Geotechnical and Petrographic Assessment of Mafic Rocks from Tarbela Alkaline Complex, NW Pakistan
Tufail Ahmad
Muhammad Sajid
GFZ Potsdam


Geotechnical properties
Tarbela Alkaline Complex
Statistical Correlation
NW Pakistan


The mafic rocks of Tarbela Alkaline Complex are excavated in the intake area of the Tarbela Dam for raising of Tunnel 3 and 4. These rocks are studied in terms of their petrographic characteristics and geotechnical properties. The bulk samples were collected at different elevations both from open and underground excavations. The petrographic study reveals that rocks are medium to coarse grained with euhedral to subhedral grains texture. These rocks essentially contain pyroxene, amphibole, plagioclase and accessory amount of chlorite, olivine, biotite and opaque phases. Modal mineralogical analysis categorized them as plagioclase bearing hornblende pyroxenite. The parameters investigated during current research for geotechnical assessment include unconfined compressive strength, Los Angeles abrasion, specific gravity, water absorption, porosity, soundness using sodium sulfate, flakiness/ elongation index and alkali-silica reactivity. Comparison with standard results revealed that the studied mafic rocks are suitable to use both as aggregate source or foundation material for construction of small- and large-scale civil structures. The regression analysis shows strong negative linear relationship of strength with weight loss during Los Angeles Abrasion, Porosity and water absorption. Due to the positive geotechnical results, the studied rocks are recommended to use as primary raw material for Tarbela 5th Extension Hydropower project.



AASHTO, 1999. T 104, “Soundness of Aggregate by Use of Sodium Sulfate or Magnesium Sulfate. Standard Specifications for Transportation Materials and Methods of Sampling and Testing”, Twentieth Edition: Part II – Tests. American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials, Washington, D.C.

Ali, A., Faisal, S., Rehman, K., Khan, S., Ullah, N., 2015. Tectonic imprints of the Hazara–Kashmir Syntaxis on the northwest Himalayan fold and thrust belt, north Pakistan. Arabian Journal of Geosciences 8 (11), 9857-9876.

Al-Oraimi, S.K., Taha, R., Hassan, H.F., 2006. The Effect of the Mineralogy of Coarse Aggregate on the Mechanical Properties of High-Strength Concrete. Construction and Building Materials 20, 499-503.

ASTM, 1991. D4543–85. “Standard Practices for Preparing Rock Core Specimens and Determining Dimensional and Shape Tolerances” American Society for Testing Material, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, U.S.A.

ASTM, 1995. C2938–95, “Standard test method for unconfined compressive strength of intact rock core specimens” American Society for Testing Material, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, U.S.A.

ASTM, 2006. C131-06, “Standard test method for resistance to degradation of small-size coarse aggregate by abrasion and impact in the Los Angeles Machine” American Society for Testing Material, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, U.S.A.

ASTM, 2007. C289-07, “Standard Test Method for Potential Alkali-Silica Reactivity of Aggregates (Chemical Method)” American Society for Testing Materials, West Conshohocken, Pennsylvania, PA 19428, USA.

ASTM, 2010. C88-05, “Standard test method for soundness of aggregates by use of sodium sulfate or magnesium sulfate” American Society for Testing Material, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, U.S.A.

ASTM, 2012. C127-12, “Standard Test Method for Density, Relative Density (Specific Gravity), and Absorption of Coarse Aggregate” American Society for Testing Materials, West Conshohocken, Pennsylvania, PA 19428, USA.

Bell, F.G., 2007. Engineering Geology, 2nd Ed. Butterworth-Heinemann: an imprint of Elsevier, United Kingdom.

Blyth, F.G.H., de Freitas, M.H., 1974. Geology of engineers. ELBS and Edward Arnold, London.

Calkins, J.A., Offield, T.W., Abdullah, S.K.M., Ali, S.T., 1975. Geology of southern Himalaya in Hazara, Pakistan and adjacent areas. U.S. Geological Survey Professional Paper 716-C, 29p.

Duggal, S.K., 2008. Building materials: 3rd revised edition, new age international (p) Limited, India.

Egesi, N., Tse, A.C., 2012. Engineering geological evaluation of rock materials from Bansara, Bamenda Massif Southeastern Nigeria, as aggregates for pavement construction. Geosciences 2 (5), 107-111.

Fahy, M.P., Guccione, M.J., 1979. Estimating strength of sandstones using Petrographic thin-section data. Bulletin of Association of Engineering Geologists 16 (4), 467-485.

Gunsallus, K., Kulhawy, F., 1984. A comparative evaluation of rock strength measures. International Journal of Rock Mechanics and Mining Sciences 21 (5), 233-248.

Hussain, A., Dipietro, J.A., Pogue, K.A., Ahmed, I., 2004. Geologic map of 43-B degree sheet of NWFP Pakistan. Geologic map series, Geological survey of Pakistan, Map No. 11.

ISRM, 1981. Rock characterization testing and monitoring. In: Brown, E. T. (ed.) Pergamon Press, Oxford.

Irfan, T.Y., 1996. Mineralogy, fabric properties and classification of weathered granites in Hong Kong. Quaternary Journal Engineering Geology 29 (1), 5-35.

Jan, M.Q., Khan, M.A., Tahirkheli, T., 1981. The Geology and Petrology of the Tarbela Alkaline Complex. Geological Bulletin, University of Peshawar 14, 1-28.

JKR, 2005. Standard Specifications for Building Works (English). Publisher, Jabatan Kerja Raya Malaysia, 20800-132-23.

Kazmi, A.H., Jan, M.Q., 1997. Geology and Tectonics of Pakistan. Graphics Publishers, Karachi, Pakistan.

Kempe, D.R.C., 1986. A note on the ages of the alkaline rock of the Peshawar plain alkaline igneous province, NW Pakistan. Geological Bulletin, University of Peshawar 19, 113- 119.

Kempe, D.R.C., Jan, M.Q., 1970. An Alkaline Igneous Province in North West Frontier Province, West Pakistan. Geological Magazine 107, 395-398.

Kempe, D.R.C., 1973. The Petrology of the Warsak Alkaline granites, Pakistan, and their relationship to other alkaline rocks of the region. Geological Magazine 110, 385-404.

Lindqvist, J., Åkesson, U., Malaga, K., 2007. Microstructure and functional properties of rock materials. Material Characterization 58 (11-12), 1183-1188.

Mallo, S.J., Sani, S.D., 2012. Influence of Mineralogy and Fabric on the Engineering Properties of the Miango Granite Porphyry, North Central Nigeria. International Journal of Modern Engineering Research 2 (6), 4600-4608.

Miskovsky, K., Taborda Duarte, M., Kou, S.Q., Lindqvist, P.A., 2004. Influence of the Mineralogical Composition and Textural Properties on the Quality of Coarse Aggregates Journal of Materials Engineering and Performance 13 (2), 144-150.

Muhit, I.B., Haque, S., Alam, M.R., 2013. Influence of Crushed Coarse Aggregates on Properties of Concrete. American Journal of Civil Engineering and Architecture 1 (5), 103-106.

Pogue, K.R., Hylland, M.D., Yeats, R.S., Khattak, W.U., Hussain, A., 1999. Stratigraphic and structural framework of Himalayan foothills, northern Pakistan. In: Macfarlane, A., Sorkhabi, R.B., and Quade, J., eds., Himalaya and Tibet: Mountain Roots to Mountain Tops: The Geological Society of America S 328, 257-274.

Pogue, K.R., Sak, P.B., Khattak, W.U., 1995. A geologic reconnaissance of the Indus syntaxis, northern Pakistan”. In Spencer, D.A., Burg, J.P., and Spencer-Cervato, C., eds., 10th Himalayan-Karakorum-Tibet Workshop - Abstract Volume: Mitteilungen aus dem Geologischen Institut der Eidgenossischen Technischen Hochschule under Universitat Zurich, Neue Folge, 298, 114-115.

Pogue, K.R., Wardlaw, B.R., Harris, A.G., Hussain, A., 1992. Paleozoic and Mesozoic stratigraphy of Peshawar basin, Pakistan; Correlations and implications. Geological Society of America Bulletin 104, 915-927

Qasim, M., Khan, M.A., Haneef, M., 2014. Stratigraphic characterization of the Early Cambrian Abbottabad Formation in the Sherwan area, Hazara region, N. Pakistan: Implications for Early Paleozoic stratigraphic correlation in NW Himalayas, Pakistan. Journal of Himalayan Earth Sciences 47 (1), 25-40.

Rafiq, M., Jan, M.Q., 1988. Petrography of Ambela granitic complex, NW Pakistan. Geological Bulletin, University of Peshawar 21, 27-48.

Rigopoulos, I., Tsikouras, B., Pomonis, P., Hatzipanagiotou, K., 2014. Correlations between petrographic and geometrical properties of ophiolitic aggregates from Greece. Bulletin of Engineering Geology and Environment 73 (1), 1-12.

Sajid, M., Andersen, B., Rocholl, A., Wiedenbeck, M., 2018a. U-Pb geochronology and petrogenesis of peraluminous granitoids from northern Indian plate in NW Pakistan: Andean type orogenic signatures. Lithos (318–319), 340–356.

Sajid, M., Andersen, J., Arif, M., 2018b. Petrogenesis and tectonic association of rift-related basic Panjal dykes from the northern Indian Plate, north-western Pakistan: Evidence of high-Ti basalts analogous to dykes from Tibet. Mineralogy and Petrology 112 (3), 415-434.

Sajid, M., Coggan, J., Arif, M., Andersen, J., Rollinson, G., 2016. Petrographic features as an effective indicator for the variation in strength of granites. Engineering Geology 202, 44-54.

Sajid, M., Arif, M., 2015. Reliance of physico-mechanical properties on petrographic characteristics: consequences from the study of Utla granites, north-west Pakistan. Bulletin of Engineering Geology and Environment 74, 1321-1330.

Sajid, M., Arif, M., Muhammad, N., 2009. Petrographic characteristics and mechanical properties of rocks from Khagram-Razagram area, Lower Dir, NWFP, Pakistan. Journal of Himalayan Earth Sciences 42, 25- 36.

Shakoor, A., Bonelli, R.E. 1991. Relationship between petrographic characteristics, engineering index properties, and mechanical properties of selected sandstones. Bulletin of International Association of Engineering Geologists 28 (1), 55-71.

Siivola, J., Schmid, R., 2007. Recommendations by the IUGS Subcommission on the Systematics of Metamorphic Rocks: List of mineral abbreviations. Web version 01.02.07.( IUGS Commission on the Systematics in Petrology.

Sousa, L.M.O., 2013. The influence of the characteristics of quartz and mineral deterioration on the strength of granitic dimensional stones. Environmental Earth Sciences 69 (4), 1333-1346

Tugrul, A., Zarif, I.H., 1999. Correlation of mineralogical and textural characteristics with engineering properties of selected granitic rocks from Turkey. Engineering Geology 51 (4), 303-317.

Yilmaz, N.G., Goktan, R.M., Kibici, Y., 2011. Relations between some quantitative petrographic characteristics and mechanical strength properties of granitic building stones. International Journal of Rock Mechanics and Mining Sciences 48, 506-513.
Creative Commons License

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

The authors keep the copyrights of the published materials with them, but the authors are aggee to give an exclusive license to the publisher that transfers all publishing and commercial exploitation rights to the publisher. The puslisher then shares the content published in this journal under CC BY-NC-ND license.