Sedimentary provenance of the Plio-Pleistocene Nicobar Fan: Complex sourcing revealed through Raman spectroscopy heavy mineral analysis

Webb, Max; Gough, Amy; Vannucchi, Paola; Lünsdorf, Nils K. and McNeil, Joe (2021). Sedimentary provenance of the Plio-Pleistocene Nicobar Fan: Complex sourcing revealed through Raman spectroscopy heavy mineral analysis. Marine and Petroleum Geology, 125, article no. 104874.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.marpetgeo.2020.104874

Abstract

The Nicobar Fan lies within the north-eastern Indian Ocean between the Ninety-East Ridge and Sunda Arc. The fan forms part of the Bengal–Nicobar Fan System and is among the oldest and largest submarine fans on Earth. Previous U–Pb zircon studies of the Nicobar and Bengal fans indicate the Himalaya as the dominate sediment source, making these fans a major Cenozoic sink for uplifted Himalayan sediment. However, the northwards moving Indian Plate, coupled with mid-Pleistocene collision of the Ninety-East Ridge with the Sunda Arc, has shutdown many sediment pathways linking the Himalaya and Nicobar Fan. Here we use big data Raman spectroscopy heavy mineral analysis along with U–Pb zircon data to better define sediment source regions for the Nicobar Fan during the Plio-Pleistocene following the shutdown of sediment delivery. The detrital zircon spectra for the Plio-Pleistocene Nicobar Fan from this study are consistent with previous work indicating that the original sources of these zircons can be found within both the Greater and Tethyan Himalaya, the Gangdese Arc, and the Indo-Myanmar Ranges. However, the heavy mineral data indicate that a large proportion of sediment has been derived from a more complex array of sources. This is coupled with an abundance of low- and moderate-stability minerals (e.g., amphibole, apatite, clinopyroxene), which are unlikely to have been transported large distances. Suggesting that proximal sources have delivered the majority of lower-stability heavy minerals into the Plio-Pleistocene Nicobar Fan. We show that from the Pleistocene onwards direct sediment delivery into the Nicobar Fan from the Himalaya was largely shutdown, with sediment instead shedding off the uplifting Indo-Myanmar Ranges, the Andaman–Nicobar Accretionary Ridge, and the westwards propagating Ayeyarwady River. This study shows that extensive uplift along the northern Sunda Arc is recorded in the Nicobar Fan alongside the previously reported Himalayan record.

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