GEOLOGY AND MINERAL RESOURCES
Extent of Geological Record.— Although the main part of the Panjab plain is covered by a mantle of comparatively recent alluvium, the provinces described in this book display a more complete record of Indian geological history than any other similar area in the country. The variety is so great that no systematic or sufficient description could be attempted in a short chapter, and it is not possible, therefore, to do more in these few pages than give brief sketches of the patches of unusual interest.
Aravalli System.— In the southern and south-eastern districts of the Panjab there are exposures of highly folded and metamorphosed rocks which belong to the most ancient formations in India. These occupy the northern end of the Aravalli hills, which form but a relic of what must have been at one time a great mountain range, stretching roughly south-south-west through Rajputana into the Bombay Presidency. The northern ribs of the Aravalli series disappear beneath alluvial cover in the Delhi district, but the rocks still underlie the plains to the west and north-west, their presence being revealed by the small promontories that peep through the alluvium near the Chenab river, standing up as small hills near Chiniot in the Shahpur, Jhang, and Lyallpur districts. The Salt Range in the Jhelam and Shahpur districts, with a western continuation in the Mianwali district to and beyond the Indus, is the most interesting part of the Pan jab to the geologist. It contains notable records of three distinct eras in geological history. In association with the well-known beds of rock-salt, which are being extensively mined at Kheora, occur the most ancient fossiliferous formations known in India, corresponding in age with the middle and lower part of the Cambrian system of Europe. These very ancient strata immediately overlie the red marls and associated rock-salt beds, and it is possible that they have been thrust over bodily to occupy this position, as we have no parallel elsewhere for the occurrence of great masses of salt in formation older than the Cambrian.
The second fragment of geological history preserved in the Salt Range is very much younger, beginning with rocks which were formed in the later part of the Carboniferous period. The most remarkable feature in this fragment is a boulder-bed, resting unconformably on the Cambrian strata and including boulders of various shapes and sizes, which are often faceted and striated in a way indicative of glacial action. Several of the boulders belong to rocks of a peculiar and unmistakable character, such as are found in situ on the western flanks of the Aravalli Range, some 750 miles to the south. The glacial conditions which gave rise to these boulderbeds were presumably contemporaneous with those that produced the somewhat similar formation lying at the base of the great coal-bearing system in the Indian peninsula. The glacial boulder-bed thus offers indirect evidence as to the age of the Indian coal-measures, for immediately above this bed in the Salt Range there occur sandstones containing fossils which have affinities with the Upper Carboniferous formations of Australia, and on these sandstones again there lie alternations of shales and limestones containing an abundance of fossils that are characteristic of the Permo-Carboniferous rocks of Russia. These are succeeded by an apparently conformable succession of beds of still younger age, culminating in a series of shales, sandstones, and lime-stones of unmistakably Triassic age.
There is then an interruption in the record, and the next younger series preserved occurs in the western part of the Salt Range as well as in the hills beyond the Indus. This formation is of Upper Jurassic age, corresponding to the well-known beds of marine origin preserved in Cutch. Then follows again a gap in the record, and the next most interesting series of formations found in the Salt Range become of great importance from the economic as well as from the purely scientific point of view; these are the formations of Tertiary age.
The oldest of the Tertiary strata include a prominent limestone containing Nummulitic fossils, which are characteristic of these Lower Tertiary beds throughout the world. Here, as in many parts of North- Western India, the Nummulitic limestones are associated with coal which has been largely worked. The country between the Salt Range plateau and the hilly region away to the north is covered by a great stretch of comparatively young Tertiary formations, which were laid down in fresh water after the sea had been driven back finally from this region. The incoming of fresh-water conditions was inaugurated by the formation of beds which are regarded as equivalent in age to those known as the Upper Nari in Sind and Eastern Baluchistan, but the still later deposits, belonging to the well-known Siwalik series, are famous on account of the great variety and large size of many of the vertebrate fossil remains which they have yielded. In these beds to the north of the Salt Range there have been found remains of Dinotherium, forms related to the ancestors of the giraffe and various other mammals, some of them, like the Sivatherium, Mastodon, and Stegodon, being animals of great size. On the northern side of the Salt Range three fairly well-defined divisions of the Siwalik series have been recognised; each being conspicuously fossiliferous — a feature that is comparatively rare in the Siwalik hills further to the south-east, where these rocks were first studied. The Siwalik series of the Salt Range are thus so well developed that this area might be conveniently regarded as the type succession for the purpose of correlating isolated fragmentary occurrences of the same general series in northern and western India. To give an idea as to the age of these rocks, it will be sufficient to mention that the middle division of the series corresponds roughly to the well-known deposits of Pikermi and Samos.
Kashmir deserves special mention, as it is a veritable paradise for the geologist. Of the variety of problems that it presents one might mention the petrological questions connected with the intrusion of the great masses of granite, and their relation to the slates and associated met amorphic rocks. Of fossiliferous systems there is a fine display of material ranging in age from Silurian to Upper Trias, and additional interest is added by the long-continued volcanic eruptions of the "Panjal trap." Students of recent phenomena have at their disposal interesting problems in physiography, including a grand display of glaciers, and the extensive deposits of so-called karewas, which appear to have been formed in drowned valleys, where the normal fluviatile conditions are modified by those characteristic of lakes. The occurrence of sapphires in Zanskar gives the State also an interest to the mineralogist and connoisseur of gem-stones. Of this kaleidoscopic assemblage of questions the ones of most immediate interest are connected with the Silurian-Trias succession in the Kashmir valley, for here we have a connecting-link between the marine formations of the Salt Range area and those which are preserved in greater perfection in Spiti and other parts of the Tibetan highlands, stretching away to the south-east at the back of the great range of crystalline snow-covered peaks.
In this interesting part of Kashmir the most important feature to Indian geologists is the occurrence of plant remains belonging to genera identical with those that occur in the lower part of the great coal-bearing formation of Peninsular India, known as the Gondwana system. Until these discoveries were made in Kashmir about ten years ago the age of the base of the Gondwanas was estimated only on indirect evidence, partly due to the assumption that glacial conditions in the Salt Range and those at the base of the Gondwanas were contemporaneous, and partly due to analogy with the coal measures of Australia and South Africa. In Kashmir the characteristic plant remains of the Lower Gondwanas are found associated with marine fossils in great abundance, and these permit of a correlation of the strata with the upper part of the Carboniferous system of the European standard stratigraphical scale.
Kashmir seems to have been near the estuary of one of the great rivers that formerly flowed over the ancient continent of Gondwdnaland (when India and South Africa formed parts of one continental mass) into the great Eurasian Ocean known as Tethys. As the deposits formed in this great ocean give us the principal part of our data for forming a standard stratigraphical scale, the plants which were carried out to sea become witnesses of the kind of flora that flourished during the main Indian coal period; they thus enable us with great precision to fix the position of the fresh-water Gondwanas in comparison with the marine succession.
Spiti.— With a brief reference to one more interesting patch among the geological records of this remarkable region, space will force us to pass on to consideration of minerals of economic value. The line of snow-covered peaks, composed mainly of crystalline rocks and forming a core to the Himalaya in a way analogous to the granitic core of the Alps, occupies what was once apparently the northern shore of Gondwanaland, and to the north of it there stretched the great ocean of Tethys, covering the central parts of Asia and Europe, one of its shrunken relics being the present Mediterranean Sea. The bed of this ocean throughout many geological ages underwent gradual depression and received the sediments brought down by the rivers from the continent which stretched away to the south. The sedimentary deposits thus formed near the shore-line or further out in deep water attained a thickness of well over 20,000 feet, and have been studied in the tahsil of Spiti, on the northern border of Kumaon, and again on the eastern Tibetan plateau to the north of Darjeeling. A reference to the formations preserved in Spiti may be regarded as typical of the geological history and the conditions under which these formations were produced.
Succession of Fossiliferous Beds.— In age the fossiliferous beds range from Cambrian right through to the Tertiary epoch; between these extremes no single period was passed without leaving its records in some part of the great east-to-west Tibetan basin. At the base of the whole succession there lies a series of schists which have been largely metamorphosed, and on these rest the oldest of the fossiliferous series, which, on account of their occurring in the region of snow, has been named the Haimanta system. The upper part of the Haimanta system has been found to contain the characteristic trilobites of the Cambrian period of Europe. Over this system lie beds which have yielded in succession Ordovician and Silurian fossils, forming altogether a compact division which has been distinguished locally as the Muth system. Then follows the so-called Kandwar system, which introduces Devonian conditions, followed by fossils characteristic of the well-known mountain limestone of Europe.
Then occurs a break in the succession which varies in magnitude in different localities, but appears to correspond to great changes in the physical geography which widely affect the Indian region. This break corresponds roughly to the upper part of the Carboniferous system of Europe, and has been suggested as a datum line for distinguishing in India an older group of fossiliferous systems below (formed in an area that has been distinguished by the name Dravidian), from the younger group above, which has been distinguished by the name Aryan.
During the periods that followed this interruption the bed of the great Eurasian Ocean seems to have subsided persistently though intermittently. As the various sediments accumulated the exact position of the shore-line must have changed to some extent to give rise to the conditions favourable for the formation at one time of limestone, at another of shale and at other times of sandy deposits. The whole column of beds, however, seems to have gone on accumulating without any folding movements, and they are consequently now found lying apparently in perfect conformity stage upon stage, from those that are Permian in age at the base, right through the Mesozoic group, till the time when Tertiary conditions were inaugurated and the earth movements began which ultimately drove back the ocean and raised the bed, with its accumulated load of sediments, into the great folds that now form the Himalayan Range. This great mass of Aryan strata includes an enormous number of fossil remains, giving probably a more complete record of the gradual changes that came over the marine fauna of Tethys than any other area of the kind known. One must pass over the great number of interesting features still left unmentioned, including the grand architecture of the Sub-Himalaya and the diversity of formations in different parts of the Frontier Province; for the rest of the available space must be devoted to a brief reference to the minerals of value.
Rock-salt, which occurs in abundance, is possibly the most important mineral in this area. The deposits most largely worked are those which occur in the well-known Salt Range, covering parts of the districts of Jhelam, Shahpur, and Mianwali. Near the village of Kheora the main seam, which is being worked in the Mayo mines, has an aggregate thickness of 550 feet, of which five seams, with a total thickness of 275 feet, consist of salt pure enough to be placed on the table with no more preparation than mere pulverising. The associated beds are impregnated with earth, and in places there occur thin layers of potash and magnesian salts. In this area salt quarrying was practised for an unknown period before the time of Akbar, and was continued in a primitive fashion until it came under the control of the British Government with the occupation of the Panjab in 1849. In 1872 systematic mining operations were planned, and the general line of work has been continued ever since, with an annual output of roughly 100,000 tons.
Open quarries for salt are developed a short distance to the east-north-east of Kalabagh on the Indus, and similar open work is practised near Kohat in the North West Frontier Province, where the quantity of salt may be regarded as practically inexhaustible. At Bahadur Khel the salt lies at the base of the Tertiary series, and can be traced for a distance of about eight miles with an exposed thickness of over 1000 feet, sometimes standing up as hills of solid salt above the general level of the plains. In this area the production is naturally limited by want of transport and the small local demand, the total output from the quarries being about 16,000 tons per annum. A small quantity of salt (generally about 4000 tons a year), is raised also from open quarries in the Mandi State, where the rock-salt beds, distinctly impure and earthy, lie near the junction between Tertiary formations and the older unfossiliferous groups.
Coal occurs at numerous places in association with the Nummulitic limestones of Lower Tertiary age, in the Pan jab, in the North West Frontier Province, and in the Jammu division of Kashmir. The largest output has been obtained from the Salt Range, where mines have been opened up on behalf of the North Western Railway. The mines at Dandot in the Jhelam district have considerable fluctuations in output, which, however, for many years ranged near 50,000 tons. These mines, having been worked at a financial loss, were finally abandoned by the Railway Company in 1911, but a certain amount of work is still being continued by local contractors. At Bhaganwala, 19 miles further east, in the adjoining district of Shahpur, coal was also worked for many years for the North Western State Railway, but the maximum output in any one year never exceeded 14,000 tons, and in 1900, owing to the poor quality of material obtained, the collieries were closed down. Recently, small outcrop workings have been developed in the same formation further west on the southern scarp of the Salt Range at Tejuwala in the Shahpur district. Gold to a small amount is washed from the gravel of the Indus and some other rivers by native workers, and large concessions have, been granted for systematic dredging, but these enterprises have not yet reached the commercially paying stage.
Other Metals.— Prospecting has been carried on at irregular intervals in Kulu and along the corresponding belt of schistose rocks further west in Kashmir and Chitral. The copper ores occur as sulphides along certain bands in the chloritic and micaceous schists, similar in composition and probably in age to those worked further east in Kumaon, in Nipal, and in Sikkim. In Lahul near the Shigri glacier there is a lode containing antimony sulphide with ores of zinc and lead, which would almost certainly be opened up and developed but for the difficulty of access and cost of transport to the only valuable markets.
Petroleum springs occur among the Tertiary formations of the Panjab and Biluchistan, and a few thousand gallons of oil are raised annually Prospecting operations have been carried on vigorously during the past two or three years, but no large supplies have so far been proved. The principal oil-supplies of Burma and Assam have been obtained from rocks of Miocene age, like those of Persia and the Caspian region, but the most promising "shows" in North West India have been in the older Nummulitic formations, and the oil is thus regarded by some experts as the residue of the material which has migrated from the Miocene beds that probably at one time covered the Nummulitic formations, but have since been removed by the erosive action of the atmosphere.
Alum is manufactured from the pyritous shales of the Mianwali district, the annual output being generally about 200 to 300 tons. Similar shales containing pyrites are known to occur in other parts of this area, and possibly the industry might be considerably extended, as the annual requirements of India, judged by the import returns, exceed ten times the native production of alum.
Borax is produced in Ladakh and larger quantities are imported across the frontier from Tibet. In the early summer one frequently meets herds of sheep being driven southwards across the Himalayan passes, each sheep carrying a couple of small saddle-bags laden with borax or salt, which is bartered in the Panjab bazars for Indian and foreign stores for the winter requirements of the snow-blocked valleys beyond the frontier.
Sapphires.— The sapphires of Zanskar have been worked at intervals since the discovery of the deposit in 1881, and some of the finest stones in the gem market have been obtained from this locality, where work is, however, difficult on account of the great altitude and the difficulty of access from the plains.
Limestone.— Large deposits of Nummulitic limestone are found in the older Tertiary formations of North- West India. It yields a pure lime and is used in large quantities for building purposes. The constant association of these limestones with shale beds, and their frequent association with coal, naturally suggest their employment for the manufacture of cement; and special concessions have recently been given by the Panjab Government with a view of encouraging the development of the industry. The nodular impure limestone, known generally by the name of kankar, contains sufficient clay to give it hydraulic characters when burnt, and much cement is thus manufactured. The varying composition of kankar naturally results in a product of irregular character, and consequently cement so made can replace Portland cement only for certain purposes.
Slate is quarried in various places for purely local use. In the Kangra valley material of very high quality is obtained and consequently secures a wide distribution, limited, however, by competition with cheaply made tiles.Gypsum occurs in large quantities in association with the rock-salt of the Salt Range, but the local demand is small. There are also beds of potash and magnesian salts in the same area, but their value and quantity have not been thoroughly proved.
Fig. 16. Rainfall of different Seasons.
Fig. 16 (cont.). Rainfall of different Seasons.