Publication Details

Pritchard, G., Moloney, P., Russell, K. G. & Whiten, B. (2009). Provenance of sedimentary rocks. In T. R. Marchant, M. P. Edwards & G. Mercer (Eds.), Proceedings of the 2009 Mathematics and Statistics in Industry Study Group (pp. 11-24). Wollongong, Australia: MISG.


Understanding the origins, or provenance, of a sedimentary deposit is an important aspect of geology. Sedimentary rocks are derived from the erosion of other rocks and thus provide important records of the geological environment at the time they were deposited. Some minerals found in sedimentary rocks, such as zircon particles, can be dated using uranium-lead techniques to trace the age of their parent rock thus providing useful information about the geological environment. Statistical and mathematical analyses that can assist in the analysis of the distribution of ages of the zircon crystals are examined. Methods of defining a difference between the distributions of ages found in rock samples are proposed, and demonstrated in the division of multiple rock samples into clusters of similar types. A test for the existence of a cluster is developed, and statistics for comparing different rock samples examined. Estimating an accurate age for the sedimentary deposit itself proves to be difficult unless prior distributions providing significant extra information are available.