Gravity modelling in the western Bushveld Complex, South Africa, using integrated geophysical data

Coomber, Stephen John
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A 10 km x 10 km study area in the western Bushveld Complex, south of the Pilanesberg Complex, was selected for testing the inversion of vertical component gravity (Gz) data to determine the geometry of the Bushveld Complex/Transvaal Supergroup contact. This contact has a density contrast of ~0.350 making it a suitable target for gravity inversion. The resulting 3D gravity model agrees well with the 3D seismic interpretation, indicating that the depths determined from the seismic data are appropriate. The gravity inversion could be extended laterally to investigate regions without seismic data coverage. This methodology may prove useful where upwellings in the floor of the Bushveld Complex distort seismic data, but can be imaged by gravity inversions. The Gz dataset was created from converted Airborne Gradient Gravity (AGG) data, combined with upward continued ground Gz gravity data, providing extensive coverage. This combined dataset was used in an interactive, iterative 3D gravity inversion methodology used to model the geometry of the Bushveld Complex/Transvaal Supergroup contact and densities of the Bushveld Complex, Transvaal Supergroup and Iron-Rich Ultramafic Pegmatoids (IRUPs). The resulting 3D gravity model provides an acceptable first-pass model of the Bushveld Complex/Transvaal Supergroup contact. In the shallow south-west region of the study area, the steeply dipping contact was determined from borehole intersections. 3D seismic data was the only constraint towards the north-east, where the contact flattens out to a sub-parallel contact, at ~2 000 m depth. In the north-western section, the Bushveld Complex/Transvaal Supergroup contact is fault-bounded by a conjugate set of the Rustenburg Fault, causing the Bushveld to onlap the Transvaal sediments. In the southern region, the contact changes as the conjugate fault dies out, and the Bushveld Complex becomes layered/sub-parallel to Transvaal sediments. This, and other geological features (e.g. faulting, folding, dykes), can be explained in relation to the regional tectonic history, relating to motion along the Thabazimbi-Murchison Lineament (TML). Pre-Bushveld emplacement NW-SE far-field stress caused NW trending extensional features in the region (e.g. Rustenburg Fault). Re-orientation of the compressive force to NE-SW, in syn- to post-emplacement, caused compressive features in the region (e.g. open folds with axes trending NW). Ground gravity data (100 m x 100 m station- and line-spacing) were also inverted to obtain a 3D model of the overburden, constrained by borehole data. However, the inversion failed to satisfy the gravity data and borehole data simultaneously, relating to difficulties in modelling the regional gravity field and the gradational nature of the weathered contact. Several rapid variations in overburden thickness were mapped, with particular success in the high frequency ground gravity survey (30 m x 30 m station- and line-spacing) with the identification of a deeply weathered (~10 m deep) channel relating to an mapped fault.
Gravity, Inversion, Bushveld complex