Geology of the Pamir Mountains

Posted: October 18, 2011 in Economy and Resources, Geography, History, Region, Tajikistan
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Geology *1

Geologically the Pamir Mountains constitute the bend of the Himalaya-Hindukush moun- tain massif, and were formed by the north- ward drift of the Indian craton and its final collision with Eurasia. Although there are no volcanic phenomena, strong convergence rates produce intensive seismic activity along the large fault systems in this region. Over 500 earthquakes with a magnitude greater than 5 on the Richter Scale have been regis- tered since the beginning of the 20th centu- ry. The ongoing processes of orogeny and denudation are the driving force of modern relief processes in the Pamirs.

The Pamirs can be subdivided into 5 larger geological units: the Northern Pamirs, the Central Pamirs, the Rushan-Pshart Zone, the Southwestern Pamirs, and the Southeastern Pamirs. The Northern Pamirs are bordered by a Late Paleozoic suture, which wraps around the Pamirs from the western Hindukush through the Trans Alai Valley to the Kunlung. In lithological terms, the Northern Pamirs consist of Precambrian to Paleozoic metamorphica, basaltic series, and marine sediments; ophiolith complexes and melanges are present in minor parts. The Central Pamirs contain a deformed and metamorphosed Precambrian to Paleozoic basement, covered by marine sedimentary rocks of the Paleozoic-Mesozoic era; ter- rigenous sediments and volcanoclastica are intercalated. The Rushan-Pshart Zone, with its complex tectonic structure, consists of Paleozoic terrigenous sediments in the northern part, followed by a transition of marine shallow to deep water deposits dur- ing the Mesozoic. Ophiolitic series are exposed in the southern parts. The Rushan- Pshart Zone reveals the remains of a small Mesozoic ocean basin. The lithology of the Southwestern Pamirs consists of metamor- phosed Precambrian rocks (amphibolite- granulite facies) and Jurassic-Miocene granite complexes. The Southeastern Pamirs contain no igneous basements but only sediment successions. The Southeast- ern Pamirs probably represent the detached sediment cover of the south- western basement.

Pamiri tradition has always included the mining and cutting of minerals for jew- ellery. The Tajik Pamirs have a large number of proven metallic ore deposits (gold, silver, molybdenum, mercury), building stones (marble, clay and loam), evaporates (miner- al salt), gemstones (rubies, lazulite), and two coal deposits. Although the qualitative and quantitative features of certain mineral deposits are considerable, they will proba- bly be of only minor economic significance (with the exception of coal deposits), owing to the high costs of exploitation.



This section is based on a contribution by Wolfgang Schatz.


Breu, T. and Hurni, H., 2003: The Tajik Pamirs: Challenges of Sustainable Development in an Isolated Mountain Region. Berne: Centre for Development and Environment (CDE), University of Berne. 80 pp.


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