Minerals derived from air-fall volcanic ash were found in two zones in the upper Paleocene Wyodak-Anderson coal bed of the Fort Union Formation in the Powder River Basin of Wyoming, and are the first reported evidence of such volcanic material in this thick (> 20 m) coal bed. The volcanic minerals occur in zones that are not visually obvious because they contain little or no clay. These zones were located by geophysical logs of the boreholes and X-ray radiography of the cores. The zones correspond to two of a series of incremental core samples of the coal bed that have anomalous concentrations of Zr, Ba, Nb, Sr, and P2O5. Two suites of minerals were found in both of the high-density zones. A primary suite (not authigenic) consists of silt-sized quartz grains, biotite, and minor zircon. A minor suite consists of authigenic minerals, including calcite, pyrite, kaolinite, quartz, anatase, barite, and an alumino-phosphate (crandallite?). The original volcanic ash is inferred to have consisted of silica glass containing phenocrysts of quartz, biotite, zircon, and possibly, associated feldspars, pyroxenes, and amphiboles. The glass, as well as the less stable minerals, probably dissolved relatively quickly and contributed to the minor authigenic mineral suite or was removed from the peat as a result of the prevailing hydrologic conditions present in a raised peat formation. This type of volcanic ash suggests that suggests that volcanic material could have rained on the peat; this fallout may have also had a fertilizing effect on the peat by providing nutrients essential for plant growth thus contributing to the thick accumulations of the Wyodak-Anderson bed. Notwithstanding, the presence of these minerals provides evidence for the contribution by volcanic sources to the mineral content of coal, but not as tonsteins. ?? 1991.
Additional Publication Details
Volcanic ash dispersed in the Wyodak-Anderson coal bed, Powder River Basin, Wyoming