The process of determining the provenance / origin of sedimentary rocks
can be very useful in terms of economic geology and in determining the
sequence of geological events.
For example it may be of value to be able to state that a sandstone was
derived from a particular type of granite known for its porphyry copper
potential or alternatively that a sediment of interest has been
metamorphosed and melted to form the igneous rock you are interested in.
Sedimentary rocks are an important source of information about previous
orogenic conditions and the composition of which may describe the
evolution of provenance and tectonic setting. As the sediment composition
changes through time, the geochemical characteristics of the sediment can
be used to understand its geologic history.
The study of sedimentary provenance interfaces several of the mainstream
geological disciplines (mineralogy, geochemistry, geochronology,
sedimentology, igneous and metamorphic petrology). Its remit includes the
location and nature of sediment source areas, the pathways by which
sediment is transferred from source to basin of deposition, and the
factors that influence the composition of sedimentary rocks (e.g. relief,
climate, tectonic setting).
However, the process of determining provenance is quite difficult and
beyond the scope of this site's intended audience.
This page takes a brief non-academic look at a few ways to approach
the topic... with no attempt to do in depth analysis...
So a starved passive margin results in initial sediments rich in
carbonates / mature quartzites / quartz arenites / some feldspars and is
rock fragment poor.
While a destructive margin results in inital sediments with high
proportions of rock fragments mainly arkoses / greywackes / some arenites
So a continental block results in initial sediments rich in quartz and
While a dissected magmatic arc results in an initial sediment with similar
proportions of monocrystalline quartz / feldspar / lithic components
The source of zircon, monazite, rutile, sometimes tungsten, and some
ilmenite is usually granite.
The source of ilmenite, garnet, sapphire and diamond is ultramafic and
mafic rocks, such as kimberlite or basalt.
Garnet is also sourced commonly from metamorphic rocks, such as
Precious metals are sourced from ore deposits hosted within metamorphic