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Structural and microstructural analysis of K–Mg salt layers in the Zechstein 3 of the Veendam Pillow, NE Netherlands: development of a tectonic mélange during salt flow

  • Alexander F. Raith (a1), Janos L. Urai (a1) and Jacob Visser (a2)

In fully developed evaporite cycles, effective viscosity contrasts of up to five orders of magnitude are possible between different layers, but the structures and mechanics in evaporites with such extreme mechanical stratification are not well understood. The Zechstein 3 unit in the Veendam salt pillow in the Netherlands contains anhydrite, halite, carnallite and bischofite, showing this extreme mechanical stratification. The Veendam Pillow has a complex multiphase salt tectonic history as shown by seismic reflection data: salt withdrawal followed by convergent flow into the salt pillow produced ruptures and folds in the underlying Z3-anhydrite–carbonate stringer and deformed the soft Z3-1b layer

We analysed a unique carnallite- and bischofite-rich drill core from the soft Z3-1b layer by macroscale photography, bulk chemical methods, X-ray diffraction and optical microscopy. Results show high strain in the weaker bischofite- and carnallite-rich layers, with associated dynamic recrystallisation at very low differential stress, completely overprinting the original texture. Stronger layers formed by alternating beds of halite and carnallite show complex recumbent folding on different scales commonly interrupted by sub-horizontal shear zones with brittle deformation, veins and boudinage. We attribute this tectonic fragmentation to be associated with a softening of the complete Z3-1b subunit during its deformation. The result is a tectonic mélange with cm- to 10 m-size blocks with frequent folds and boudinage. We infer that these structures and processes are common in deformed, rheologically strongly stratified evaporites.

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