevated up to three times, uranium nil to two times, and potassium content usually remains normal. The studied intervals consist of interbedded, bitumen-saturated crossbedded and/or ripple cross-laminated sandstone (high-energy deposits) and light-gray bioturbated mudstone (low-energy deposits), commonly addressed as inclined heterolithic strata (IHS). IHS represent tidally influenced, brackish-water, upper point-bar deposits. The zircon grains become concentrated while hydraulic processes interact with bioturbation: the burrowing animals cause significant sediment mixing that allows the lightest sediment particles to go back into the suspension. Additionally, bioturbation increases the surface roughness along the sediment-water interface and, causes more turbulent flow, allowing for quartz and other light grains to be removed by traction and/or saltation, while dispersed heavier zircon grains become trapped and concentrated in open burrows. So far, this study is the first to demonstrate the importance of bioturbation in the enrichment of zircon grains in IHS. The interaction of bioturbation and hydraulic processes explains the apparently counter-intuitive enrichment of heavy minerals in a low-energy depositional setting. This scenario likely applies to numerous intervals characterized by similar GR and/or zirconium spikes across the McMurray Formation. Furthermore, it can be expected that in other sedimentary basins and stratigraphic units, similar studies will demonstrate that the proposed mechanism is universal.
Summary(Plain Language Summary, not published)
This article proposes a mechanism to explain unusually high gamma-ray readings in fine-grained sediments from the Lower Cretaceous McMurray Formation (Alberta, Canada). Analyses show that these intervals are enriched in heavy mineral grains, particularly zircons in these tidally influenced, upper point-bar deposits. Zircon grains become concentrated as burrowing animals cause significant sediment mixing that allows the lightest sediment particles to go back into the suspension. Bioturbation also increases the surface roughness along the sediment-water interface, allowing lighter grains to be removed while zircon grains become concentrated in the burrows. Understanding this process will aid in the interpretation of well logs, routinely used in the exploration for energy resources.
GEOSCAN ID327954

 
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