Heavy mineral record of Andean uplift and changing sediment sources across the NE margin of South America: a case study from Trinidad and Barbados
The heavy mineral compositions of sandstones in Trinidad and Barbados record the onset of Andean-related erosion and a reduction of craton-derived sediments into NE South America. The changing provenance was deduced by comparing heavy mineral assemblages interpreted from ancient sandstones with associations recognized in modern sands that can be reasonably correlated to existing tectonic domains. The impact of the Andean orogeny across the margin was to introduce a suite of minerals characteristic of low-temperature metamorphism that today is prevalent adjacent to the Caribbean Mountain belt and differs from the zircon-rich assemblage produced within cratonic plains. Twenty-one Paleocene–Late Pliocene sandstone samples from Trinidad revealed systematic changes in mineral diversity and maturity that recorded this provenance transition, and suggests Andean erosion during deposition of the Late Oligocene Nariva Formation. Similar to Palaeogene sandstones of Trinidad, four Eocene Scotland Formation samples from Barbados support craton derivation, but with additional evidence of minor Andean input probably due to the proximity of the Scotland Formation delivery systems to an earlier uplift episode. By the Late Miocene, most of the sediments delivered into Trinidad basins were supplied from the Andean orogeny as suggested by the relative abundance of minerals of this affinity. The heavy mineral records of Trinidad and Barbados are similar to that described across northern South America from both modern and ancient environments that collectively mark the uplift of the Andean mountain belt, with its strong influence on drainage patterns and reservoir provenance along this sector of the continental margin.