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Neogene tectonic and structural evolution of


the Timor Sea region, NW Australia:

Conference Paper January 2002

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3 authors, including:

Myra Keep Laurent Langhi


University of Western Australia The Commonwealth Scientific and Industri
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Neogene tectonic and structural evolution of the
Timor Sea region, NW Australia:
M. Keep1, M. Clough2 & L. Langhi3

Abstract widespread reactivation and inversion of pre-existing


Precambrian to Mesozoic faults throughout the region (e.g.
Neogene deformation styles in the Timor Sea vary from Nelson, 1993; Keep et al., 1998; Shuster et al., 1998; Keep et
flexure-dominated in the NE to transtension-dominated al., 2000; Keep & Moss, 2000). Within this collisional margin
towards the SW. Neogene faults generally preserve overall setting, several regional scale tectonic events specifically
normal displacement despite sometimes complex affected the Timor Sea region. These include:
reactivation histories. Controls on fault style include Terrane accretion and uplift in Papua New Guinea since
proximity to the Timor Trough, and position relative to 25 Ma (Hill & Hall, 2001)
basement highs. Basement faults often control the location Subduction of the continent-ocean boundary south of
of Neogene faults, with both hard- and soft-links preserved Sumba since 25 Ma (Muller et al., 1998; Keep et al., 2002)
throughout the area. Cretaceous and Upper Jurassic shales Possible underplating of Australian continental crust
and claystones act as ductile horizons and cause beneath Sumba at 8 Ma, with resultant uplift of Sumba
detachment of basement from the Neogene in some areas. Island (Keep et al., 2002).
Three main pulses of deformation at the Early Miocene, Collision of Timor Island with the Banda Arc and resultant
Late Miocene and late Early Pliocene correspond to uplift of Timor at 3 Ma (e.g. Simandjuntak & Barber,
regional tectonic events in the region. The Late Miocene 1996).
event in particular seems widespread, with synchronous The interaction of these events with pre-existing basement
deformation through the Indo-Australian plate. and rift-related structures has caused widespread reactivation
of earlier structures and the formation of distinct structural
Introduction domains. For example, reactivation styles differ markedly from
left-lateral transtension in the Bonaparte Basin (Shuster et al.,
Collision of the Australian Plate with the Banda Arc since 1998), to right-lateral transpression in the northeast Browse
~25 Ma strongly influences Neogene structural styles in the Basin (Haston & Farrelly, 1993; Keep et al., 2000) (Fig. 2).
Timor Sea region and adjoining Browse Basin (Fig. 1). Plate This paper seeks to document the different deformation
collision has caused localised flexure of Australian continental styles in the Timor Sea and northeast Browse Basin, and
crust in the Timor Trough (e.g. OBrien et al., 1999), and identify links between structural domains and tectonic events.
We investigate regional deformation in the Timor Sea,
1:
Tectonics Special Research Centre, School of Earth and Geographical examining structures observed on regional seismic data from
Sciences, University of Western Australia, 35 Stirling Hwy, Nedlands, WA,
6009. mkeep@tsrc.uwa.edu.au the Sahul Platform, Laminaria High, Cartier Trough, Vulcan
2:
Geomechanics International, 191 St. Georges Tce, Perth, 6000. Sub-basin, northern Browse Basin and Ashmore Platform, to
3.
Institut de Geologie et Paleontologie, Universite de Lausanne, UNIL-
BFSH2, CH-1015 Lausanne, Switzerland. illustrate structural styles in the region. In particular we
examine the distribution of flexure versus transtension as a
Acknowledgements: MC and MK would like to thank Woodside Energy for their
support of this project and Ian Longley in particular for his continued support
dominant deformation mechanism, and the influence of an 8
and input. Thanks also to Mark Trupp who reviewed and improved an early Ma (Late Miocene) regional tectonic event in developing the
copy of this manuscript. This paper represents the Tectonics Special Research structural architecture.
Centre Publication 187. MK would like to thank the Landmark Graphics
Corporation and Petrosys for generously donating their software to UWA. LL
wishes to thank the Swiss National Science Foundation (project 2000-059188)
and the Faculty of Sciences of the University of Lausanne for their support. Regional Timor Sea interpretation
Thanks also to the Swiss Academic of Sciences and the Socit Acadmique
Vaudoise for their financial support. Kevin Hill and Marita Bradshaw are From northeast to southwest across the Timor Sea area
thanked for their thoughtful reviews. Parts of this paper relate to MERIWA
Project M338, and the authors would like to acknowledge MERIWA, Woodside structural styles vary markedly. Structures within the Sahul
Energy, Santos and AGIP Australia for their contributions to this project. Platform, Laminaria High, Cartier Trough, Vulcan Sub-basin
342 Timor Sea deformation

Sorong Pacific Ocean


Kalimantan Sula- Fault
wesi

Banda Seram
New
Sea Guinea
5
Flores Wetar
Thrust Thrust Banda Arc
Sunda Arc
Timor
Savu Australian
10 Sumba Basin
ugh Plate
or Tro Timor Sea
Tim Subduction
Argo zone
Abyssal Browse Thrust
15 Plain Basin Fault zone
Fault movement
0 km 500 direction

115 120 125 130 135


Figure 1: Tectonic features of the northern Australian margin, modified from Charlton et al. (1991). Orange = Australian continental
basement; green = Australian offshore sedimentary basins; blue = oceanic crust; pink = all arc/oceanic crust north of the Australian plate
boundary, yellow = islands.

FLORES
U GH N
SU OR TRO
rm
MB
A TIM IMOR la tfo en
T
1 ulP rab
EURASIAN PLATE S ah
lit aG
Ma Darwin
rm
fo BONAPARTE Shelf
at 2
Pl BASIN
e
or
hm 3 London-
Pe b-Ba

ARGO As
Su

derry High
tre si

ABYSSAL
l

PLAIN
AUSTRALIAN
BROWSE BASIN
n

PLATE
Scott 4
Plateau rigid platform
sin

shelf
a
-b

sedimentary basin oceanic crust


b
Su

subduction
oo

shelf margin
rc

orientation
Ba

Leveque Shelf plate convergence


direction (from Keep et al., 1998).

Figure 2: Sedimentary basins and structural highs in the Timor Sea region. 1 = Laminaria High; 2 = Cartier Trough; 3 = Vulcan Sub-
basin; 4 = northern Browse Basin. Black box indicates location of Figure 4. Arrow pairs indicate inferred motion sense.
M. Keep et al. 343
and northern Browse Basin (Fig. 2) exhibit apparently simple (Fig. 5). These deeper faults commonly have minor offsets, on
geometries with net normal fault offsets. However, these the order of 100 ms (~250 m). The late Early Pliocene to Early
simple geometries may mask more complex reactivation Pleistocene sedimentary package commonly thickens into
histories. Faults on the northern margin of the Sahul Platform faults (Fig. 5).
(Fig. 2) trend east-northeast and display overall net normal Faults within the northeast-trending Cartier Trough (Fig.
offsets of between 100 ms (~250 m) and 1,000 ms (~2,500 m) 2) display overall net normal movement and cluster tightly
(Fig. 3). Maximum offsets occur at the late Early Pliocene into discrete zones (Fig. 6). They commonly penetrate and
horizon, above which sediment thickens significantly into the displace the seafloor by tens of metres. The Cartier Trough
fault (Fig. 3), but only the largest faults penetrate the sea floor. developed as a deep, fault-bounded depocentre between such
Deformation between closely-spaced faults at the NW end of fault clusters (Shuster et al., 1998). Neogene faults probably
Figure 3 may be a result of a wrench component of movement. initiated in the Late Miocene and commonly penetrate to
Several of these large fault families have been correlated for Pleistocene to Recent levels. Maximum offsets occur in the late
over a hundred kilometres. For example, an ENE-trending Early Pliocene, indicating the major phase of movement.
fault system occurs on adjacent seismic lines over a length of The Vulcan Sub-basin (Fig. 2) preserves northeast-
approximately 140 km, from wells Kelp 1 to near Sunrise 1 trending faults with overall net normal offset that seldom
(Fig. 4). The fault system exhibits an overall net normal offset penetrate the sea floor (Fig. 7). The relatively simple Neogene
at the late Early Pliocene horizon, with the amount of offset of structural style in this area shows maximum offset (up to 200
the late Early Pliocene horizon increasing towards the NE, m) at the base Miocene level, suggesting the major phase of
from approximately 50 ms (~125 m) at the southwestern end movement occurred at that time. Faults penetrate to Pliocene
to over 1,000 ms (~2,500 m) at the northeastern end (Fig. 4). levels indicating that they continued to be active into the
The amount of offset increases markedly approximately half Pliocene (Fig. 7).
way along strike where the fault changes from not penetrating Faults in the northern Browse Basin show small, overall net
the sea floor to a large offset of the sea floor. This marked normal displacements and relatively uniform offset (Fig. 8).
increase in fault offset coincides with a change in fault The southernmost fault (Fig. 8) exhibits overall net normal
orientation, from east-northeast to northeast. Sediment offset of sediments up to just below the sea floor. Hanging-wall
thickening and variable fault offsets strongly suggest that the sediments overlying the late Early Pliocene horizon thicken
main phase of movement occurred during the late Early into the fault. Adjacent faults terminate at various levels within
Pliocene. The disturbance of the sea floor is due, in part, to the Neogene section from the base Miocene horizon to near
younger movement on the fault. the sea floor.
In the Laminaria area (Fig. 2) faults trend mainly NE and The northern Ashmore Platform area (Fig. 2) coincides
display maximum offset at the late Early Pliocene horizon, with a change in shelf margin orientation from northeast to
with few faults penetrating through to the sea floor (Fig. 5). east-northeast. This bend concentrates deformation in the
Some faults have a maximum offset at the mid-Late Miocene region, and consequently the Ashmore Platform exhibits more
horizon and some displace immediately overlying sediments complex deformation than other areas within the study zone.

NW SE
WB
500 SAHUL PLATFORM AREA 500
E Plio
1000 1000
E Mio

1500 M Olig 1500

2000 2000

2500 2500
4 km Vertical exaggeration x2
3000 3000

Figure 3: Structural style of the northern Sahul Platform area, showing the horizons mapped and the major faults. Note deformation
between adjacent faults to the NW, suggesting a wrench component of movement. WB = water bottom; E Plio = Early Pliocene; E Mio
= base Miocene; M Olig=Early Oligocene; Meso=top Mesozoic. Vertical scale is in milliseconds of two-way travel time.
344 Timor Sea deformation

AS
N

AS

WA
AS
AS

B1
B1

IT
B3
AS

96
B1

13
11
05

-22
B2
WAIT96-22

09
SUNRISE 1

ASB

15
SUNWEST 1

207
TROUBADOUR 1 ASB113
102
ASB
106
KELP 1 20 km ASB
104
ASB SIKATAN-1

500
1000
1500
2000
2500
3000
3500 E.Pliocene - Recent
4000 Vertical exaggeration ~x1.7 on all sections ASB111
base Miocene -
E.Pliocene
ASB305 mid-Oligocene -
ASB207 ASB215 ASB109 base Miocene
pre - Oligocene

Figure 4: Fault correlation from the northern Sahul Platform area. Key wells shown for reference. Faults reach and offset the seafloor to
the NE. Scale is in milliseconds TWT, and the same scale applies to all seven cross sections. For location see Figure 2.

SE NW
0

WB LAMINARIA AREA
500 E Pleist
E Plio
1000
M-L Mio
1500 E Mio

2000

Meso 1 km
2500 no vertical exaggeration

Figure 5: Structural style of the Laminaria area. Distributed deformation shows net normal offset. WB=water bottom; E Pleist = Early
Pleistocene; E Plio = Early Pliocene; M-L Mio = mid-Late Miocene; E Mio = base Miocene; Meso = top Mesozoic. Vertical scale is in
milliseconds of two-way travel time.

NW SE
0

WB CARTIER TROUGH AREA


500

1000

1500 E Plio
M-L Mio
2000 E Mio

5 km Vertical exaggeration ~x5


2500

Figure 6: Structural style of the Cartier Trough. Faults cluster tightly to the NW and SE. WB = water bottom; E Plio = Early Pliocene;
M-L Mio = mid-Late Miocene; E Mio = base Miocene. Vertical exaggeration x5. Vertical scale is in milliseconds of two-way travel time.
M. Keep et al. 345

NW SE

WB
500 E Plio
M-L Mio
1000 E Mio

1500 Meso

2000
VULCAN SUB-BASIN AREA
1 km
2500 no vertical exaggeration

Figure 7: Structural style of the Vulcan Sub-basin. Simple faults show net normal offset. WB = water bottom; E Plio = Early Pliocene;
M-L Mio = mid-Late Miocene; E Mio = base Miocene; Meso=Mesozoic. Vertical scale is in milliseconds of two-way travel time.

Faults trend northeast and display predominantly overall net Smaller-scale variations in deformation style across the
normal displacement, with vertical variations in offset along Ashmore Platform mimic larger scale changes throughout the
the faults. A significant number of faults penetrate the seafloor, Timor Sea. Mesozoic structures that separate the Ashmore
with offset up to 300 ms (~450 m) (Fig. 9). Displacement Platform from the Vulcan Sub-basin (Fig. 10) show strong
varies from apparent net reverse offset, through no net offset, reactivation to the northeast and on the central border of the
to net normal offset along individual faults. Variable offset also Platform (blue and green areas respectively on Figure 10), and
occurs along individual faults (Fig. 9, location A), and only localised, discrete reactivation to the southwest (orange
sediment thickening on the footwall (Fig. 9, location B) area on Figure 10). The northwest margin of the Platform,
indicates reverse displacement occurred on the faults during dominated by flexure during the formation of the Timor
the Miocene. Fault-related folding occurs at locations C and D Trough (Fig. 1) displays large reactivations that affect the sea
(Fig. 9), with upper horizons displaying anticlinal geometries floor (Fig. 9).
(C) while synclinal geometries occur at depth (D). This fault- At the boundaries between the Ashmore Platform, Vulcan-
bounded deformation with varying styles suggests complex Sub-basin and Londonderry High (Fig. 10), Neogene
deformation and reactivation in the area. structures commonly form convex-upward fault arrays. Some

NW SE
0

NE BROWSE BASIN
500
WB

1000 E Plio
M-L Mio
E Mio
1500

2000 Meso

2500 1 km
no vertical exaggeration

Figure 8: Structural style of the northern Browse Basin. Faults cluster, with one fault accommodating most of the Neogene strain. WB
= water bottom; E Plio = Early Pliocene; M-L Mio = mid-Late Miocene; E Mio = base Miocene; Meso= top Mesozoic. Vertical scale is in
milliseconds of two-way travel time.
346 Timor Sea deformation

NW SE

ASHMORE PLATFORM AREA


1000
WB E Plio
L Mio C B
1500
E Mio D
M Olig A
2000
D

2500 Meso

3000

1 km
no vertical exaggeration
3500

Figure 9: Structural style of the northern Ashmore Platform area. See text for discussion on locations A to D. WB = water bottom; E Plio
= Early Pliocene; L Mio = Late Miocene; E Mio = base Miocene; M Olig = mid Oligocene; Meso = top Mesozoic. Vertical scale is in
milliseconds of two-way travel time.

of these structures displace the Cretaceous and Upper Jurassic Summary of structural styles
shales and claystones, forming hard links to underlying
Net normal displacement dominates faulting in the study
Mesozoic faults, whilst others form soft-linked structures with
area, and has been variably attributed to simple extensional
the underlying faults (Fig. 11). Mesozoic faults, whether hard-
faulting from plate flexure (e.g. Patillo & Nicholls, 1990;
or soft-linked, tend to act as loci for the formation of Neogene OBrien et al., 1993; AGSO, 1994; Woods, 1992), or wrench
faults. The younger faults commonly cluster above the reactivation, with several possible pulses (Nelson et al., 1993;
termination of an older fault, and some occur directly up-dip Shuster et al., 1998, Keep et al., 2000).
of the older faults (Fig. 11). Such fault relationships have been Regional deep seismic data across the Timor Trough (e.g.
interpreted as hard-linked in the Browse Basin (Keep & Moss, Hughes et al., 1996; Snyder et al., 1996) indicate a
2000), and soft-linked in the Timor Sea (de Ruig et al., 2000). considerable amount of flexure associated with the descent of
In this paper the terms hard-link(age) and soft-link(age) are the Australian continent into the trough (e.g. Patillo &
used to describe cross-sectional fault patterns (e.g. de Ruig et al. Nichols, 1990; OBrien et al., 1993). Northwest- and
2000). They are not related to a surface or subsurface structural southeast-dipping faults have offsets of up to 2,500 m and are
pattern (plan view) associated with an extensional process regularly distributed from the margins to the axis of the
related to a basement-involved model (hard-linked model with trough. The large fault offsets, including displacement of the
transfer faults) or a basement-detached model (soft-linked seafloor, on the northern margin of the Sahul Platform, may
model with accommodation zones) (e.g. OBrien et al., 1996). be controlled preferentially by the large flexural stress at this

Strong reactivation
along Ashmore
margin
h
ug
r Tro
o ure
Tim flex Ashmore Platform
t e
pla
h
ug
r tro
rtie
Ca
Discrete
Tertiary
reactivation
Strong reactivation
separating Ashmore
sin
b- n

Platform from Vulcan


Su ulca
ba

Sub-basin
V

Northern
Browse
Basin
100 km
N
Figure 10: Structural elements map for the Ashmore platform, showing main platform boundaries, major faults, folds and sub-basins.
Coloured areas indicate locations of Neogene reactivation.
M. Keep et al. 347

Quat Quat
Neog.
Neog.
Palaeog.
Palaeog.
U. Jur- U. Jur-Cret
Cret
Triassic
Triassic

a. b.

Quat
Neog. Quat

Palaeog. Neog.

Palaeog.
U. Jur-Cret
U. Jur-Cret

Triassic Triassic

c. d.
Figure 11: Schematic representations of fault styles within the Timor Sea. a). Tertiary structures (black) cluster around Mesozoic faults
(red); b). Tertiary structures occur up-dip of Mesozoic faults, with a decoupling between reactivated and new faults due to the Upper
Jurassic-Cretaceous. ductile layer; c). Hard-linked structures join Tertiary (new) and Mesozoic (reactivated) faults. Red area highlights
links; d). Decoupled or soft-linked structures detach at ductile layers; red areas highlight links. Quat .= Quaternary, Neog. = Neogene,
Palaeog.= Palaeogene, U. Jur-Cret. = Upper Jurassic to Cretaceous in all figures.

SP
OR
TIM

LH
LDH
AP
CT Keep et al., Figure 6

TT

plate motion vector


Shear component at
plate flexure plate boundary
Figure 12: Block diagram showing partitioning of deformation on the margins of structural highs adjacent to the Timor Trough. Note
the increasing strike-slip component towards the southwest. Seismic lines from Figures 3, 5, 6 & 9 shown for reference. SP = Sahul
platform; LH = Laminaria High; AP = Ashmore Platform; CT = Cartier Trough; LDH = Londonderry High; TT = Timor Trough.
348 Timor Sea deformation
Many faults that penetrate the Neogene represent
reactivated Jurassic rift-structures or pre-existing Jurassic
a. null point b. weaknesses (e.g. Keep & Moss, 2000). However, thin
1
2
1
2
detachment horizons may impede through-going linkage of
3
3 Neogene faults with their Jurassic precursors (e.g. de Ruig et
al., 2000). Analogue models of a viscous layer between a
1 1
2 2 pre-faulted basement and an overlaid sedimentary package
3 3
(Withjack & Callaway, 2000) show that after normal
reactivation of the basement, the pattern of the fractures
1
1
2 2 that develops in the upper sedimentary sequences depends
3 3
on the type and thickness of sediments, the thickness and
viscosity of the viscous layer and the displacement and the
rate of displacement of the underlying disconformity. The
fault patterns generated by these experiments mimic fault
Figure 13: a). Inversion of a normal fault. Note that some patterns in the Timor Sea and on the Ashmore Platform
horizons still show net normal displacement after inversion (from (Fig. 14). The Upper Jurassic and Cretaceous shale
Williams et al., 1989). b). Differential offsets between adjacent and claystone sequences may act as the viscous layer, that is
faults within an array due to jostling of fault-bounded blocks a layer of strain and displacement accommodation/
(from Ryan & Coleman, 1992). decoupling or a soft-linkage zone as described in de Ruig et
al. 2000). Neogene faults occur in the sedimentary section
above this underlying discontinuity. These layers of
accommodation (soft-linkage zones) influence the
point. However, dominant stresses change along the length of development, location and geometry of Neogene structures.
the Timor Trough, from flexure- to wrench-dominated In this case, reactivated Mesozoic faults will not cut the
(Clough, 1999) (Fig. 12). Upper Jurassic and Cretaceous shale and claystone at the
Evidence of wrench reactivation includes the upward drag seismic scale. Instead the viscous layer accommodates the
of horizons into faults (e.g. Fig. 9), and the complex strain, decoupling the shallow and deep deformation
deformation between adjacent faults (Fig. 3), which are not (Withjack & Callaway, 2000).
common features of brittle extension. Overall net normal
offset may still remain at some horizons after subsequent
reverse or wrench movement on a normal fault if the amount
of inversion does not exceed the initial normal offset (Fig. 13).
Several phases of reactivation may be recorded as variable a.
displacements along individual faults (Fig. 13), and adjacent 0
faults within an array may record different amounts of motion 2000
due to jostling of fault-bounded blocks during reactivation
episodes (Fig. 13). 4 km
4000
Wrench reactivation has been documented in the Timor
Sea region (Nelson, 1993), especially in the Cartier Trough, b.
interpreted as a left-lateral pull-apart basin (Shuster et al.,
1998). At the Laminaria High and around the Ashmore
Platform (Fig. 2) Neogene deformation, expressed as right-
stepping en echelon faults, indicates a component of left-
4 cm
lateral motion (Shuster et al., 1998; de Ruig et al., 2000),
consistent with left-lateral strike-slip earthquake fault plane
solutions in the general area (Cockatoo Island,1997; National Sand added during deformation
Earthquake Information Centre). Flexural extension alone is Sand added before deformation
therefore not a viable mechanism to explain all of the overall Silicone putty
Metal base
net normal offset observed in the study area as it fails to
account for the inferred oblique displacement. In addition,
Figure 14: Similarities between analogue models and detached
although the density and magnitude of net normal
faults from the Ashmore Platform. a). schematic cross section
displacement generally increases with proximity to the Timor from the Ashmore Platform; vertical scale is in milliseconds of
Trough, flexure of Australian continental crust associated with two-way travel time; b). Examples of structures from analogue
the development of the Timor Trough at 3 Ma postdates the models in which basement is detached from cover (redrawn from
faulting events observed during the Miocene by over 5 Ma. Withjack & Callaway, 2000).
M. Keep et al. 349

Age Regional tectonic


(Ma) events
PNG SUMBA NWS NINETY EAST

Strike-slip Timor
begins uplift Late Early Pliocene
5 (4-3 Ma)
Finisterre Sumba 8 Ma Inversion along
Accretion uplift collision 90 East ridge
10 Late Miocene
(11-5.5 Ma)
15 Sinistral
wrenching Sumba
along PNG escape
20 margin
Base Miocene
25 Initial plate collision (25 Ma)
Figure 15: Correlation of regional tectonic events on the Timor Sea, in comparison to regional events on Papua New Guinea, Sumba
and the Ninety East Ridge (Bull & Scrutton, 1992; Hill & Raza, 1999; Rutherford et al., 2001; Keep et al., 2002).

Timing the Timor Sea coincides with a number of tectonic features in


the area. A domain boundary (compartment boundary of
Two major structural events (Late Miocene and late Early OBrien et al., 1996) occurs as a distinct bathymetric
Pliocene) and one minor event (Early Miocene) have been lineament on the seafloor (OBrien et al., 1999, their figure 7),
identified from seismic data (Fig. 15). and parallels similar lineaments observed in gravity and
Earliest Miocene event (25-23 Ma), suggested by faults magnetic data (AGSO, 2001; Keep et al., 2002). These
showing a maximum offset at this level and faults lineaments act to bound structural domains within the current
terminating at this horizon. plate tectonic framework.
Late Miocene event (11-5.5 Ma), indicated by some faults In summary, the majority of faults occur on the margins
show a maximum offset at the Late Miocene horizon; of pre-existing structural highs and are influenced by a variety
some faults terminate at the Late Miocene horizon and of factors. The northern Sahul Platform and Laminaria areas,
often show a thickening of sediments on the hanging wall. adjacent to the Timor Trough, are strongly influenced by plate
Late Early Pliocene event (4-3 Ma), indicated by a suite of flexure associated with the Trough. In contrast, the northern
faults (especially in the NE) which show a maximum Ashmore Platform, situated at the southwestern end of the
amount of offset at the late Early Pliocene horizon. Timor Trough is influenced by the interaction of plate flexure
Sediments directly overlying the late Early Pliocene horizon and left-lateral deformation and the change in margin
thicken into the hanging wall of overall net normal faults; orientation.
large offsets of up to 1,000 ms are associated with such
faults; several major depocentres developed at this time.
Discussion
Variations in structural style reflect different tectonic Three main tectonic events, at 25, 8 and 3 Ma respectively,
controls. The margins of the Sahul and Ashmore platforms are superimposed to varying degrees within the study area.
and Laminaria High (Fig. 2) host the densest Neogene faults The 25 Ma event (Fig. 15), weakly preserved in the study area,
(Fig. 12); the northern Browse Basin, in which faulting is not coincides with the collision of the New Guinea region of the
confined to the margins of a high, hosts the most diffuse Australian Plate with the Philippine Sea Plate (Hall, 1996).
deformation. These structural domains accommodate left- The Late Miocene (8 Ma) event (Fig. 15) has been proposed
lateral transtension (Nelson, 1993; Shuster et al., 1998; Keep to coincide with collision between a microcontinental
et al., 2002) and right-lateral transpression (Keep et al., 2000) fragment and the Banda Arc (Richardson & Blundell, 1996)
respectively. Further details of right-lateral transpression in the and the main compression phase in Papua New Guinea (Hill
Browse Basin (Barcoo Sub-basin) can be found in Keep et al. & Raza, 1999). Alternatively, Keep et al. (2002) suggest that a
(2000). finger of Australian continental crust collided with and
The transition from a right-lateral transpressional domain underplated Sumba at this time. The timing of this event
in the Browse Basin to a left-lateral transtensional domain in coincides with the arrival of Sumba in its present position and
350 Timor Sea deformation

N magnetic anomalies
INDIAN PLATE
maximum horizontal
stress orientation
strike-slip zones
thrust zones

NINETY PACIFIC
CENTRAL EURASIAN PLATE
INDIAN EAST PLATE
RIDGE RIDGE
INDIAN 10.2
OCEAN
0.4 PNG
10.2 plate motion rate and
direction
7.8
convergent plate
boundary
spreading direction AUSTRALIAN
PLATE
Figure 16: Regional tectonics of the Indo-Australian Plate, showing major plates and plate boundaries, the direction and rate of plate
motion (Genrich et al., 1996), and the documented zones and styles of deformation.

its uplift (Rutherford et al., 2001). Some authors also date the Regional contractional deformation occurred in Papua
docking of the Finisterre Terrane in Papua New Guinea at 8 New Guinea throughout the Late Miocene (e.g., Packham,
Ma (e.g. Cullen et al., 1996; Hill et al., 1993; Crowhurst et al., 1996; Hill & Raza, 1999). These events are recognised by a
1996), however the timing of this accretion varies from 11 Ma regional unconformity separating deformed Early-Middle
(Liu & Crook, 2001) to uplift at 1.3 Ma (Hill, pers. comm., Miocene carbonates and clastics from overlying relatively
2002). This event may have also affected the Late Miocene undeformed Pliocene marine clastics (Cullen, 1996).
faulting event in the Timor Sea region. Collision led to a major plate reorganisation, including the
Late Early Pliocene overall net normal reactivation of pre- reversal of subduction polarity to the northwest of New
existing structures displaced Neogene strata by up to 1 second Guinea, and an increasing degree of oblique sinistral
(2,500 m). The timing of this event (Fig. 15) coincides with convergence between the Australian and Pacific Plates
collision of the Australian and Eurasian plates in the Timor (McCaffrey, 1996). The 8 Ma collision also led to the
region, at approximately 3 Ma (e.g. Packham, 1996), that propagation of compressive stresses well into the Australia
caused uplift of Timor and the formation of the Timor continent, reactivating structures as far south as the Carnarvon
Trough. Therefore, the late Early Pliocene deformation Basin of the North West Shelf and the Cooper and Eromanga
observed in the study area probably resulted from the initial basins of southeastern Australia (Etheridge et al., 1991). In the
stages of that plate collision. Regional seismic data show that Timor Sea region this 8 Ma event is less intense than the 3 Ma
Late Miocene-late Early Pliocene sediments have a prograding event that overprints it. Net normal displacements and fault
geometry at the base of the Timor Trough, indicating that the inversion are evident in the Late Miocene.
Trough probably did not develop until the late Early Pliocene In the central Indian Ocean, regional seismic data display
to Recent. Sea-floor displacements indicate that faulting a zone of reverse faults trending approximately E-W (e.g. Bull
continues to the present-day and that ongoing convergence of & Scrutton, 1992; van Orman et al., 1995) (Fig. 16).
the north-northeast moving Australian Plate with the Deformation commenced in the Late Miocene (7-8 Ma),
westward-moving Pacific Plate dominates present-day stress indicated by a regional unconformity dated from ODP leg
distributions in the Timor Sea region (Hillis, 1998). 116 drilling results (van Orman et al., 1995). This
deformation may represent a diffuse but distinct boundary
An 8 Ma plate-wide event between the Indian and Australia plates (Wiens et al., 1985)
Late Miocene deformation occurs throughout the Indo- as indicated by anomalous heat flow, marine gravity data,
Australian Plate from New Guinea to the North West Shelf to satellite altimetry and seismic data (Wiens et al., 1985).
as far west as the central Indian Ocean, and as far south as the Differences in the rate and direction of relative plate motions
basins of SE Australia (Fig. 16). Differential, but not due to collision in the north (Himalayas) and subduction in
independent, movements between the Indo-Australian Plate the NE (Sunda Trench) may have caused the deformation
and the Indian, Eurasian and Pacific plates probably caused observed at the proposed oceanic plate boundary in the
this widespread coeval deformation. central Indian Ocean (Fig. 16).
M. Keep et al. 351

Conclusion mechanics of fault reactivation in the Nancar


Trough/Laminaria area of the Timor Sea, Northern
Neogene structural styles in the Timor Sea vary
Australia, The APPEA Journal, 40 (1), 174-193.
considerably between the Sahul Platform and the Barcoo Sub- ETHERIDGE, M.A., McQUEEN, H. & LAMBECK, K.,
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Laminaria High, Vulcan Sub-basin and Cartier Trough Mesozoic) deformation of the Australian continent and its
indicate overall net normal fault displacement, influenced by margins: a key factor in petroleum trap formation,
both left-lateral transtension and plate flexure. Complex fault Exploration Geophysics, 22, 123-128.
offsets in the Ashmore Platform result from their location at a GENRICH, J., BOCK, V., MCCAFFREY, R., CALIAS, E.
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complex deformation reflects right-lateral transpression. The Arc to the Australian plate margin determined by Global
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Late Early Pliocene (4-3 Ma) coincide with regional tectonic HASTON, R.B. & FARRELLY, J.J., 1993, Regional
events. In particular, evidence for an 8 Ma occurs through the significance of the Arqebus-I well, Browse Basin, North
entire Indo-Australian plate, indicating major plate West Shelf, Australia, The APEA Journal, 33 (1), 28-38.
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Paua New Guinea: constraints from fission track
thermochronology, Tectonics, 18, 950-966.
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M. Keep et al. 353

Biographies
Myra Keep is a Senior Lecturer in Structural Geology and Basin Tectonics at the University of Western
Australia. Prior to her appointment at UWA in 1997 she previously held positions at Mobil, the Fault
Dynamics Group at London University, and was the Mobil Lecturer in Structural Geology at the University
of Aberdeen. Myra received her BSc from the University of London, her MSc from the University of British
Columbia in Vancouver, and her PhD from Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas. She is a member
of the WABS 2002 organising committee, Co-Editor of the WABS3 journal, a past Secretary of PESA WA,
is a Chartered Geologist with the Geological Society and is also a member of AAPG and PESGB.

Martyn Clough joined GeoMechanics International (GMI) as a geologist in June 2000. Recent work
includes analysis of in situ stress, fault stability, wellbore stability, drilling engineering and wellbore imaging
for oil and gas fields around the world. He has a BSc (Hons) majoring in Geology and Geophysics at the
University of Western Australia. His Honours project was on the Neogene Structural Evolution of the Timor
Sea Region. He was the recipient of PESA Honours Award, the Hugh Doyle Prize, and the Rex T. Prider
Medal. Returning to his engineering roots, he is a member of the SPE.

Laurent Langhi is currently doing a PhD thesis at the University of Lausanne (Switzerland) on the Cainozoic
evolution of the North West Shelf. His work is mainly based on 2D/3D seismic interpretation, including such
tools as 2D/3D attributes analysis/classification, seismic stratigraphy and structural analysis. This project
benefits from collaborations with Woodside and Schlumberger. He has a BSc and in 2000 received his MSc
working on a Dampier Sub-basin structural project. Upon graduation he undertook a period of training with
Norsk-Hydro Energy, and in 2001 he was a visiting researcher at the University of Western Australia.

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