Mineralogical and geochemical characteristics of tonsteins from the Middle Jurassic Yan'an Formation, Ordos Basin, North China

Zhihui Zhang, Dawei Lv, Chengshan Wang, James C. Hower, Munira Raji, Tiantian Wang, Jianqiang Zhang, Yi Yang

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17 Scopus citations


Although the Jurassic features a considerable accumulation of coal worldwide, only a few tonsteins within coal seams in this coal-forming period have been investigated. This paper presents the detailed mineralogical and geochemical compositions of six tonstein layers from the Middle Jurassic Yan'an Formation, Ordos Basin, North China. Based on the typical evidence of the distinct field characteristics occurring as paler thin beds with lateral continuity; conchoidal and flint-like fracture planes; sharp contacts with adjacent coals; and the mineralogical compositions, such as vermicular kaolinite, angular quartz, and euhedral zircon crystals with a single U–Pb age peak, the intra-seam clay beds of the Yan'an Formation were determined to have been mainly derived from a significant pyroclastic source. However, rounded quartz, muscovite, and detrital zircon grains in the tonsteins reflect minor contribution of terrigenous debris from sediment source regions. Moreover, a line of geochemical features including low TiO2/Al2O3 values, Al2O3/TiO2-Nb/Yb, and Al2O3/TiO2-Zr/TiO2 diagrams; low REY concentrations with high fractionation between light REE and heavy REY (REY, rare earth elements and Y; REE, rare earth elements); and pronounced negative Eu anomalies, suggest that the tonsteins have a felsic (rhyolitic) magma origin. A systematic geochemical analysis of enclosing coals of the tonsteins was also conducted to determine the leaching behavior of the trace elements from the tonsteins into the enclosing coals. The results show that Th, U, Nb, Ta, Zr, and Hf tend to be enriched in the overlying and underlying coals and have an enrichment width of up to 30 cm. Similarly, the elevated concentrations of Zn, Rb, Cs, Pb, La, Ce, Pr, and Nd only occur in a relatively narrow zone above and below the tonsteins. The width of the enrichment in the enclosing coals may be mainly related to the properties of the tonsteins, e.g., thickness and original volcanogenic material, the characters of elements including mobility and concentration, and the nature of coals, such as coal rank.

Original languageEnglish
Article number103968
JournalInternational Journal of Coal Geology
StatePublished - Mar 15 2022

Bibliographical note

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  • Element mobility
  • Elements in coal
  • Jurassic
  • Minerals in coal
  • Ordos Basin
  • Tonstein

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Fuel Technology
  • Geology
  • Economic Geology
  • Stratigraphy


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