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ABSTRACT: Collision Propagation in Papua New Guinea and Solomon Sea

Eli A. Silver, Lon Abbott, Kim Kirchoff-Stein, Donald Reed, Barrie Bernstein

The collision of the Finisterre-New Britain terrane with the Australian continent is propagating eastward at a rate of approximately 125 km/m.y., based on plate motions and the collisional geometry, as well as on the geochemistry of the arc volcanics. A sequence of sedimentary facies is developed from east to west in the modern environment (pelagic sediments, turbidites, marine molasse, and fluvial molasse), and this sequence is accreted from north to south at the front of the terrane collision in the Markham valley. Based on the modern distribution, we suggest that the age of the initial marine molasse will predate the passage of the collision point, and that of the fluvial molasse will postdate its passage. Intense erosion in the Markham canyon, located along the suture between the collision point and the coast, appears to be responsible for stripping most of the accreted marine molasse and redepositing it in a basin just east of the collision point. Convergence along the suture zone deceases westward. At Lae, very young deformation is seen, but 80 km to the west undeformed terrace deposits cover the deformation front. Uplift appears active within the range, aided by out-of-sequence thrusting, but still farther west the rocks lack signs of young tectonism. In the region just west of Lae, the main locus of slip between the Australian and south Bismarck plates must transfer southward to the front of the Papuan fold-and-thrust belt.

AAPG Search and Discovery Article #90097©1990 Fifth Circum-Pacific Energy and Mineral Resources Conference, Honolulu, Hawaii, July 29-August 3, 1990