One hundred fourteen vibracores from the Atlantic continental shelf offshore of southeastern North Carolina were opened, described, and processed over several contract years (years 6-9) of the Minerals Management Service-Association of American State Geologists Continental Margins program. Reports for years 9 and 10 of the program compiled the results of the work and assembled the data for release as an interactive CD-ROM report, respectively. The continental shelf of Onslow and Long Bays consists predominantly of outcropping Cretaceous through late Tertiary geologic units. Nearshore these units are covered and incised by late Tertiary and Quaternary units. From oldest to youngest, formally recognized geologic units mapped as part of this study are the Late Cretaceous Peedee Formation-a muddy, fine- to medium-grained quartz sand with trace amounts of glauconite and phosphate; the Paleocene Beaufort Formation-a muddy, fine- to medium-grained glauconitic quartz sand with locally occurring turritelid-mold biosparrudite; the middle Eocene Castle Hayne Formation-a sandy bryozoan biomicrudite and biosparrudite; the Oligocene River Bend Formation-a sandy molluscan-mold biosparrudite; and the Miocene Pungo River Formation-a medium-grained, poorly sorted slightly shelly phosphatic sand. Informal units include a very widespread, unnamed fine- to very fine grained, well-sorted, dolomitic muddy quartz sand that is biostratigraphically equivalent to the Oligocene River Bend Formation; several large valley-fill lithosomes composed of biomicrudite, biomicrite, and biosparrudite of Plio/Pleistocene age; muddy, shelly sands and silty clays of Pliocene, Pleistocene, or mixed Plio/Pleistocene age; and loose, slightly shelly, medium- to coarse-grained sands assigned a Holocene age. Heavy minerals (SG > 2.96) comprise an average of 0.54 wt% (on a bulk-sample basis) of the sediments in 306 samples derived from the 114 vibracores. Heavy-mineral content ranges from <0.01 to 3.69 wt%. The economic heavy mineral content (EHM = ilmenite + zircon + rutile + aluminosilicates + leucoxene [altered ilmenite] + monazite) of the bulk samples averages 0.26 wt% in a range of <0.01-1.70 wt%. As a percentage of the heavy-mineral concentrate, the average EHM value is 45.78% in a range of 0.27-68.60%. The distribution of heavy minerals offshore of southeastern North Carolina is controlled by the lithostratigraphic framework. The unnamed Oligocene sand unit has the highest heavy-mineral content, averaging 0.86 wt% on a bulk-sample basis. The remaining geologic units and their heavy-mineral content (in decreasing order of abundance) are Beaufort (0.64%), Holocene sand (0.60%), Plio-Pleistocene muddy sand and silty clay (0.59%), Peedee (0.42%), River Bend (0.34%), Plio-Pleistocene carbonate (0.12%), and Castle Hayne (0.08%). The heavy-mineral assemblage is fairly consistent throughout the different units. Significantly smaller percentages of heavy minerals correlate with increased amounts of CaCO3 in the sediments. The sediments analyzed in this study have significantly lower overall heavy-mineral content, as well as lower EHM content than sediments that are known to host commercially important heavy-mineral deposits in the southeastern United States. The potential for economic deposits of heavy minerals in the area of this study, therefore, appears to be limited.
Additional publication details
Stratigraphic framework and heavy minerals of the continental shelf of Onslow and Long Bays, North Carolina