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The exploitable phosphorite deposits of Masrana and Kimoi blocks
(Uttrakhand) are intimately associated with a variety of chert-shale-carbonate rocks of
sedimentary origin with some pyrites. They constitute a part of the lower most
sequence of the Tal Group of the Lesser Himalayan region of north-western India.
Due attention has been given to describe the important stratigraphic, lithologic and
sedimentary features of the rock formations as well as those of the phosphorites
associated with them. Briefly, the important contributions made by some of the
previous workers on the regional stratigraphy, structure and lithology of the
formations in the Lesser Himalaya have been reviewed for an appraisal of their
general geological set-up.


Masrana and Kimoi blocks of Uttrakhand state form a part of Lesser Himalaya
between the Yamuna valley on the west and the Ganga valley on the east (latitudes;
30°27’0’’N and 30°28’0’’N and longitudes; 78°9’0’’E and 78°8’30’’E).

Detailed synthesis of the stratigraphy and correlations of the Lesser Himalayan

formations was presented by Valdiya (1980b) . Shankar (1971, 1975) classified the
Tal Group and discussed the depositional conditions of the various lithounits
including the phosphate deposits. The age of the Lower Tal Group was critically
studied by many earlier workers like Patwardhan (1978), Bhatia (1980), Ahluvalia
(1978), Srivastava (1974), Azmi et al. (1981), Mazumdar and Banerjee (1998) and
Tiwari (1999) based primarily on fossil evidences.

The generalised regional geological succession given in Table-3.1 (modified

after G.S.I., 1981 and Kumar, 2005). A thick succession (6100 m.) of predominantly
unfossiliferous sedimentary rocks constitute mainly the krol Nappe and extend as an
exposing southern rampart of the Lesser Himalaya, has been devided into six distinct
Groups viz., Simla, Chandpur, Nagthat, Blaini, Krol and Tal in the ascending order
(Valdiya, 1975). The Neoproterozoic to Early Cambrian sequence of the Krol belt in

the Lesser Himalaya comprises sedimentary rocks of the Blaini, Krol and Tal Groups
(Mazumdar and Banerjee, 2001).

The Blaini Group consist of diamictite, arenite, shale and carbonate and
divides the composite stratigraphic column of the Lesser Himalayas into (i) Pre-Blaini
and (ii) Post-Blaini. The Pre-Blaini succession are considered to be of Palaeo-
Proterozoic to Meso-Proterozoic in age whereas the age of the Post-Blaini sequence is
considered to be of Terminal Proterozoic to Recent. Around the Masrana and Kimoi
blocks of Uttrakhand, the Pre-Blaini sequences are known as Simla Group, Chandpur
Group and Nagthat Group whereas the Post-Blaini Sequences are referred to as Infra
Krol/Krol, Tal, Subathu and the Siwalik Group.

The Lesser Himalayan formations delimited by the Main Boundary Fault

(MBF) in the south and the Main Central Thrust (MCT) in the north, that occur
mainly in Himachal Pradesh, Garhwal and Kumaon regions in Uttrakhand, constitute
a structurally complicated and tectonically disturbed sequence consisting of a number
of high to low grade metamorphic and sedimentary rocks (Bist and Paul, 2008). From
time to time many contrasting views have been expressed to explain their structural
complexity and also to determine their stratigraphic correlations based on generation
of more and more new data for about a decade and it ultimately led to a progressive
refinement of the understanding of their complex problems of tectonics, stratigraphy
and structure.

Facing the Indo-Gangetic alluvial plain along the Himalayan Frontal Thrust
and bounded to the south by the Main Boundary Thrust, the Sub-Himalaya is largely
composed of the Siwalik Group (Middle Miocene to Upper Pliocene) of rocks (Bist
and Paul, 2008). The Siwaliks sequence vary in thickness (4500 m to 6000 m) and
generally show open to isoclinals Jura-type folds and reverse faults. At Kalsi,
northwest of Dehradun, the Siwalik rocks are tectonically juxtaposed against the
upthrusted Palaeocene rocks along the Main Boundary Fault. But south-eastwards, in
Dehradun area, due to overlapping of the Main Boundary Fault by the Krol thrust, the
Siwalik rocks are brought directly in contact with the Pre-Tertiary rocks of the ‘Krol
Nappe’. Siwalik is divided into Lower, Middle and Upper Siwalik subgroups. The
Lower Siwalik sediments are comprises of coarse grained sandstone and mudstone
whereas Middle Siwalik is uniquely comprises of a thick pile of multistoried

sandstone complex occurring in widely separated areas stretching from Potwar
plateau in the west through Haritalyanagar to Mohand in the east (Johnson et al., 1983
and Kumar and Nanda, 1989). The Upper Siwalik is comprises of conglomerate,
sandstone and mudstone and has been devided into three formations as Tatrot, the
Pinjor and the Boulder Conglomerate Formation.


The Tal group which associates the potential phosphorite horizon and overlies
the Krol Group, constitutes the uppermost lithostratigraphic unit of the thick
sedimentary sequence of the Krol Nappe. The Krol and Tal Groups, which have a
thrust contact with the Jaunsars, form a syncline that appear to have been tilted to the
south. In the Mussoorie area, the syncline made up of Blaini, Infra Krol, Krol and Tal
rocks is in direct contact with Nagthat Group on the north-east. The strike of these
Groups varies from N10°W to N55°W. At certain places a few reversals indicate
refolding of the formations resulting in the generation of local synforms and
antiforms, e.g., in the Pari Tibba-Chamasari area, where folding has also caused
thinning and thickening of the formations. Their outcrops are located at various
elevations depending upon the degree of erosion at any given place. The principal
streams in this area generally follow old fault alignments. Faulting, which resulted in
the development of steep Scarps, often display shearing, Shattering and drag folds of
the formations. The Blaini-Krol-Tal succession has close stratigraphic similarity with
Nantuo Tsanglangpu succession of China (Jiang et al., 2003 and Knoll et al., 2006).

The northern counter part of the Krol-Tal sequences along the Krol Thrust is the
Tons Thrust, which also overrides the autochthonus Simla slate-Nummulitic zone
(Auden, 1934). The Tons Thrust and the Krol Thrust have been found to be
independent detachment planes. The Krol and Giri Thrusts have been found to be the
two traces of the same folded thrust plane developed along the plane of unconformity
between the Simla Group and Krol belt rocks, and similarly the Tons and the Chail
are the two traces of the same folded thrust plane initiated within the Jaunsar Group
along which the Inner Krol belt has moved over the Outer Krol belt (Kumar, 2005).
The younger sequence of the Tal Group is still preserved only in the Inner Krol belt
(Early Cambrian) (Desai et al., 2010).

The lithological succession within the Tal Group remains similar throughout the
outcrop belt, there are enough differences in lithology and apparent stratigraphic
thickness to have warranted the erection of separate lithological nomenclatures in
different regions (Bhargava et al., 1998). The Tal Group thickens towords the
northwest as well as gets finer in the same direction atleast within its middle units
which suggest deepening in a northwest direction, as found in the Krol Group
(Shankar et al., 1993; Bhargava et al., 1998 and Jiang et al., 2003).

The stratigraphy of the Tal Group has been worked out in greater detail,
particularly in view of the fact that the economic deposits of Phosphorites are
restricted to its base. The lithostratigraphy of the formations is given in Table- 3.2.


The Tal Group has been devided into a Lower and an Upper sequences by
Auden (1934) and Shankar (1971) and into Lower, Middle and Upper sequences by
Bhargava (1974). All the three divisions are recognisable and mappable in Nigali
Dhar and Korgai Synclines. Valdiya (1975) also proposed a three-fold classification
of Tal into Jogira, Mashat and Bansi members. Bhatia (1980) has reviewed and
presented in detail various lithounits of the Tal Group as proposed by different
workers. Shankar et al. (1993) has defined the Tal Group as essentially a succession
of chert, areno-argillaceous and arenaceous rocks with subordinate calcareous bands
that conformably overlies the Krol Group.

However, on the basis of distinctive lithology, mappability, sharpness and

easy recognition of the stratigraphic contacts, the Tal rocks have been classified into
two groups, viz., Lower Tal Group and Upper Tal Group (Shankar, 1987). A break in
sedimentation is also represented in some parts of the area as a result of sharply
changing environment of deposition from essentially marine in Lower Tal to sub-
aqueous or subaerial (non marine) in the Upper Tal Group. The boundaries between
the Lower Tal and the Upper Tal Group are thus natural and distinct (G.S.I., 1981).

3.4.1 Lower Tal Group

The thickness of the Lower Tal varies in different sections from 75m to 880m.
The group is further divisible into four members on the basis of their difference in
lithology and depending upon the dominance of one type of sediments over others,

viz., cherty, argillaceous, arenaceous and calcareous (Shankar, 1987 and Kumar,
2005). The boundaries of the various members are more or less gradational. Chert Member

The mineralisation of phosphorite is largely localised in the chert member
which is divisible into (a) chert horizon and (b) phosphate horizon on the basis of
their lithological changes. A detailed description of these horizons are presented as
follows: The Chert Horizon

The chert horizon comprises of a thick sequence of bedded black cherts with
thin intercalations of light to dark grey shales. The chert is often thickly bedded and
generally gets nodular upwards and these nodules are phosphatic. The phosphate
content of these nodules seems to vary considerably but it was generally found to be
inversely proportional to the size of the nodules. The inter-nodular portions of the
chert is generally devoid of any phosphatic contamination. Associated with the chert,
there are also some bands of limestone and disseminations of small pyritiferous
nodules. The Phosphate Horizon

The phosphate horizon constitutes an important economic horizon (Shankar,
1987) but largely restricted to the upper part of chert member, varies in thickness
from a few millimetres to about 10 meters. The main phosphorite horizon occurs
between the chert and black shales but thin phosphatic bands are also found
intercalated with the underlying chert as well as the overlying black shales. The
individual phosphorite bands are not continuous though the phosphorite horizon
extends for about a total strike length of over 120 kms.

At places, phosphorite horizon rests directly over the Krol limestone without
any sign of unconformity. In such situations, the Krol limestone is also known to
contain the bands of phosphorite in its upper parts (Ghosh, 1968; Patwardhan and
Ahluvalia, 1973 and Raha, 1972).

The phosphorite also becomes stromatolitic, showing megascopically

discernible stromatolitic inclusions and columns mostly towards the top of the
succession. Primary depositional features such as ripple marks, low angle cross

bedding, intraclasts, ooids, microbial laminites and small domal stromatolites suggests
an intertidal to shallow subtidal depositional setting for the Lower Tal Group
(Mazumdar and Banerjee, 2001).

3.4.2 Upper Tal Group

The Upper Tal is less thicker than the Lower Tal and varies from 70 m to 160
m in thickness. This Formation is subdivided into a lower quartzite member and an
upper limestone member. The white to purplish white coloured sandstone/quartzite of
the Upper Tal are occasionally current bedded and ripple marked. The sandstone is
often pebbly and the pebbles are being predominantly composed of vein-quartz, green
slate and abundant pink feldspars. The topmost horizon of the Upper Tal is composed
of a dark grey limestone containing abundant fragment of lamelle-branch and
brachiopod shells.

3.5 AGE
The age of the Blaini-Krol-Tal sequence has been assigned to be of late
Precambrian by Singh (1979a, b, 1981) and Late Precambrian to Early Palaeozoic by
Azmi et al. (1981) and Azmi and Joshi (1983) on the basis of late palaeontological
evidence and they refuted the accepted view of Late Palaeozoic to Mesozoic age of
the sequence by the previous earlier workers. Singh’s contention regarding the age of
the sequence was mainly based on some sedimentological observations and the
apparently unfossiliferous nature of these Lesser Himalayan rocks.

Azmi and his associates (1980, 1983) deductions are essentially based on their
discovery of cambro-ordovician boundary conodonts from the chert-phosphorite
member of the Tal Group. Later on (Hughes et al., 2005) on the basis of fossils
recorded by different workers such as Bhatt et al. (1985), Brasier and Singh (1987)
and Mazumdar and Banerjee (1998) assigned Early Cambrian age to the basal chert
phosphate member of the Tal Group. Thus, presently, the age of the Tal Group which
was hitherto believed to have been formed either in the Permian or in the Jurassic
Cretaceous period, has been refixed to be Early Cambrian.

Associated with carbonaceous shale, chert and limestone, the phosphorite
deposits occupy a part of northern flank of Mussoorie Syncline. The outcrop of the
phosphorite horizon is somewhat oval shaped with the perimeter of 120 kms Striking
NW-SE. So far about 10 phosphorite deposits have been reported from Uttrakhand
state but here an attempt has been made to describe the mode of occurrence of the
phosphorite deposits of Masrana and Kimoi blocks. The geological setup and
distribution of phosphorite deposits are presented in Fig. 3.1.

3.6.1 Masrana Block

Masrana block is located at a distance of 11 kms from Mussoorie on
Mussoorie-Tehri road. The Krol-Tal contact runs from a distance of 3 kms. The chert-
shale-phosphorite sequence (chert member) of Lower Tal Group ranges upto a
thickness of 60 m with phosphorites and associated sedimentary rocks as chert and
shale bands having thickness of 0.20 m to 8.5 m respectively. Phosphorite is
commonly concentrated towards upper part of the chert-shale-phosphorite sequence.
Chert or black shale are poor in phosphate content. The phosphate is seen over 1.5 km
strike length.

3.6.2 Kimoi Block

The Kimoi block is just a westward continuation of Masrana block. The
thickness of the Phosphorite bands in Kimoi is about 0.5 to 3 m. It has maximum
thickness of phosphorite in the northern limb of the Syncline and the various
lithological units of the Tal Group are well exposed. The phosphate layers of varying
thickness of upto 15m occur intercalated with black shale, chert and limestone
members of the Lower Tal.


The phosphorite deposits of Masrana and Kimoi blocks of Uttrakhand are
generally dull grey to brownish black in colour. These are occasionally bedded and
white and orange incrustations are seen at places, on the surface of the phosphorites.
The phosphorites from different parts of Uttrakhand have been classified into various

Fig. 3.1. Geological map showing location of the sections examined (modified after Mazumdar
and Banerjee, 2001).

types by earlier workers (Ghosh, 1968; Saraswat et al., 1970; Rao and Rao, 1971;
Patwardhan and Ahluwalia, 1973 and Banerjee and McArthur, 1991). Four distinct
varieties of phosphorites are classified in the area of study on their physico-
morphological features and are described below:

3.7.1 Bedded

Bedded phosphorites of the region (Fig. 3.2a) have layers of bedded phosphate
alternate with clayey and shaly bands. The common association of such phosphorites
are with black shale, which is an indication of a negative Eh (Youssef, 1965). In
general such type of phosphorites are composed of siliceous or carbonaceous matrix.

3.7.2 Noduler

Most of the Nodules are spheroidal, flattened, Plano-convex and ellipsoidal.

The colour of the nodules is usually light to dark grey and black (Fig. 3.2b). The
nodules vary in size from 4.5 cm x 2.5 cm x 1.5 cm to 27 cm x 18 cm x 9 cm as long
x intermediate x shorter axis. In general this type of phosphorite is associated with
black shales that occur in contact with phosphorite horizon. At places this variety also
occurs in the lower most part of the chert member just overlying the Krol limestone.
The phosphate content of nodules is more or less inversely proportional to their size,
the smaller the nodules the higher is the content of phosphate.

3.7.3 Lenticular

In this variety, dark lenticles of phosphatic material, composed of collophane

were found alternating with light coloured bands which are occasionally feebly
phosphatic and generally composed of calcareous and/or siliceous material (Fig.
3.2c). The longer axis of the lenticles vary in length from 2 mm and the shorter axis
are from 1 mm to 2 cm. At places the lenticles are aligned oblique to the bedding

3.7.4 Laminated

It is made up of alternating bands of carbonate and phosphate minerals ranging

from less than a millimetre to a few millimetres in thickness (Fig.3.2d). It is dull black
to dark brownish in colour, thinly bedded and very fine grained. The phosphatic

Fig. 3.2. a) Field photograph showing bedded phosphorite with layers of bedded phosphate
alternate with clayey and shaly bands, b) Sample photograph showing nodules of
collophane of size more than 2 cm, c) Sample photograph showing lenticles of
collophane in siliceous as well as carbonaceous groundmass, d) Sample photograph
showing laminations of collophane in a matrix of phosphatic material.

layer consists of collophane aligned parallel to the bedding plane and is embedded in
a fine phosphate matrix. This variety has the highest concentration of phosphate and
was found to be intimately associated with pyrite. On weathering a large portion of
calcareous material is usually leached out from the ore.


The significant concentrations of uranium are confined to the area between

Mussoorie and Sahastradhara in its southern limb. Radioactivity is confined to the
phosphorite, chert and carbonaceous shale horizons, which carry phosphorite lenses.
The phosphorite horizon varies in thickness from about 1 m to 5 m but radioactivity is
restricted to the bottom most part of the formation measuring 0.3 m to 1.5 m in
thickness. The chert, however, is not everywhere radioactive. The overlying black
shales are feebly radioactive throughout highly radioactive in portions having
phosphorite lenses. This is particularly true of the basal part (1 m thick) of the horizon
which immediately lies above the main phosphorite bed. Uranium in these
phosphorite deposits appear to be absorbed by the collophane and the phosphatic

Table 3.1. Generalized geological succession of the area (modified after G.S.I., 1981 and Kumar,

Group/Formation Age

Alluvium Recent

Dun gravel/old terraces Pleistocene to sub-recent

Siwalik Group Middle Miocene to Upper Pliocene

Subathu Group Late Palaeocene to Middle Eocene

Tal group Cambrian

Infra-Krol/Krol Group Terminal Proterozoic

Blaini Group Neo-Proterozoic

Nagthat Group Meso-Proterozoic

Chandpur Group Late Palaeo-Proterozoic

Simla Group Early Palaeo-Proterozoic

Table 3.2. Stratigraphic sequence of rock Formations in and around study area.

Subathus Olive shale, Shell marl and Limestone

(ii) Limestone member 15-20 m.
Upper Tal

(i) Quartzite member 1300 m.


Lower Tal (iv) Calcareous member 5 m.

(iii) Arenaceous member 300-500 m.

(ii) Argillaceous member 150 m.

(i) Chert member 150 m.

(b) Phosphate unit (phosphate rock with thin intercalations of

shales and chert)

(a) Chert unit (Bedded black chert with subordinate layers of

black shale and thin streaks of phosphate rock)


(Transitional locally)

Transition Zone Argillaceous limestone often phosphatized interlayered

(developed locally) with thin streaks of phosphate rock (also brecciated at places)

and chert

Upper Krol (ii) Light grey, argillaceous limestone and purple grey shale

(i) Grey to bluish grey dolomitic limestone and dolomites