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Summary

The Ranger Canyon and Mowitch Formations are the youngest Permian strata in the Rocky Mountain Front Ranges. They constitute a thin, widespread and clearly defined stratigraphic entity covering approximately 60,000 sq. miles; they occur below Triassic beds and above a major, regional, intra-Permian unconformity, initiated by a transgression which started in the northwest. Beds of the above entity are therefore diachronous. The erosion surface is overlain by polymict, phosphatic conglomerates containing mature lag gravels and immature breccio-conglomerates and corrosion breccias.

Rock types are either sandstones or silty and sandy cherts, phosphorites and occasionally dolomites. Clastic components are dominantly mature quartz (some pseudomorphs gypsum), phosphate, some feldspar, negligible clay, and stable detrital minerals, necessitating: (1) many cycled, clastic sedimentary rock; (2) local gypsum; and (3) phosphate producing, distributive provinces.

Secondary features include primary cementation by quartz, chalcedony, dolomite, sulphate and phosphate, with replacement mainly by chalcedony. Contraction fractures are cemented by quartz (after anhydrite and fluorite), calcite and barite. Accessory authigenic minerals are hematite, sulphates (pseudomorphed by quartz), fluorite, apatite and dolomite. Diagenesis therefore occurred within a chemically active environment.

Minerals present indicate: (1) phosphate producing and (2) evaporite producing environments, the components for which may be obtained from sea water by: (a) a biogeochemical phosphate-fixation cycle; and (b) concentration of brines by interstitial refluxion.

A Recent environmental parallel occurs along the coast of Baja, California. Phosphate produced off-shore contributes to quartz-rich sediments prograding seawards; evaporitic conditions produce minimum carbonate and maximum sulphate precipitation.

The sequence of events envisaged for the Permian rocks started with phosphate corrosion of bed-rock and cementation of lag gravels; some phosphate was contributed to shoreline, with quartz and gypsum sands, prograding over the basal conglomerate. Sand cementation by carbonate occurred in shoreline and intertidal zones, and by sulphate in the supratidal zones. Concentration of brines by refluxion, and local silica enrichment, facilitated silica precipitation and replacement. Penecontemporaneous silicification of Late Permian sediments was therefore instrumental in their ultimate preservation.