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158 (1989) 221-245 227

Elsevier Science Publishers B.V., Amsterdam - Printed in The Netherlands

The Muller anticline, Papua New Guinea;

basement-cored, inverted extensional fault
structures with opposite vergence


Department of Geology, University of Melbourne, ParkviNe, Vie. 3052 (Australia)

(Received January 16,1987; accepted November 1,1987)


Hill, K.C., 1989. The Muller anticline, Papua New Guinea; basement-cored, inverted extensional fault structures with
opposite vergence. In: A. Ord (Editor), Deformation of Crustal Rocks. Tectonophysics, 158: 227-245.

Throughout the NW-SE trending Papuan Foldbelt, two dominant structural styles are present. In the northeast the
1 km thick, thrust-imbricate slices of Miocene limestone attest to the classical thin-skinned nature of the deformation.
In the southwest. adjacent to the undeformed foreland, fold structures are 1 or 2 orders of magnitude greater in size.
are strongly asymmetrical and commonly have relatively thicker stratigraphic sections on the crests. Such structures are
the result of Mio-Pliocene compression that caused thrusting along faults that are hypothesized to have been
extensional in the Mesozoic and Palaeogene.
Geological traverses from the undeformed foreland heading northeast across the 150 km by 50 km Muller Range in
western Papua New Guinea, provided detailed surface structural data. When combined with analysis of existing
geological maps, exploration wells, regional gravity surveys and extensive seismic in the foreland, moderately
constrained balanced and restorable cross-sections through the Muller anticline could be constructed. Interpretations of
gravity data are consistent with the Muller anticline, being cored by basement and seismic data extrapolated beneath
the mountains, show the outcrop of basement in the centre of the Muller Range to be elevated 8 km above regional.
The eastern Muller anticline (EMA) has a shallow northeast limb and steeper southwest limb, suggesting a
NE-dipping fault below, such that basement was thrust to the southwest. The Cecilia, Wai Asi, Juha and Lavani
anticlines to the southwest of the EMA are interpreted to be formed by shortening of the whole sedimentary section to
balance the shortening in basement. There are no such structures to the southwest of the western Muller anticline
(WMA) where the southwest limb is gently dipping and the northeast limb is steep. Hence, the WMA is interpreted as
having formed above a SW dipping fault along which basement was thrust to the northeast. The marked difference in
shortening of the southwest limbs requires a tear fault between the EMA and WMA. The tear fault is here interpreted
to coincide with the northwestern end of the Cecilia and Lavani anticlines and the marked change in strike of the
Muller anticline.
By analogy with other very large, asymmetrical, basement-involved structures in the Papuan Foldbelt it is suggested
that the faults underlying the Muller anticline were active as extensional faults in the Mesozoic, soling at a mid-crustal
detachment. The extensional faults beneath EMA and WMA had opposite vergence and were separated by a transfer
zone. Subsequent compressional reactivation of the extensional faults in the Pliocene gave rise to the present Muller

Introduction Papuan Foldbelt (Figs. 1 and 2). The Papuan

Foldbelt is bound to the southwest by the rela-
Regional setting tively undeformed foreland of southern Papua
New Guinea which has a similar stratigraphic
The Muller anticline is a 150 km by 50 km fold section. To the northeast, the Papuan Foldbelt is
structure within the external part of the western bound by the New Guinea mobile belt (Dow et

0040-1951/89/$03.50 0 1989 Elsevier Science Publishers B.V.


that increased to the south (Jenkins, 1974). The

NGME:New Guinea Moblie Beit
LFZ=iagolp Fault Zone
return to shallow marine conditions in the Neogene
MA =Mulier Antiche
~PF8=Papuan Foldbelt
was marked by proximal limestone deposition and
KA= Kubor Ant~cl~ne distal shales and marls (Fig. 3).
Ophiolite emplacement and associated meta-
morphism occurred within the New Guinea mo-
bile belt in the Early Miocene (Milsom, 1985).
Continued northward movement of the Australian
continent caused collision with an island-arc sys-
tem in the Late Miocene (Jaques and Robinson,
1977; Hill and Hegarty, 1987), initiating the rapid
uplift of the mountains of New Guinea. The sub-
sequent transition to transpression generated the
Fig. 1. The main tectonic features of New Guinea and the New Guinea wrench fault system (Fig. 1) ap-
location of the Muller anticline. proximately along the line of suture (Pigott et al.,
1985). In the Papuan Foldbelt the abrupt change
to compressional tectonics is manifested by thick
Pliocene elastics (molasse sequence), overlying the
al., 1972), within which are accreted allochthonous carbonates, to the south of the growing moun-
terranes, apparently rotated anticlockwise along tains.
the many left-lateral strike-slip faults (Klootwijk
et al., 1986). Within the mobile belt, Pigott et al. Previous work on the &fuller anticline
(1985) defined a main left-lateral wrench fault
system interpreted as marking the pre-collision The Muller anticline, in western Papua New
northern margin of the Australian continent. This Guinea (Figs. 1 and 2), is unique in the Papuan
margin came into existence in the Jurassic follow- Foldbelt in that it exposes the entire sedimentary
ing the rifting away of microcontinents to the section, in proximal facies, right down to Permo-
north. Triassic basement. Consequently, parts of the
Pigram and Panggabean (1984) recognized a structure have been mapped in some detail by
Mesozoic rift-drift sequence in central Papua New mining companies, the Australian Bureau of
Guinea (see Figs. 3 and 4) and have tentatively Mineral Resources, the Papua New Guinea Geo-
identified microcontinents in eastern Indonesia as logical Survey and especially by oil companies
the continental fragments that rifted away. They (Jenkins and White, 1970; White et al., 1971,
inferred the onset of rifting to be latest Permian, 1973; White, 1972; Findlay and Leckie, 1973;
coincident with widespread intrusion of granites White and Marfleet, 1973; Mapstone et al., 1976;
into the exposed metamorphic basement. The ex- Nicholson et al., 1976). All these data were com-
tensional faulting associated with rifting was inter- piled by Davies (1983) and Davies and Norvick
preted to be responsible for many of the present (1974) to make the two PNG 1: 250,000 geological
day basement features of Papua New Guinea maps that cover the Muller anticline.
(PNG). As in the northwest Australian passive Using the existing map, gravity (St. John, 1967,
margin (Exon and Willcox, 1976) the onset of 1970). well and seismic data, Jenkins (1974, his
sea-floor spreading was correlated with the lower figs. 8A and 18) published the first regional cross-
Jurassic unconformity and they designate the beds sections down to basement across the Muller anti-
above it as the post break-up (drift) sequence. cline. His sections show the fundamental dif-
In the Late Cretaceous and Palaeocene, uplift ference between the huge, basement-cored Muller
associated with the opening of the Coral Sea, to anticline and the imbricate thrust slices to the
the southeast of New Guinea, caused a widespread northeast. Jenkins invoked gravity sliding for the
unconformity at the top of the Mesozoic section, imbricate thrusts, but did not balance and restore
P---- -

the section leaving unexplained the ~ompressional Cole, Roger Brash and Rob Stevens (Fig. 2). All
vertical tectonics in the basement. the raw data, field interpretations and oil com-
More recently, with additional well and seismic pany fossil dating were presented to the Papua
data, Hobson (1986) constructed two balanced New Guinea Department of Mines and Energy in
and restored cross-sections across the eastern and the form of three reports (Brash et al., 7986; Hill
western Muller anticline as part of a thin-sunned and Cole, 1986 and Hill, 1986).
model for the Papuan Foldbelt. Hobson applied The structure and some of the stratigraphy
the rigorous geometrical analysis of a thin-skinned were well constrained by the traverses as shown
model (Boyer and Elliot, 1982) to produce admis- by the three representative traverse sections (see
sable balanced and restored cross-sections which, Fig. 5). The thickness of the Miocene Darai lime-
although not unique solutions, were better con- stone, which provides 90% of the outcrop, is well
strained than any previous sections. constrained from the traverses, by projecting the
The same rigorous geometrical analysis has been dips and marker beds. Only moderate constraints
applied here to reinterpret Hobson’s sections with were placed upon the thickness of the upper
the benefit of additional fieldwork, but without Mesozoic section from traverses 1 and 2. The best
the proprietary seismic and well data of the oil control for the stratigraphic thicknesses is from
companies. In addition, an attempt has here been wells, particularly the Juha and Lavani wells re-
made, on the cross-sections, to interpret the rela- leased in 1987 (see Fig. 5).
tionship between the proximal sediments and
structure of the Muller anticline and the distal Stratigraphy
sediments and structure of the Jurassic metamor-
phic rocks to the northeast, extending as far as the The stratigraphy of the Papuan Foldbelt (Figs.
New Guinea mobile belt (Fig. 2). 3 and 4) and of the undeformed foreland to the
southwest is essentially the same, comprising a
Field traverses and well data Mesozoic elastic succession, unconformably over-
lain by Tertiary carbonates, with Pliocene molasse
The Muller anticline comprises a huge geologic on top. The basement in the few places that it has
and topographic structure about 150 km long and been seen in the Muller anticline comprises
50 km wide. Elevation within the structure is often plutonic igneous rocks, though highly deformed
in excess of 3000 m, but tropical jungle persists on Palaeozoic rocks are exposed on the Kubor anti-
all but the highest peaks. Although not generally cline (Fig. 1). The basement exposed in the core of
of good quality. outcrop within the jungle is com- the Muller anticline (Strickland Gorge) consists of
mon, particularly in the karst limestone. The granodiorite dated by K/Ar on biotite as having a
carbonates vary from massive to well bedded, minimum age of 222 k 4 Ma placing it in the
such that dip data are variable in quality, but Triassic (Page, 1976). Davies and Norvick (1974)
moderate to good quality dips are common. Thus, summarized the stratigraphic relationships in the
new regional geologic traverses can contribute sig- Muller anticline area extending northeast to the
nificantly to the existing database and its interpre- Lagaip fault zone (Fig. 1).
tation. A regional traverse across the southeast The Bol arkose (Figs. 3 and 4) comprises a hard
end of the Muller anticline and two traverses conglomeratic, poorly sorted arkose that uncon-
across the eastern and western Muller antichne formably overlies basement (Davies and Norvick,
were carried out for BP Australia and Niugini 1974; Davies, 1983) and varies in thickness from 0
Gulf in 1985 and 1986 (Fig. 2). This new work m at the Strickland Gorge to over 1600 m in the
suggested this reinterpretation of existing cross- western Muller anticline (White et al., 1973). In
sections over the Muller anticline and led to a new the Muller anticline area the Bol arkose is uncon-
structural model. formably overlain by the structurally weaker
In total, 235 km of geological field traverse in Kuabgen group comprising the KoiiIange quartz
the Muller anticline area was undertaken with Jon sandstone with mudstone and siltstone intercala-

tions and the overlying fissile, dark grey Imburu

SOUTH NORTH The Cretaceous Feing group succeeds the
Kuabgen group and comprises clean, white,
quartzose Toro sandstone at the base and the
overlying recessive, grey, glauconitic mudstone in-
terbedded with fine quartz sandstone of the Ieru
formation. Both the Feing and Kuabgen groups
pass into black, carbonaceous siltstone and mud-
stone of the Om beds to the north (Fig. 3). The
Om beds are thought to be considerably thicker
than the beds to the south, but the intense struc-
tural deformation precludes accurate thickness de-
The Palaeogene unconformity is shown simplis-
tically on Figs. 3 and 4, since the thin Palaeogene
beds that are present in the north between several
different unconformities are omitted. In general
(Fig. 3) the Cretaceous succession is unconforma-
bly overlain by the massive and competent Upper
Oligocene to Middle Miocene Darai limestone.
Along strike to the northwest the upper Darai
changes facies to the Middle Miocene calcareous
Fig. 3. Time-space diagram of the stratigraphy across strike in
mudstone and siltstone of the Pnyang formation
the Muller anticline area, related to the main tectonic events
(after Pigram and Panggabean, 1984). (Fig. 4). The Darai limestone grades up into mud-
stone and minor limestone of the Late Miocene
Orubadi beds, which in turn are overlain by thick
Pliocene molasse sequence, consisting of the sand-
0 stone, conglomerate, mudstone and minor coals of
the Era beds.
Syn-tectonic Ew 8#& (Wong#r wMkW@81
Thickness data

The thicknesses used to construct the cross-sec-

tions are taken from those calculated during the
traverses by extrapolating dips and marker beds,
-----------+-- from measured sections in the many oil company
- - - reports and from the recently released well data
(Table 1, Fig. 5). On the plains (Stable Platform,
Fig. 1) the rocks, in general, thicken towards the
mountains in the northeast as can be seen from
Kgi_lqnge Fmn ~GF@up -
Det&Xhment+6 the thicknesses from the plains well and seismic
data. Within the mountains the stratigraphic rela-
tions are less clear because of structural repetition.
For instance, the possibility of repeats of section
Fig. 4. The stratigraphic units along strike in the Muller
in the Lavani well cannot be ruled out as the
anticline area, their thicknesses and the main detachment stratigraphic ages are poorly constrained. How-
horizons. ever, assuming minimal repetition, the combined

Thicknesses (in metres) recorded for each of the stratigraphic units in and around the Mulier anticline *

Orubadi + Pnyang Darai Ieru Toro lmburu Koi-lange Boi Om

Era beds Fm. 1st. Fm. SS mdst Fm. arkose beds

Well data
Juha-1 1500 1600 500
Juha-2 1500 1700 300
Cecilia-l 1300 850 +
Lavani-I 500 1100 300 +

Field surueys o
Lavani Valley (1) 700-1200 600-900
Strickland Gorge (2) 900 200 400 800 0
WMA (3) 300-1100 1~0-13~ 900-13~ 150-300 200-450 4~-800 O-1650
WMA (4) 200-450 6~-800 800- 1100
N. of MA (5) O-1580 2000 +

This sumey (projecting dips)

Traverse 1 (WMA) 1400 1100
Traverse 2 (EMA) 1500 + 500 1000 1000
Traverse 3
(east of the MA) 1500+ 800-1200

Plams wells und seismic

Kiunga-1 (50 km to SW) 850 + 0 1200 850 50?
Lake Murray-l
(17OkmtoSW) 450 0 750 500 0 0 0 0 0
Seismic at mountain
front 1300 2000

* See Fig. 2 for well and traverse locations. The Strickland Gorge is in the centre of the Muller anticline on the Strickland River
(Fig. 2). The seismic data used were from the plains adjacent to the Cecilia and Donaldson anticlines (Fig. 2). The Mesozoic
section was recorded as a single unit from seismic data.
” References: (1) Findiay and Leckie (1973), (2) Jenkins and White (1970), (3) White et al. (1973), (4) Nicholson et al. (1976). (5)
White and Marfleet (1973)

Lavani well and outcrop data show a considerable thick along traverses 2 and 3 to the southwest of
thickenning of the Mesozoic from 2000 m at the the Muller anticline.
mountain front to over 3000 m at Lavani.
At Strickland Gorge, in the centre of the Muller Structural results
anticline, where the Bol arkose is absent, the
Mesozoic section has approximately the same The Muller anticline is divided into western
thickness as at the mountain front, but the section and eastern halves (WMA and EMA) with the
is up to 1500 -t m thicker in the western Muller boundary corresponding to the change in strike
anticline. The Mesozoic section (Ieru formation from E-W in the west to NW-SE in the east. The
and Toro sandstone) in the Juha wells is anoma- WMA exposes the entire Mesozoic section as an
lously thick, perhaps suggesting structural control. inlier, whilst the EMA mostly retains the Darai
The Darai limestone is generally 1000-1500 m limestone cover at surface.
thick, again being thickest in the Juha wells. The
Darai limestone thins to the northeast due to Western curler ant~c~~ne
shaling out and to the northwest due to facies
change to the Pnyang formation. Orubadi and Era This was the area least studied by the author,
beds sections were estimated to be at least 1500 m but it has been covered by several previous surveys,

particularly by White et al. (1973), but also by in some detail, adding to the previous mapping of
Nicholson et al. (1976) and Jenkins and White Findlay and Leckie (1973), Mapstone et al. (1976)
(1970). The area to the north of the WMA was and White (1972).
partially mapped by White (1972). Although basement outcrops in the WMA, its
The main point to emerge from traverse 1 presence in the structure of the EMA is less cer-
(Figs. 2 and 5A) was the general lack of structure tain, but several lines of evidence support base-
on the southwest limb of the WMA. The dip ment involvement. The Lavani well drilled through
gradually decreases from 15” in the core of the over 250 m of medium to coarse-grained sand-
anticline to approximately 5’ at the southwest stone before drilling was stopped at 2970 m. This
end of the section. The latter dip is confirmed by sandstone underlies an interpreted Imburu/Koi-
seismic data on the plains that show the dip Iange sequence and is thought to be equivalent to
continuing to decrease gradually to the southwest. the Bol arkose, implying that basement is not far
The Donaldson anticline is an anomalous struc- below. This concurs with the interpretation of the
ture in this pattern. The tightness, small wave- seismic and gravity data by Bidston et al. (1974).
length and small amplitude of the anticline imply Furthermore, the very size and continuity of the
a shallow detachment, probably at the base of the Muller anticline implies a deep detachment
Darai limestone. The Donaldson anticline is insig- throughout, suggesting basement involvement in
nificant in terms of the Muller anticline as a the EMA as well as in the WMA.
whole, but is an important consideration in inter- The northeast limb of the EMA dips con-
preting the regional tectonics. sistently at 15O to the northeast in contrast to the
On the other hand, the short section measured much steeper northeast limb of the WMA. The
across the northeast limb of the WMA recorded structures to the northeast of the EMA are simple,
considerably steeper dips of 30-45 O. This was relatively gently dipping thrust repeats of the Darai
seen from the helicopter to continue and even limestone as opposed to the complex boat-struc-
steepen along strike and is borne out by Jenkins tures to the northeast of the WMA (compare
and White (1970) in their section measured at Jenkins 1974, figs. 8A and 18). Both factors indi-
lower elevation by the Strickland River. There cate a lesser degree of deformation for the north-
they recorded dips of 50-70* in the continuous east limb of the EMA.
Mesozoic and Darai limestone section Dips of Two important backthrusts were mapped on
50” for the north flank of the WMA are shown on traverse 2 (Fig. 5C). The first was in the Lavani
Jenkins cross-section (Jenkins, 1974, his fig. 18) Valley where the Toro sandstone is juxtaposed
until the dips are obscured by overlying thrust against the Ieru formation. This was previously
repeats of the Darai limestone. The asymmetry of interpreted as a normal fault (Findlay and Leckie,
the WMA is entirely consistent with the interpre- 1973). However, a Toro repeat was reported in the
tation by St. John (1967, gravity line 14) of the Lavani well, here interpreted as part of the same
regional gravity data across the WMA (Fig. 2). backthrust, although poor stratigraphic control for
These dips contrast with the symmetrical dips the Lavani well must be borne in mind.
of 22” for both the north and south limbs of the The second backthrust was mapped a few kilo-
WMA on Hobsons’ (1986, his fig. 7) section and metres south of the Lavani Valley where the con-
suggest that an alternative interpretation is re- tinuously southwest dipping section passes up from
quired to his symmetrical basement ramp anticline the Darai limestone into the Pnyang formation
with an overlying passive backthrust. and then back into horizontal Darai limestone,
overlain by Orubadi beds with no Pnyang forma-
tion. This could be interpreted as a small thrust
Emrem ~uiIer anticline
offsetting a kink band by a kilometre or so, but
that would require a very abrupt upper Darai to
The core of the EMA, around the Lavani Val- Pnyang facies change across the fault. It is more
ley, and the structure to the southwest were studied reasonable to tie the fault back to that reported in

the Baia-1 well (Anonymous, Oil and Gas The Hides and East Karius anticlines are large
Australia, 1986) implying a large backthrust (Fig. and relatively simple structures, although com-
5C). plicated by small thrust faults in the Darai lime-
The structure of the Juha anticline is well stone on the flanks. Seismic line 81-02-02
mapped at surface and constrained by the 3 Juha (Maxwell, 1982) across the southeast plunging nose
wells. However, the structure of the Wai-Asi anti- of the Hides anticline shows the Darai limestone
cline to the southwest was previously poorly con- repeat at depth, demonstrating both the thrust
strained. The Wai-Asi anticline (Fig. 5B) has a repeat with movement of the hanging wall to the
very steep to overturned southwest limb and a southwest and the amount of section involved in
gently dipping northeast limb implying vergence the thrusting. Outcrops to the northeast of the
to the southwest. Although the Darai limestone is Hides anticline demonstrate multiple repeats of
not exposed, as it is in the adjacent Cecilia anti- the Darai limestone, as to the northeast of the
cline, the unbroken nature of the Era beds indi- Lavani anticline, indicating regional detachments
cates that they conform to the structure of the at both the top and the base of the Darai limes-
more competent, underlying Darai limestone, tone.
being deformed passively above it. The Wai-Asi
anticline profile is almost identical to that of the Summary of results
Cecilia anticline to the southwest, in which a
thrust repeat of the Darai limestone was drilled. The EMA is very different structurally com-
The most important geological features to pared to the WMA. The EMA has a lower surface
emerge from the EMA traverse (Figs. 2 and 5B elevation, related to less basement thrusting, and
and C) are the existence of four very large struc- is less deeply eroded as a result. The EMA strikes
tures to the southwest of the crest of the EMA, at 30” to the WMA and has five major anticlines
namely the Cecilia, Wai-Asi, Juha and Karius in the sedimentary cover on or to the southwest of
anticlines, and the mapped and reported thrust the crest, the Lavani, Karius, Juha, Wai-Asi and
repeats. These five very large structures, together Cecilia anticlines, compared to the Donaldson an-
with the demonstrated thrust faults, imply a con- ticline alone on the southwest limb of the WMA.
siderable amount of shortening to the southwest The EMA has simple thrust structures to the
of the EMA compared with almost none to the northeast, compared to the complex boat-shaped
southwest of the WMA. This is important be- synclines of the WMA. The dip of the northeast
cause, no matter which interpretation is made, limb of the EMA is shallow (14” ) whilst the dip
there must be a major tear-fault, at least in the of the northeast limb of the WMA is steep
cover and possibly in the basement, between the (30-70”). The dip of the southwest limb of the
EMA and WMA. This tear fault allows consider- EMA is obscured, but likely to be steeper than the
able shortening to the east whilst there is almost 5-15’ dips for the WMA.
none to the west. Such a tear fault is implicit
between Hobsons’ sections across the WMA and Construction of the regional cross-sections
EMA (Hobson, 1986, his figs. 7 and S), cutting
through the sedimentary cover and overlying his Three sections were constructed approximately
basement lateral ramp. perpendicular to the regional strike along the lines
of the geological traverses (Figs. 2 and 6). Surface
The Hides anticline traverse
geology and topography maps, non-proprietary
The area to the southeast of the Muller anti- well, gravity and seismic data and landsat images
cline had been mapped, mainly by White et al. provided the factual basis for the geology on the
(1971) but also by White (1972) and Mapstone et sections. In particular, the seismic data in the
al. (1976). foreland (all pre-1976) defined the depth and re-
Traverse 3 (Figs. 2 and 5D) is important be- gional dip of basement. The depth and dip of
cause it is partially constrained by seismic data. basement were extrapolated beneath the moun-
pp. 235-236
Fig. 6. Balanced and restored cross-sections across the WMA (section 1). EMA (s&on 2) and the Hides anticline to the southeast of
the Muller anticline (section 3). See Fig. 2 for locatmn.

tains using the gravity model of St. John (1967) sandstones are thought to involve structural re-
which is consistent with basement being at ap- peats, implying detachments at the top and bot-
proximately 9 km sub-sea beneath much of the tom of the Feing group. The Imburu detachment
Papuan Foldbelt. would be the base of the Feing group detachment.
The stratigraphic thicknesses were defined by
the few sections measured in the field by previous Top of basement and/or Bol arkose
workers, by projection of the new traverse data, The top of basement ~doubtedly marks a
by the non-proprietary well and seismic data (Ta- major change in competence of the rocks, except
ble 1) and, in the northeast, by the estimates of perhaps where overlain by Bol arkose. which is
Davies and Norvick (1974). Both the structure and also very hard, strong and competent. The thick
the stratigraphy are poorly known in the complex section repeated in the Hides anticline (Fig. SD)
northeastern area as the area was not visited, has extends roughly to the top of basement, if known
been little mapped and has not been drilled. The stratigraphic thicknesses are projected from near-
area between surface and basement was interpre- by.
ted by balancing the sections, applying Dahl-
stroms’ (1969) principle of structural families and Mid-crustal detachment
applying consistent regional detachment horizons. Since the basement is involved in the Muller
anticline structure there must be detachments
Detachment horizons within basement. The most likely place is at the
brittle-ductile transition approximately in the
Hobson (1986) convincingly demonstrated that middle of the crust, at 10-15 km depth assuming
much of the deformation in the Papuan Foldbelt average heat flow.
is tin-sinned requi~ng considerable horizontal
shortening along regional detachment horizons. Om beds
Several such detachment horizons have been iden- In the area to the northeast of the Muller
tified (Fig. 4). anticline the Mesozoic section grades into massive,
black, carbonaceous siltstones and mudstones of
Top and base of the Darai limestone the Om beds, which is likely to have very different
At the top and base of the Darai limestone detachments. Indeed, the Om beds. which reach
there are major changes in competence of the rock greenschist grade metamorphism, appear to have
from competent limestone to fissile mudstone of deformed in a ductile manner such that detach-
the Orubadi beds and Ieru formation, respectively. ments do not apply in a simple way.
These are the most obvious detachments at surface
as shown by the abundant multiple repeats of the Structural inte~re~tion
Darai limestone, commonly with the base of the
Darai and a thin sliver of Ieru overlying, and There is little doubt that many of the structures
parallel to, the top of the underlying Darai and a in the Muller anticline area are thin-skinned in
thin sliver of Orubadi. origin, being detached within the sedimentary col-
umn. The multiple repeats of the Tertiary lime-
Imbwu formation stone mapped to the north of the Muller anticline
The Imburu formation is a dark grey, fissile (Fig. 2) indicate that those structures are detached
mudstone only a few hundred metres thick with a near the base of the Tertiary. The considerable
more competent sandstone on either side, making shortening of the Tertiary that those structures
it an ideal detachment horizon. However, its ex- represent must be balanced by equivalent shorten-
istence as a detachment horizon is only inferred ing in the Mesozoic section, probably in the form
and has not been demonstrated. The only direct of one or more duplexes. Regional gravity profiles
evidence comes from the area to the northeast of (St. John, 1967, 1970) indicate that basement is
the WMA where multiple outcrops of Feing group not involved in the structure to the north of the

Muller anticline so the deformation must be in the to the southwest. Some kind of internal Mesozoic
sediments alone. This is the logical place for the and/or basement duplex would be required to
Mesozoic duplexes. Beneath the Muller anticline, steepen the beds of the northeast limb and no
the gravity data are consistent with a large base- such duplex is observed. The alternative and more
ment structure elevated approximately 8 km above simple explanation is that basement was thrust to
its regional elevation. This is confirmed by the the northeast on a listric thrust fault.
outcrop of Triassic granodiorite in the Strickland To the northeast of the WMA the sedimentary
River in the core of the Muller anticline (Jenkins section deformation is interpreted as three
and White, 1970). Thus, balanced sections are duplexes. The Tertiary carbonate duplex is ex-
required that explain the basement involvement in posed at surface and the multiple, similar Feing
the Muller anticline in front of the majority of the group sandstones, mapped between the Tertiary
thin-skinned structures. outcrop and Ok Om (the Om river, Fig. 2>, suggest
a Feing group duplex. The wide outcrop of Jurassic
Western Muller antiche Om beds in the northeast is complexly deformed
with considerable ductile deformation (complex
The marked asymmetry of the WMA, implying folding and greenschist grade metamorphism) and
vergence to the northeast, and lack of any signifi- the true thickness of the Om beds is unknown.
cant structures in the sedimental cover to the Therefore, the Om duplex is schematic, repre-
southwest led to the interpretation that the WMA senting the shortening of the Om beds to match
was formed above a SW-dipping thrust fault with that in the Feing group and Tertiary carbonates
movement to the northeast (Fig. 6, section 1). The (see restored section, Fig. 7). The transition from
compression must have been transmitted along a Kuabgen group to Om beds is necessarily sche-
Ed-crustal detachment appro~mately 10 km be- matic also.
neath the top of basement to the root of the Jenkins (1974, his fig. 18) demonstrated multi-
backthrust which may have been a pre-existing ple repeats of the Darai limestone that were subse-
line of weakness. quently folded into a large syncline, such that the
Such an interpretation is quite different to detachment (floor thrust) was also folded. The
Hobson’s (1986) symmetrical basement ramp anti- alternative explanation that the Darai duplex
cline thrust to the southwest. Hobson’s interpreta- formed above a strongly synclinal detachment is
tion requires basement to be emplaced as a wedge highly unlikely. Thus it is reasonable to infer that
between basement and the overlying cover such the Darai and Mesozoic duplexes were originally
that the cover is thrust back over the top. Whilst stacked as layers one on top of another, each
such a mechanism has been demonstrated bound by floor and roof thrusts. The late stage
elsewhere, the dips at the mount~n fronts have compression between the northeast thrusting base-
generally been high. Major backthrusts at the ment of the WMA and the transpressive Lagaip
mountain front have dips of 25-55” in the Mac- fault to the north (Fig. 1) is interpreted to have
Kenzie mountains in Canada, 33“ in the Brooks caused further shortening of the duplexes and to
Range in Alaska (Vann et al., 1986, their figs. 10 have folded the duplexes adjacent to the WMA
and 13). 65O in the Kirthar and Sulaiman moun- into a large syncline. This caused the complex
tains in Pakistan and 15-50° in the Alberta syn- outcrop pattern of boat-shaped synclines of re-
cline (Banks and Warburton, 1986, their figs. 4, 5, peated Tertiary limestone to the northeast of the
6 and 8). The gradual change in the dip of the WMA.
southwest limb of the WMA from 15 to O” over
20-30 km requires that a very long and thin
basement wedge be present. Furthermore, it is
geometrically very difficult to produce the steep Over 100 km of reflection and refraction seismic
dips for the northeast limb of the WMA with such data shot in the Lavani valley (Figs. 2 and 5C)
shallow dips for the southwest limb if thrusting is together with 44 km of gravity profile, dem-

onstrated that the basement was involved beneath tween the Karius and Muller anticlines on the
the Lavani anticline and hence beneath the EMA Blucher Range 1 : 250,000 geology map (Davies
(Bidston et al., 1974). The bottom hole stratigra- and Norvick, 1974).
phy of the Lavani well is consistent with the top A continuous section was drilled down to the
of basement being at less than 1 km below sea Imburu mudstone in the Juha and Lavani wells so
level beneath the Lavani valley (Fig. 6, section 2). that the Juha and Lavani anticlines must be de-
A strong, near-horizontal reflector appears at tached, in or more likely below, the Imburu mud-
the southwest end of several of the Lavani valley stone, not far above the top of basement. This
seismic lines at approximately 3.5 s, which con- detachment has been continued to the southwest
verts to approximately 6.5 km below sea level to account for the Wai-Asi and Cecilia anticlines.
(Bidston et al., 1974). This is interpreted as the top Both anticlines have been detached within the Ieru
of regional basement. This ties the basement be- in previous interpretations (Hobson, 1986). The
neath the plains to that at 9 km subsea (St. John, deeper detachment inferred here with slightly
1967) beneath the Papuan Foldbelt with a straight steeper listric faults may account for the marked
line. asymmetry of the Cecilia and Wai-Asi anticlines.
The geology of the EMA is not consistent with The interpretation of a deeper detachment also
a southwest dipping backthrust in basement, rather accords with the recent drilling along strike of the
it is consistent with a northeast dipping thrust. Iagifu and Hedinia anticlines, close to the moun-
The near horizontal seismic reflector beneath the tain front, in both of which the Toro sandstone
southwest Lavani valley is then the footwall flat of was drilled implying that they are detached be-
the basement thrust. The structures in the sedi- neath the Toro.
mentary cover above and southwest of the EMA It is possible to interpret the Juha and Lavani
are thus interpreted as the direct result of base- anticlines as having formed prior to thrusting of
ment thrusting to the southwest like a giant the Muller anticline basement, such that they were
snow-plough. Thrusting of basement to the folded passively above a basement roof-thrust.
southwest beneath the EMA caused considerable However, the ease of balancing of basement and
shortening of the sedimentary cover to the cover shortening implies a more direct link as does
southwest, in the form of large fold and thrust the abrupt change in style of deformation of the
structures. This shortening is equivalent to the cover across the Muller anticline. Basement thrust-
extra shortening to the northeast of the WMA ing to the southwest, “ploughing up” the sedi-
(that generated the boat-shaped synclines) due to ments before it, is the preferred interpretation.
basement thrusting to the northeast.
Muller anticline tear fault
The Lavani and Juha-Karius anticlines are in-
terpreted as detached ramp-anticlines above back- As previously mentioned, there must be a tear
thrusts that were “ploughed up” in front of the fault between the little deformed southwest limb
southwest thrusting basement. The down-to-the- of the WMA and the considerably shortened
northeast fault in the Lavani valley had previously southwest limb of the EMA. In this model the tear
been mapped, but interpreted as a normal fault fault is interpreted as being between the basement
(Findlay and Leckie, 1973). The backthrust in- thrust slices of the EMA and WMA which have
terpretation is more consistent with a compressive opposite vergence. The tear fault thus extends
regime and explains the Feing group repeat re- down to a mid-crustal detachment. The location
ported in the Lavani-1 well. The Juha structure is of this tear fault (Fig. 2) coincides with a pro-
inferred to be a backthrust ramp-anticline by nounced change in the surface geology reflected in
analogy and following the mapping of the Baia the northwest end of the Cecilia, Wai-Asi, Juha,
backthrust at surface and the report that the Baia-1 Karius and Lavani anticlines, with the northwest
well intersected a thrust (Anonymous, Oil and end of the simple thrusts and Aiago syncline and
Gas Australia, July, 1986). The surface trace of the beginning of the complex boat structures, with
the Baia backthrust follows a synclinal axis be- the change in strike of the Muller anticline and

with the offset of the metamorphic Om beds in the Inverted extensional-fault structures
northeast. It also coincides with several Tertiary
stocks in the central part of the Muller anticline. When extensional basins are put into compres-
Although geomet~cally the tear fault must be sion by a changing plate tectonic regime, it is
present, the surface expression of such a fault is common for the existing listric extensional faults
not apparent or, at least, has not been mapped. to be reactivated, since they are already lines of
Perhaps this is because the fault is a broad zone weakness. Examples include basins of the Alpine
rather than an isolated fault. foreland (Ziegler, 1984) and the Gippsland basin
of southeast Australia (Davis, 1984; Etheridge et
Eastern end of the Muller anticline al., 1985). The inversion anticlines that result are
typically large and highly asymmetrical with long,
Approximately 20 km east of the Lavani valley very shallowly dipping backlimbs and short,
the Tertiary carbonates that are at 2000-3000 m steeply dipping forelimbs. Due to the previous
on the Muller anticline plunge beneath the recent extension the sediments on the crest of the anti-
volcaniclastics of the Tari basin, which is at less clinc are often anomalously thick.
than 1500 m. Associated with this drop beneath Hobson (1986) identified the Darai Plateau in
the Tari basin, the strike of the thrusts in the the southeast Papuan Foldbelt as an inversion
Tertiary carbonates to the northeast of the Muller anticline as it is unusually large, highly asymmetri-
anticline is altered, the Juha anticline ends and the cal and the sedimentary section in the Kanau well
traces of the Cecilia and Wai-Asi anticlines are on the crest is thicker than that beneath the adjac-
bent and gradually peter out the southeast. Also, ent foreland. The Orie and Iehi wells were also
to the northeast, the wide outcrop of Om beds identified as inversion structures. Hobson sug-
dips below elevated and complexly deformed Feing gested that the Kubor and Muller anticlines might
group and Tertiary carbonates to the north of the be major inversion structures which were initiated
Tari Basin. in the Mesozoic as major cuspate extensional faults
All these observations lead to the interpretation into basement.
that there is a major lateral ramp in basement Pigram and Panggabeans’ (1984) concept, that
beneath these features, marking the eastern end of the original extensional faults control present
the Muller anticline. Hence, the section across the basement features, is similarly easily extended to
western Tari basin (Fig. 6, section 3) has only the Muller anticline. The break-up (rifting) sedi-
minor basement uplift such that the structures are ments comprise the non-marine Bol arkose (Figs.
all within the sedimentary cover. The thin base- 3 and 4) which on the Muller anticline varies from
ment that is involved, although thrust the same 0 m at the basement outcrop on the Strickland
distance horizontally as the Muller anticline base- River to over 1500 m, 20 km to the west (Nichol-
ment, created little elevation as it was thrust up a son et al., 1976). This implies extensional horsts
very shallow ramp. The apparent dip of the ramp and grabens on the Muller anticline in the Triassic
in the movement direction is so shallow because it and lower Jurassic. Reactivation (inversion) of
is highly oblique to the true dip of the lateral these extensional faults in the Mio-Pliocene com-
ramp. pression is inferred here to have been important in
Unlike the Juha and Lavani anticlines, the Tari the formation of the Muller anticline.
basin structures were thrust to the southwest (Fig. The WMA is strongly asymmetric with a large
5D), the lateral ramp marking the line of vergence basement core and can be interpreted as having
change. However, like the structures to the formed above a reactivated extensional fault. It is
southwest of the EMA, the large frontal anticlines difficult to prove that the sedimentary section is
involve the whole sedimentary section. They are anomalously thick on the crest as the section
probably related to the basement th~sting, whilst thickens towards the moutains in general How-
the structures to the northeast comprise an inde- ever, the very thick Bol arkose and the slightly
pendent series of thin-skinned duplexes. thicker Mesozoic section, compared to the plains,

allows an extensional fault interpretation (restored out the Mesozoic, creating extensional faults in
section 1, Fig. 6). In the EMA the asymmetry is the Mesozoic sediments above.
more difficult to prove, but the thickening is well In the Late Miocene, collision of the Australian
demonstrated in the Lavani well, taking the re- continent with an island arc to the north caused
ported thicknesses at face value which assumes compression in Papua New Guinea which propa-
minimal structural repeats. This allows interpreta- gated towards the Muller area as a series of
tion of an extensional fault beneath the EMA with duplexes in the sedimentary section with perhaps
l-2 km of Mesozoic displacement (restored sec- 100 km or more of shortening. When the deforma-
tion 2, Fig. 6). tion front reached the Muller area, rather than
The Juha wells have an unusually thick Feing continue the thin-skinned deformation, the pre-ex-
group and Tertiary sequence. A possible explana- isting lines of weakness supplied by the exten-
tion for this is that the Baia backth~st was origi- sional faults were reactivated. Thus the basement
nally an extensional fault. The same may be true was shortened some 20-30 km and thrust up to
for the asymmetric Cecilia and Wai-Asi anticlines create the Muller anticline (Fig. 7b). The WMA
above rather steep faults. basement was thrust to the northeast, further de-
forming the duplexes into a tight syncline, whilst
Structural model
the EMA basement was thrust to the southwest,
It is hypothesized that during the Triassic and “ploughing-up” the sedimentary section before it.
lower Jurassic, when rifting occurred, the base- In the Pliocene the stress regime changed from
ment of the Muller anticline area underwent minor do~nantly compressional to transpressional, ini-
extension. In the west the extension was down-to- tiating a series of left-lateral strike-slip faults in
the-southwest and in the east the extension was the New Guinea mobile belt. In the Muller area,
down-to-the-northeast, both faults soling into a the most southerly of these is the Lagaip fault
mid-crustal detachment (Fig. 7a). Between these zone (Fig. 1). Transpression along the Lagaip fault
zones of opposing vergence there was a transfer zone may have caused further compression and
zone (Gibbs, 1984) and at the eastern end there thrust reactivation, especially in the west as the
was an oblique transfer fault. These faults may Lagaip fault is oblique to the Papuan Foldbelt,
have undergone further minor extension through- converging in the west.


Fig. 7. A structural formation of the lwuller anticline, showing the deformation of basement beneath the anticline. a.
model for the
During Mesozoic extension. the WMA was faulted down to the southwest, whiist the EMA was faulted down to the northeast, the
two halves separated by a transfer zone. The faults soled out on the mid-crustal detachment. b. During Late Miocene to Early
Pliocene compression, the extensional faults were inverted to form the basement cored Muller anticline.

Discussion (4) The backthrust nature of the anticlines in

the sedimentary cover to the southwest of the
The model presented here fits all the facts EMA indicates that they were “ploughed-up” by
currently known to the author and the sections the southwest thrusting basement.
have been balanced and restored, but the interpre- (5) Thrusting of the Muller anticline basement
tation is not unique. Other geometric models with in the late Miocene to early Pliocene occurred
the same database are equally possible, but the along faults that were probably extensional faults
geometric model that is most geologically reasona- in the Mesozoic.
ble must then be chosen. (6) Deformation in this part of the Papuan
Hobson (1986) interpreted the WMA to be a Foldbelt occurred in two stages, although prob-
southwest thrusting basement slice with the sedi- ably a continuum. Firstly, the main shortening
mentary cover backthrust passively over the top of propagated from the northeast as a series of
the anticline. The interpretation presented here of duplexes in the sedimentary cover. Secondly, when
basement thrusting to the northeast is preferred the deformation front reached the Muller area, the
because recent mapping showed the strong asym- pre-existing extensional faults in basement were
metry of the Muller anticline profile. Intuitively it reactivated and the duplex deformation halted.
is mechanically less difficult to cause deformation
in the sediments to the northeast by thrusting Acknowledgements
basement to the northeast than by thrusting base-
ment to the southwest and backthrusting the en- I am very grateful to Jon Cole, Roger Brash
tire sedimentary column right over the Muller and Rob Stevens for considerable data from their
anticline. field mapping of the Muller anticline. I gratefully
Hobson interpreted the EMA as a duplex in the acknowledge the help of BP Australia Ltd. both in
sedimentary cover, but the geophysical surveys sending me into the field and allowing me the use
and the size of the Muller anticline indicate base- of their office facilities and library. Discussions
ment involvement. The large structures to the with D.M. Hobson and J.P. Cole at BP were
southwest of the EMA imply thrusting to the invaluable. I also thank the following for their
southwest. kind permission to publish: Ampol Exploration
Although not unique, this interpretation fits all Ltd., BHP Petroleum, BP Australia Ltd., Merlin
available data. On the broad scale of sedimentary Petroleum Co., Niugini Gulf Pty. Ltd., Oil Search
duplexes to the northeast with basement-cored, Ltd. and Pioneer Concrete (NSW) Pty. Ltd.
listric fault structures with opposing vergence to The interpretation and views presented in this
the southwest. it is believed to be correct. paper are entirely my own and do not necessarily
correspond with the views of any oil company.
(1) The asymmetry of the WMA, with strong
vergence to the northeast, together with the pau- Anonymous, 1986. P.N.G. - A bright spot in a gloomy oil. In:

city of structures to the southwest indicates that Oil and Gas Australia, July 1986, pp. 29932.
Banks, C.J. and Warburton, J., 1986. “Passive-roof’ duplex
basement was thrust to the northeast.
geometry in the frontal structures of the Kirthar and Sulai-
(2) Thrusting of basement to the northeast
man mountain belts, Pakistan. J., Struct. Geol., 8: 229-237.
caused increased deformation of the existing Bidston, B.J., St. John, V.P. and Thomas, E.G., 1974. Report
duplexes, bending them into a tight syncline be- on the Lavani Valley seismic and gravity survey, Permit 46

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mentary cover indicates that basement was thrust of the Wai-Asi and Donaldson Range areas: 1986 field
to the southwest. study. Niugini Gulf Oil Ltd. Rep. (unpubl.), Geological

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