Tectonic control on the distribution of onshore mud volcanoes in parts of the Upper Benue Trough, northeastern Nigeria.

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Onshore mud volcanoes are rare geological phenomena, which in Nigeria were reported for the first time few years ago in the Upper Benue Trough. In this study a detail geological mapping of the area of mud volcanoes occurrence was carried out, with the primary aim of defining their relationship, if any, to the structural geology there. The systematic field reconnaissance included field observations of the structural features, as well as analysis of the location and distribution of the onshore mud volcanoes, marking their locations on the topographic and geological maps, analysis of the aerial photographs and satellite images. The study area covered the central part of the Upper Benue Trough where the onshore mud volcanoes were found. The study area is the part of a sedimentary basin comprising Cretaceous clastic rocks that have been deformed intensively by a network of faults often embedded in the underlying Precambrian basement. This network of faults underwent a rejuvenation period from the Aptian to the Palaeocene. The most prominent tectonic structure in the study area is the NE – SW trending Kaltungo Fault Zone, however, there are other minor faults with N – S and NW – SE trends. This study shows that the mud volcanoes found in the study area are usually located near or within fault zones, within the outcropping Upper Cretaceous Yolde Formation and Upper Bima Sandstone, both of which were deformed by the Kaltungo faults, as well as by other minor faults.

Worldwide, incidences of onshore mud volcano formation are usually attributed to areas of tectonic activity, rapid sedimentation or hydrocarbon occurrence. In this study, the interpretation of the field observations and mapping results, combined with information on the structural evolution of the study area and seismic pattern (very scarce), have led to the conclusion that the location of onshore mud volcanoes in the Upper Benue Trough, being located along the fault zones, is structurally controlled. The close relationship between mud volcano location and the structural framework of the area may be interpreted as one of several possible subsurface geological responses to present tectonic activity.

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