Tertiary intermontane basins in the Rocky Mountain region of the United States contain large amounts of coal resources. The first major type of Tertiary coal basin is closed and lake-dominated, either mud-rich (e.g., North Park Basin, Colorado) or mud plus carbonate (e.g., Medicine Lodge Basin, Montana), which are both infilled by deltas. The second major type of Tertiary coal basin is open and characterized by a preponderance of sediments that were deposited by flow-through fluvial systems (e.g., Raton Basin, Colorado and New Mexico, and Powder River Basin, Wyoming and Montana). The setting for the formation of these coals varies with the type of basin sedimentation, paleotectonism, and paleoclimate. The mud-rich lake-dominated closed basin (transpressional paleotectonism and warm, humid paleoclimate), where infilled by sandy "Gilbert-type" deltas, contains thick coals (low ash and low sulfur) formed in swamps of the prograding fluvial systems. The mud- and carbonate-rich lake-dominated closed basin is infilled by carbonate precipitates plus coarse-grained fan deltas and fine-grained deltas. Here, thin coals (high ash and high sulfur) formed in swamps of the fine-grained deltas. The coarse-clastic, open basins (compressional paleotectonism and warm, paratropical paleoclimate) associated with flow-through fluvial systems contain moderately to anomalously thick coals (high to low ash and low sulfur) formed in swamps developed in intermittently abandoned portions of the fluvial systems. These coal development patterns from the Tertiary Rocky Mountain basins, although occurring in completely different paleotectonic settings, are similar to that found in the Tertiary, Cretaceous, and Permian intermontane coal basins in China, New Zealand, and India. ?? 1989.
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Rocky Mountain Tertiary coal-basin models and their applicability to some world basins