The up to 60 m thick Neurath Sand (Serravallian, late middle Miocene) is one of several marine sands in the Lower Rhine Basin which were deposited as a result of North Sea transgressive activity in Cenozoic times. The shallow-marine Neurath Sand is well exposed in the Garzweiler open-cast mine, which is located in the centre of the Lower Rhine Basin. Detailed examination of three sediment profiles extending from the underlying Frimmersdorf Seam via the Neurath Sand and through to the overlying Garzweiler Seam, integrating both sedimentological and palaeontological data, has enabled the depositional setting of the area to be reconstructed.
Six subenvironments are recognised in the Neurath Sand, commencing with the upper shoreface (1) sediments characterised by glauconite-rich sands and an extensive biota (Ophiomorpha ichnosp.). These are associated with the silt-rich sands of a transitional subenvironment (2), containing Skolithos linearis, Planolites ichnosp. and Teichichnus ichnosp. These silt-rich sands grade up to the upper shoreface subenvironment (1), which is indicative of an initial regressive trend. The overlying intertidal deposits can be subdivided into a lower breaker zone (3), characterised by ridge-and-runnel systems, and the swash zone (4) where the surge and backwash of waves resulted in the deposition of high-energy laminites. The intertidal deposits were capped by aeolian backshore sediments (5). Extensive root traces present in this latter subenvironment reflect the development of the overlying peatland (i.e. Garzweiler Seam). Within the Garzweiler Seam, restricted sand lenses indicate a lagoonal or estuarine depositional environment (6). Regional correlation with adjacent wells establishes that shallow-marine conditions were widespread across the Lower Rhine Basin in middle Serravallian times. The shoreline profile, characterised by both tidal and wave activity and influenced by fluvial input from the adjacent Rhenish Massif, is indicative of the complexity of the coastal depositional setting within the Lower Rhine Basin.