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The geological setting of Indonesian coal deposits

By M C Friederich 1 , Member, R P Langford 2 and T A Moore 3

ABSTRACT Over the last 15 years Indonesia has experienced a surge in coal exploration, which
ABSTRACT
Over the last 15 years Indonesia has experienced a surge in coal
exploration, which has led to the development of a major export industry.
This coal exploration has improved the understanding of the geology of
the Indonesian coal deposits. The main economic coal deposits are of
Eocene and Miocene to Pliocene age, which mainly occur in Kalimantan
and Sumatra and were formed from peat deposits in an equatorial
paleoclimate similar to that prevailing today. Some of these peats were
domed peats, which grew above the normal water tables, under a climate
of year-round rainfall; these peats grew above the level at which
waterborne mineral matter can enter the system, resulting in low ash and
sulphur, and locally very thick coal. It is believed that such peats have
formed the unusually thick, low ash, and low sulphur Miocene coals of
Indonesia. Coal deposits of Eocene age are typically characterised by
thinner seams, with relatively higher contents of ash and sulphur. The
Miocene coals and Eocene coals both appear to have formed in
lacustrine, coastal plain or deltaic depositional environments, similar to
the modern peat-forming environments of eastern Sumatra and parts of
Kalimantan. The Eocene coals formed mainly in extensional tectonic
settings. Miocene - Pliocene coal deposits formed in a range of tectonic
settings.
INTRODUCTION
Recent coal exploration in Indonesia was initiated in the 1970s
by several groups. However the level of activity was boosted in
the early-1980s, after the entry of several foreign companies
under a new phase of foreign investment agreements for coal
exploration and mining. Exploration in the early-1980s, in
particular, was immensely successful, and resulted in the start-up
of several major coal mines and the creation of an important new
export industry. Coal production has risen from less than one
million tonnes in 1982, to over 59 million tonnes in 1998.
Indonesia has grown quickly to become the world’s third largest
exporter of thermal coal, mainly used for electricity generation.
The state-owned company, PT Tambang Batubara Bukit Asam
(PTBA) operates coal mines at Ombilin (West Sumatra) and near
Tanjung Enim (South Sumatra). The main private sector coal
mines include those in Eastern Kalimantan of PT Kaltim Prima
Coal (50 per cent RTZ, 50 per cent BP), PT Arutmin Indonesia
(80 per cent BHP, 20 per cent Bakrie and Brothers), and PT
Adaro Indonesia. Future developments will supply coal for the
next generation of Indonesian coal-fired power plants, although
this has been slowed by the current economic situation.
Coal exploration, associated research, and on-going work by
the petroleum companies has led to an improved understanding
of the geological controls of the better known coal deposits of
Indonesia. These deposits are mainly in Kalimantan and Sumatra,
although reference, in this paper, will also be made to some
lesser-known deposits in Java and Sulawesi (Figure 1). The coal
deposits that are currently mined in Indonesia are restricted to
Eocene and Miocene age sequences. High relative sea levels
during the Oligocene resulted in deposition of mainly marine
sediments throughout Indonesia. Pliocene age coals and lignites
occur, but are of low rank due to the young age, and are not being
mined.
EOCENE COAL DEPOSITS
Structural setting
1. PT Austindo Nusantara Energi, Graha Irama, 3rd Floor, Jalan HR
Rasuna Said Kav, 1-2, Jakarta, Indonesia.
2. 11 Toms Crescent, Ainslie ACT 2602.
3. Coal
Research
Limited,
PO
Box
29-415,
Christchurch,
New
Zealand.
Coal-bearing rift basins were initiated in Sumatra and
Kalimantan during the Early Tertiary (Paleogene). Much of the
margin of Sundaland, from western Sulawesi, through eastern
Kalimantan, the Java Sea, and Sumatra, was the site of Eocene
extension. Deposition probably began in the middle Eocene, as
these are the oldest known sediments. This early Tertiary rifting
on the margin of Sundaland was in a back-arc setting, which was
influenced by the subduction of the Indian Ocean plate (Cole and
Crittenden, 1997). The oldest known sediments with reliable
dates are of middle Eocene age, although it is possible that
deposition may have begun earlier than this (Hutchison, 1996).
100°
120°
140°
Medan
KALIMANTAN
SUMATRA
Pontianak
SamarindaSamarinda Samarinda
Padang
Palembang
Jayapura
SULAWESI
Balikpapan
.
IRIAN
Banjamasin
JAYA
Ujang
JAKARTA
Pandang
JAVA
0
500km
N
- Coal-bearing sequences
100°
120°
140°
FIG 1 - Distribution of coal-bearing sequences in Indonesia.
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M C FRIEDERICH, R P LANGFORD and T A MOORE

The sedimentary sequences in these Paleogene rifts are described by Sudarmono, Suherman and Eza (1997), who have shown the similarities in lithologies between these Paleogene rifts, and relate the stratigraphic sequence to successive stages in their evolution. Coal measures of Eocene age are known from the following basins: Pasir and Asam Asam (South and East Kalimantan provinces); Barito (South Kalimantan); Upper Kutai (East and Central Kalimantan); Melawi and Ketungau (West Kalimantan); Tarakan (East Kalimantan); Ombilin (West Sumatra); Central Sumatra Basin (Riau Province). Eocene coal measures, but with generally thin seams, also occur in rift sequences in southwestern Sulawesi and southwest Java. Eocene coal is currently being mined in SE Kalimantan (PT Arutmin Indonesia; PT Kendilo Coal) and in Sumatra at Ombilin, West Sumatra Province. The quality and recent production levels of the main Eocene producing mines are shown in Table 1. The initial deposition of the early-rift phase in these Paleogene rifts was freshwater, mainly fluviatile, alluvial fan and shallow lacustrine deposits. In SE Kalimantan, these were probably deposited in the Middle to Late Eocene, but they may have been younger in Sumatra, from Late Eocene to Early Oligocene. In the Central Sumatran rifts, the initial fluvial phase was overlain by sediments deposited in freshwater lakes (Cole and Crittenden, 1997). In Southeast Kalimantan, however, the basal alluvial fan and fluvial deposits were overlain by laterally continuous coal seams formed in a coastal plain setting, which was then overlain by sediments that have been interpreted as Late Eocene transgressive marginal marine deposits (Friederich et al, 1995).

Kalimantan basins

The initial deposition is believed to be Middle Eocene. It is interpreted as a syn-rift sequence and, as noted by Van de Weerd and Armin (1992) and Moss et al (1997), is remarkably similar throughout Kalimantan. The stratigraphic setting of the important known coal occurrences is described in more detail below.

Pasir and Asam Asam Basins, Southeast Kalimantan

Eocene age coal deposits occur within the Pasir and Asam Asam Basins of SE Kalimantan (Figure 2). Stratigraphic nomenclature varies between the basins, although this paper refers to units defined in the Asam Asam Basin. The basal Eocene sequence, the Tanjung Formation, unconformably overlies the Mesozoic basement. Milligan and Shatwell (1982) subdivided the Tanjung Formation into three members, T1, T2 and T3. The formation was deposited within a transgressive depositional system. Deposition began with basal conglomerate and overlying quartz-lithic sandstone, siltstone and claystone of the T1 member, with a thickness from several metres to over 150 metres. The thickness is quite variable, probably related to infilling of grabens. The overlying T2 unit contains a thick basal coal member, overlain by clastics, minor carbonate, and, locally, an

Coal mines 115° 1 Kaltim Prima Indominco Mandiri Tanito Harum Multi Harapan Private Companies Senakin
Coal mines
115°
1 Kaltim Prima
Indominco Mandiri
Tanito Harum
Multi Harapan
Private Companies
Senakin
Petangis
Satui
Adaro
Private Companies
Kideco
Tarakan
Sebuku
Berau
Ketungau
Mandai
Melawi
Kutai
Barito
Pasir
N
0
250km
Asam Asam
115°
FIG 2 - Tertiary basins and coal mines in Kalimantan.
Meratus

upper coal member. T3 is mainly fossiliferous marine marl, mudstone with interbedded clayey sandstone, and minor thin limestone towards the top. The T2 above the basal coal at least partly formed in large shallow embayments, with access to marine conditions, similar to the embayments now found on the present day coast of SE Kalimantan. These were depocentres for mainly fine grained clastics, and were transitional to the more fully marine conditions of the T3 member. Economically important coal is being mined at Satui and Senakin (by PT Arutmin Indonesia) and Petangis (by PT Kendilo Coal). It occurs near the base of the T2 member. The overlying portion of the T2 member, above the basal coal, is a presumed marine-paralic dominated unit, 70 to 100 metres thick, comprising a regular alternation of claystone, thin sandstone beds, and thin siderite beds. The basal coal unit is up to 9 m thick, but is more typically 4 to 6 m. The seam is typically laterally continuous, without sudden changes in seam thickness. (Friederich et al, 1995). Some 20 km north of Petangis, unambiguous field evidence is found for a marine transgression where a marine fossiliferous sandstone unit directly overlies the basal coal seam which contains very high sulphur contents. Several kilometres further north, the fossiliferous sandstone is replaced by a limestone.

TABLE 1

Average coal quality, selected Eocene deposits.

Mine

Basin

Company

Total moisture

Inherent moisture

Ash %

Volatiles %

Sulphur %

Heating value

% (ar)

% (ad)

(ad)

(ad)

(ad)

(kcal/kg)(ad)

Satui

Asam Asam

PT Arutmin

10.0

7.0

8.0

41.5

0.80

6800

Senakin

Pasir

PT Arutmin

9.0

4.0

15.0

39.5

0.70

6400

Petangis

Pasir

BHP Kendilo

11.0

4.4

12.0

40.5

0.80

6700

Ombilin

Ombilin

PTBA

12.0

6.5

<8.0

36.5

0.5 - 0.6

6900

Parambahan

Ombilin

Allied Indo

4.0

10.0 (ar)

37.3 (ar)

0.50 (ar)

6900 (ar)

Coal

(ar) - as received; (ad) - air dried. From Indonesian Coal Mining Association, 1998.

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The AusIMM Proceedings

Typically the lower part of the Eocene seam is low in sulphur, while the upper part has higher levels. Pyritic sulphur accounts for most of the variation. The sulphur is partly emplaced at the time of formation and secondarily as a result of the roof rock having a marine sulphate source. Ash content within the seam is generally predictable and constant. Both ash and sulphur contents vary vertically within the seam, but are predicable and persistent laterally. Palynological data from PT Arutmin Indonesia (unpublished) have shown that the coal and immediately adjacent sediments formed from a typical coastal equatorial flora. Stratigraphically, it is within a transgressive sequence. The coal occurs at the boundary between underlying terrestrial freshwater sediments and overlying marine units. The peat swamps that formed the coal appear to have resulted from a rise in water table in a coastal plain setting (Figure 3), as a result of sea level transgression over the coastal plain. The overlying sediments probably at least partly formed in large sheltered shallow coastal bays, with access to marine conditions, similar to the bays now found on the present day coast of SE Kalimantan. These were depocentres for mainly fine-grained clastics and were transitional to the more open marine conditions of the T3 member.

Barito Basin, Southeast Kalimantan

Eocene age coal in the Barito Basin was deposited within a setting quite similar to that of the Pasir and Asam Asam Basins. Coal for export is being produced by several small-scale mines, from the east and northeast of Banjarmasin. The main target seam is 2 m to 4 m thick, and is characterised by a generally lower ash and sulphur content than the coals of the Pasir and Asam Asam Basins. The coal deposits have been less well documented than those of the Pasir and Asam Asam Basins. However, the sedimentary sequence is known to be quite similar and it is likely that the main coal seam was deposited contemporaneously.

Kutai Basin, East Kalimantan

Deposition began in the Eocene within a series of grabens or half-grabens. Terrestrial and marine Eocene sediments outcrop in the western part of the basin (sometimes referred to as the Upper Kutai Basin), as described by Wain and Berod (1989) and Moss et al (1997). Eocene-age deposits in eastern part of the basin are generally dominated by fine-grained, deep marine sequences.

THE GEOLOGICAL SETTING OF INDONESIAN COAL DEPOSITS

The basal unit is the Eocene-age Haloq Sandstone. This unit has a variable thickness, from 300 to 1500 metres, and is dominantly quartzose pebbly sandstone, with minor conglomerate and thin mudstone beds, overlying a basal conglomerate. It is interpreted as alluvial fan deposits. The unit is identical to the basal sandstones of the Barito Basin and the Melawi Basin, and possibly formed contemporaneously. The Haloq Sandstone is overlain by the Batu Kelau Formation, a marine unit of generally fine grained clastics, of Late Eocene age. The Batu Kelau Formation is in turn overlain conformably by the transgressive Late Eocene Batu Ayau Formation, 500 to 1500 metres thick, comprising mainly sandstone, mudstone, siltstone and coal seams. This unit is overlain by the marine, Oligocene Ujoh Bilang Formation. The stratigraphy of the Kutai Basin is broadly similar to that of the other Paleogene coal-bearing basins, with coal deposition occurring after an initial syn-rift phase, and occupying a stratigraphic position that is transitional between fluvial deposition and marine sediments deposited following a marine transgression. There is one significant difference from the basins of SE Kalimantan, which is the marine incursion that formed the Batu Kelau Formation, within the basal Eocene.

Ketungau, Mandai and Melawi Basins, West Kalimantan

Paleogene fluvial and lacustrine sediments were deposited in these elongate east-west trending basins (refer to Figure 2), and the lithologies have been described by Heryanto (1991), and Pieters, Trail and Supriatna (1987). A basal Eocene sandstone sequence can actually be traced from Sintang (West Kalimantan), over a distance of 400 km, to the Upper Mahakam River in the Kutai Basin. The stratigraphy of the Melawi Basin is similar to that of the Upper Kutai Basin, with a basal sandstone unit (the Pinoh Sandstone, equivalent to the Haloq Sandstone) overlain by the marine Ingar Formation. Overlying this is the Dangkan Sandstone, a possible equivalent to the Batu Ayau Formation of the Upper Kutai Basin (Pieters, Trail and Supriatna, 1987). This is overlain by the lacustrine Silat Shale. Very thin coal has also been reported from the Silat Shale, a lacustrine unit overlying the Dangkan Sandstone (Pieters, Trail and Supriatna, 1987). There is no report of coal in the basal Eocene sandstones of the Melawi Basin, although carbonaceous material has been reported. Volcanics of Eocene age have been mapped within the basin, which suggest a rift environment.

mapped within the basin, which suggest a rift environment. F IG 3 - Depositional model for

FIG 3 - Depositional model for Eocene coal beds in southeastern Kalimantan.

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M C FRIEDERICH, R P LANGFORD and T A MOORE

However, coal does occur within the Oligocene-age Sekayam Sandstone, at Bukit Alat, in the Melawi Basin. This coal is up to four metres thick, and extends for a strike length of about five kilometres; it appears to be an isolated occurrence. In the Ketungau and Mandai basins to the north, the basal unit is the Kantu Formation overlain by the sandstone-dominated Tutoop Formation, a probable correlative of the Batu Ayau Formation. Clastics and thin coal seams of the Ketungau Formation overlie the Tutoop Formation. Coal has been reported from the Kantu Formation, but this coal is not being mined within Indonesia. Across the border in Sarawak, Malaysia, this same formation is referred to as the Silantek Formation, and coal, upgraded by widespread Oligo-Miocene intrusives, has been mined in the past by underground methods at Silantek (Hutchison, 1996).

Sumatran basins

The work of Koesoemadinata (1978) is important in describing in detail the rift basin setting of some well-known Sumatran Paleogene coal deposits.

Ombilin Basin, West Sumatra

This is a small basin (20 60 km), located to the east of the Sumatra Fault, (Figure 4), and it contains a thick sequence of Eocene to Miocene marine and terrestrial sediments. The well-known Ombilin coalfield is located in this basin. The stratigraphy has been described by Koesoemadinata and Matasak (1981). The origin of the Ombilin Basin is discussed by Howells (1997), who has pointed out the similarity of the stratigraphy to that of the North, Central and South Sumatra Basins, and suggests a common genetic origin with the other Lower Tertiary back-arc grabens.

105°

Coal mines

Tanjung Enim Ombilin North Sumatra Parambahan Private Companies Aceh Central Sumatra West Sumatra 0° 0°
Tanjung Enim
Ombilin
North Sumatra
Parambahan
Private Companies
Aceh
Central Sumatra
West Sumatra
South Sumatra
Bengkulu
0
250km
N

105°

FIG 4 - Tertiary basins and coal mines in Sumatra.

The economic coal occurs within the Eocene Sawahlunto Formation. Near the base of the Tertiary is the Brani Formation, a basal conglomerate, that is locally interbedded with the black shales of the Sangkarewang Formation. The latter comprises lacustrine sediments, including dark shale, calcareous shale and siltstone. The Brani Formation and Sangkarewang Formation were deposited contemporaneously. The Brani Formation formed from alluvial fans relating to fault escarpments, while the Sangkarewang Formation was formed from lacustrine deposits in deeper parts of the basin.

The Sawahlunto Formation varies up to 250 m thick. It comprises grey mudstone and siltstone with coal seams and minor quartz sandstone. Three main coal seams, with low ash content, occur within the succession and have variable thickness, locally up to eight metres. Massive quartz sandstone units of the Sawahtambang Formation, which are several hundred metres thick in the coal-bearing part of the basin, overlie the Sawahlunto Formation and form steep topography. The sandstone sequences are thickest in the centre of the basin, and range from Eocene to Oligocene in age, and are in turn overlain by Lower Miocene marine sediments.

Central Sumatra Basin

Tertiary deposition began with the Pematang Formation of presumed Eocene to Oligocene age. This formation was initially deposited within grabens, and includes coarse conglomerate and sandstone interbedded with red clay or mudstone (Clarke et al, 1982). Notably, coal seams also occur within this unit but they are not being mined at present although there has been exploration and small-scale mining at several localities, as described by Hardjono and Atkinson (1990). The Pematang Formation is probably equivalent to the Brani and Sangkarewang Formations of the Ombilin Basin.

MIOCENE COAL

Structural setting

The Early-Mid Tertiary regional rift phase along the Sundaland margin had ended by the Early Miocene. Marine transgression and deposition affected a much larger area during the Oligocene-Early Miocene period, depositing thick marine clastics and interbedded limestone sequences. Uplift and compression is a common feature of Neogene tectonics in both Kalimantan and Sumatra. The more economically important Miocene coal deposits are in the Lower Kutai Basin of Kalimantan; the Barito Basin of South Kalimantan; and the South Sumatra Basin. Miocene-age coal is also being mined in the Bengkulu Basin (Bengkulu Province, SW Sumatra) and in the Tarakan Basin (Berau Coal). Details of some of the mines producing from Miocene coal are given in Table 2. The Miocene coals were deposited in fluvial, deltaic and coastal plain environments, probably similar to the modern peat-forming environments of Sumatra described by Esterle and Ferm (1994). Many of the Miocene coals are characterised by extremely low values of ash and sulphur, such as the coal mined by PT Adaro Indonesia and PT Kideco Jaya Agung (Table 2). Rank of the Miocene coal is generally low, and most of the Miocene coal resources of Indonesia are sub-bituminous or lignite rank, which remain uneconomic unless exceptionally thick and/or well located. However the economically important Miocene coal deposits include those that are of higher rank, including the Prima and Pinang coal deposits of PT Kaltim Prima (Table 2); the coal deposits of the Lower Mahakam River; and some of the deposits near Tanjung Enim, in the South Sumatra Basin.

South Sumatra Basin

The South Sumatra Basin has been referred to as a foreland basin, associated with formation of the Barisan Mountains. Regional subsidence of the eastern Sumatran basins occurred during the Oligocene-Early Miocene, resulting in widespread marine deposition. The main coal-bearing unit is referred to as the Muara Enim Formation. This unit represents part of a major regressive Late Miocene-Pliocene sequence, which was deposited as the Barisan Mountains were uplifted. Coal exploration over a large area of the South Sumatra Basin in the mid-1970s was described by Shell Mijnbouw (1978). Coal occurs in several thick seams, with large resources identified in seams over five metres thickness. Shell noted the lateral continuity of the coal-bearing horizons over large parts of the

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THE GEOLOGICAL SETTING OF INDONESIAN COAL DEPOSITS

TABLE 2

Average coal quality, selected Miocene deposits.

Mine

Basin

Company

Total

Inherent

Ash %

Volatiles %

Sulphur %

Heating value

moisture

moisture

(kcal/kg)

Prima

Kutai

Kaltim Prima

9.0

4.0

39.0

0.50

6800

(ar)

Pinang

Kutai

Kaltim Prima

13.0

7.0

37.5

0.40

6200

(ar)

Roto South

Pasir

PT Kideco

24.0

3.0

40.0

0.20

5200

(ar)

Binungan

Tarakan

PT Berau Coal

18.0

14.0

4.2

40.1

0.50

6100

(ad)

Lati

Tarakan

PT Berau Coal

24.6

16.0

4.3

37.8

0.90

5800

(ad)

Air Laya

S Sumatra

PTBA

24.0

5.3

34.6

0.49

5300

(ar)

Paringin

Barito

PT Adaro

24.0

18.0

4.0

40.0

0.10

5950

(ad)

(ar) - as received; (ad) - air dried. From Indonesian Coal Mining Association, 1998.

South Sumatra Basin. Most of the known resources were found to be low rank, with total moisture contents from 30 per cent to 65 per cent. The exception is in the area near Tanjung Enim, where there has been upgrading of the rank, due to nearby Plio-Pleistocene andesite intrusions. Rank locally reaches anthracite grade near the intrusions. As a result of this better rank and quality, coal is being mined on a large-scale near Tanjung Enim by PT Tambang Batubara Bukit Asam, (PTBA), a state-owned company. Production is mostly sold to the Suralaya power plant in West Java. Most of the production is coal of sub-bituminous rank, although some is of higher rank. In 1998, PTBA produced 9.0 million tonnes from the Tanjung Enim area. A basin-wide trend in coal rank has been noted in the eastern Sumatran basins; higher rank deposits generally occur near the Barisan Mountains. Most individual coal seams range between two - ten metres thick, although some seams are over 20 metres thick. Tuffaceous material, from the adjacent volcanic arc, is a relatively common feature of the interseam sediments.

Kalimantan Miocene deposits

Kutai Basin

Widespread uplift of the western part of the basin during the early Neogene resulted in the formation of a thick sequence of prograding fluvial-deltaic sediments in the eastern part of the basin. This succession migrated from the west to east and by the end of the Early Miocene, the delta front had advanced approximately 200 km eastward to the present-day coastline. The location of the present-day Mahakam River is probably the same as that during the late Tertiary (Moss et al, 1997). The Neogene sediments have been folded into anticlines and synclines, trending NNE-SSW. The anticlines are narrow with associated steep dips; the synclines are broad. There are abrupt changes in dip across the axis of the anticlines, with no shallow dips at the axis. Individual anticline axes can be traced as linear features for some 100 kilometres. Chambers and Daley (1995) present a tectonic model for the central part of the onshore Kutai Basin, based on new data acquired during petroleum exploration. They proposed that the folding resulted from basin inversion, and infer as much as 3 km uplift of the anticlines, and that the greatest uplift has been over the areas that were previously the site of rifts. It is probable that this could explain some of the lateral variation in coal rank observed within the Kutai Basin, particularly the fact that coal rank within the same horizon increases over the anticlinal axes. Some anticlines within the basin may be areas that were initially more deeply buried, with a consequent increase in the coal rank. The Lower Miocene succession is referred to as the Pulau Balang Formation, the Middle-Late Miocene succession is called the Balikpapan Formation (or Group) and the Late Miocene to

Pliocene succession, the Kampung Baru Formation. Coal occurs throughout the Miocene sequences, although the highest coal percentage is developed within Middle Miocene and upper part of the early Miocene sequences. There is also a consistent increase in seam thickness upwards in the sequence. The coal seams of the Pulau Balang Formation are thin (typically 2 m) but high rank, especially in the central part of the Kutai Basin. Coal seams of the lower part of the Balikpapan Formation are thicker, typically three to five metres, and the rank is intermediate. The thickest seams are generally the low rank seams of the upper part of the Balikpapan Formation, which locally reach up to 20 metres thickness in the central part of the Kutai Basin, but the coal is of such low rank that it is not currently being mined. In the central part of the Kutai Basin, the seams being mined now are mainly in the lower part of the Balikpapan Formation, with the combination of a mineable thickness and better rank. As these generally occur at mineable depths on the anticline flanks, where dips are steeper, surface mineable resources tend to be limited. The coal mines along the Mahakam River are mostly mining seams within the lower part of the Balikpapan Formation, in locations near the river, where trucking costs to river barge ports are low. These mines then have the combination of thicker seams, better quality and low trucking costs. In the northern part of the Kutai Basin, PT Kaltim Prima Coal is mining coal of Miocene age at Pinang, which has an unusual combination of thick seams (several seams are up to 7 m thick), favourable structure for large-scale mining, and good export quality (Van Leeuwen and Muggeridge, 1987; Van Leeuwen, 1994). This deposit is also close to the coast, so transport costs are low.

Barito Basin

Thick Miocene seams in the Barito Basin occur in the regressive Warukin Formation. Miocene age coal in thick seams, some over 30 metres thick, occurs in this formation. PT Adaro Indonesia is mining and exporting a sub-bituminous product characterised by one per cent ash and ultra low sulphur content of 0.1 per cent. There has not yet been significant commercial development of other Miocene coal deposits of the Barito Basin.

Asam Asam Basin

As in the Barito Basin, Miocene coal occurs in thick seams in the Warukin Formation. The rank is lignite, with total moisture levels at 30 to 40 per cent (as received basis). Exploration by PT Arutmin Indonesia of two deposits, Sarongga and Asam Asam, was described by Friederich et al, (1995). The lignite seams are locally very thick, over 35 metres, but there are abrupt lateral changes in thickness, and the same seams can be very thin outside these deposits. Ash is low at three per cent, and sulphur is

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M C FRIEDERICH, R P LANGFORD and T A MOORE

very low, less than 0.2 per cent. The palynology of lignite from the Sarongga deposit is described by Demchuk and Moore (1993). It is typical of a mixed bog/mangrove environment, and probably formed under conditions similar to those of modern peat swamps of Kalimantan. Figure 5 depicts a depositional model for the Miocene lignites of the Asam Asam Basin that may also be applicable to the other low ash, low sulphur, thick Miocene coals of Kalimantan. These lignites exhibit features consistent with an origin the same as the modern ombrogenous, domed peats of the Indo-Malaysian region in their chemistry (Esterle and Ferm, 1994; Neuzil et al, 1993), depositional setting (Staub and Esterle, 1993), flora (Demchuk and Moore, 1993) and organic constituents (Moore and Hilbert, 1990). In these modern domed bogs, the peat surface is topographically higher by some three to 15 metres than the nearby streams. This setting prevents flooding of the peat swamp, consequently waterborne clastics cannot enter and the ash content of the peat is very low. The modern domed bogs also have very low sulphur content. The extreme lateral discontinuity of some of the thick Miocene lignite seams may result from not only the domed topography, but also syndepositional faulting during paleomire formation.

CONCLUSIONS

Coal exploration in Indonesia has now established some interesting trends of coal quality and thickness, with significant differences apparent between Eocene and Miocene-Pliocene coals. A fundamental difference between the Eocene and the Miocene-Pliocene coal deposits is in the lateral continuity of the seams. In general, the Eocene coal is more continuous but thinner than coal formed in the Miocene-Pliocene. The Eocene coals, which formed in an extensional structural setting under a transgressive depositional environment, are characterised by higher levels of ash and sulphur, and by generally thin or intermediate seam thicknesses, typically four to six metres in the economic deposits. The rank of the Eocene coals is generally higher than those of Miocene age, so the heating value is normally higher, with a lower moisture content. Several Eocene deposits have a combination of suitable thickness for surface mining, favourable structure and marketable quality, and coal produced from these deposits has found ready acceptance as an export thermal coal.

The Miocene-Pliocene coals generally formed in a variety of structural settings, including the foreland basin setting of southern Sumatra, and in a regressive depositional environment. Thickness can be highly variable and extremely thick seams, over 30 metres thick, have been identified. Generally the ash and sulphur contents are low. In some cases there is the combination of very thick seams with very low ash and sulphur. This appears to be related to both the depositional environment and the paleoclimate, which was the same as the modern climate, ie equatorial with high year-round rainfall, allowing the formation of ombrogenous or domed peats. These peats rose above the water table, to a level where flooding does not occur, isolating the peats from what was, in the Eocene coals, a major contributor of the ash content. Many Miocene-Pliocene coal deposits are of mineable thickness, contain low levels of ash and sulphur, and are structurally uncomplicated. However, the rank is variable, and low rank of coals can be a barrier to market acceptance and price, as the low rank coals have a high moisture content and thus reduced heating value. In several deposits or areas, coal rank has been upgraded either thermally (parts of the Sumatran basins) or by inversion of what were previously deeply buried deposits (parts of the Kutai Basin). Upgraded coals exhibit a combination of acceptable or low levels of moisture and a higher heating value, combined with the other favourable aspects of thick seams, low ash and low sulphur. The best of these coals are being mined and exported, while some of the lower rank coals are being used domestically for electricity generation.

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

We wish to thank Lim Meng Sze Wu, the late Ted Milligan, Hermes Panggabean and Chairul Nas for their useful discussions on Indonesian coal deposits. We also thank Bob Clark (Clark Cartographics) for drafting some of the figures.

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FIG 5 - Depositional model for Miocene coal beds in southeastern Kalimantan.

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