The stratigraphic relation between the Cretaceous generally non-coal-bearing Lumshiwal Formation (64 to 150 m thick) and the Paleocene coal-bearing Hangu Formation (5 to 50 m thick) in the Surghar Range of north-central Pakistan is complex. Both formations contain remarkably similar lithofacies: one or two types of sandstone lithofacies; a combined lithofacies of mudstone, claystone, carbonaceous shale, and coal beds; and a rare carbonate lithofacies. An analysis of pollen data from rock samples collected from various stratigraphic positions indicates that the formations are separated by a disconformity and that the age of the Lumshiwal Formation is Early Cretaceous and the age of the Hangu is Paleocene. Previous workers had suggested that the age of the Lumshiwal is Late Cretaceous.
An analysis of sedimentologic, stratigraphic, and paleontologic data indicates that both the Lumshiwal and Hangu Formations probably were deposited in shallow-marine and deltaic environments. The rocks of the Lumshiwal become more terrestrial in origin upward, whereas the rocks of the Hangu become more marine in origin upward. The contact between the two formations is associated with a laterally discontinuous lateritic paleosol (assigned to the Hangu Formation) that is commonly overlain by the economically important Makarwal coal bed. This coal bed averages 1.2 m in thickness. No other coal beds in the Surghar Range are as thick or as laterally continuous as the Makarwal coal bed.
Analytical data from the Makarwal and one other Hangu coal bed indicate that Surghar Range coal beds range from high-volatile B to high-volatile C bituminous in apparent rank. Averaged, as-received results of proximate and ultimate analyses of coal samples are (1) moisture content, 5.4 percent; (2) ash yield, 12.5 percent; (3) total sulfur content, 5 percent; and (4) calorific value, 11034 Btu/lb (British thermal units per pound). Minor- and trace-element analyses indicate that these coals contain relatively high concentrations of the environmentally sensitive element selenium (average 13.4 ppm (parts per million)), compared to concentrations from United States coals of similar rank.
The Makarwal coal bed represents a paleopeat that formed during changing relative ground-water base levels. Relatively low base levels were associated with periods of slow clastic deposition and lateritic paleosol development, followed by relatively high base levels that coincided with increased runoff, marine flooding, and clastic sedimentation that buried the paleopeat of the Makarwal. These environments formed along the northwestern margin of the Indian subcontinent as it drifted northward through equatorial latitudes in the Tethys Sea. The Makarwal coal bed is thin or absent in the northern part of the range where the Lumshiwal and Hangu Formations are the thinnest. Such rapid lateral changes (over about 25 km) in formation thickness and the apparent change in relative ground-water base level indicate that tectonically induced subsidence rates varied across the Surghar Range and influenced the deposition of the rocks that compose the two formations.