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Suggested Method for Petrographic

Description of Rocks

1. SCOPE 2.3. Equipment to determine the quantitative mineral

composition, by volume, of a rock (modal analysis)
The micro-petrographic description of rocks for
typically comprises [l]: (a) A planimeter to determine
engineering purposes includes the determination of all
the composition from low-magnification photomicro-
parameters which cannot be obtained from a macro-
graphs or projected enlargements on a screen; or (b)
scopic examination of a rock sample, such as mineral
an integrating stage to quantify the composition by
content, grain size and texture, and which have a bear-
linear measurements on traverses across the thin sec-
ing on the mechanical behaviour of the rock or rock
tion; or (c) a mechanical counting stage (point counter)
mass. A common form of microscopic examination
or a suitable eyepiece attachment to determine the
employed for transparent materials involves the use of
composition from the points of a grid placed over the
thin sections and refracted light. Opaque materials can
thin section.
be sawed and polished and then examined using re-
2.4. The equipment for measuring the grain size nor-
flected light techniques.
mally consists of a calibrated micrometer eyepiece or
To ensure its correct classification, the first step
a graticule showing typical grain sizes and grain forms.
should be to ascertain the mineral composition and
2.5. Equipment to determine the anisotropy, fabric
texture of the rock. Further investigations should in-
or texture of a rock. (a) A qualitative assessment of
clude a fabric and mineral analysis in the case of
the degree of anisotropy in a thin section can often
strongly anisotropic rocks, the determination of the
be made using a R/2 (gypsum) interference plate as an
degree of alteration or weathering, grain size, micro-
attachment to the petrographic microscope. (b) For
fracturing and porosity.
statistical and quantitative evaluation of the anisotropy,
a universal stage and an equal area net (Schmidt net)
2. APPARATUS are essential attachments to the petrographic micro-
2.1. Equipment for the preparation of thin sections
2.6. Special equipment: (a) To determine the compo-
from rock samples typically comprises: (a) A small dia-
sition of very fine-grained rocks such as shales, mud-
mond saw with a saw blade 150-250mm in diameter;
stones, clays, etc., the application of X-ray diffraction
(b) A cast iron plate about 250 x 250 x 20 mm in size
techniques, infra-red absorption spectrography or dif-
for rough grinding, and two glass plates of the same
ferential thermal analysis is necessary. (b) For the
dimensions for fine grinding and finishing or a suitable
observation of surface features on fracture planes and
machine for thin section preparation; (c) Silicon carbide
mineral grains the use of a scanning electron micro-
grinding powders of grain numbers 180 or 220 (cast
scope can be of advantage. (c) Equipment for applying
iron plate), 600 (fine grinding) and 1000 (finishing); (d)
resins or pigments to the rock, prior to the preparation
Glass slides approximately 25 x 45 mm, thickness
of sections.
&l-2 mm; (e) A suitable cement, e.g. Canada balsam,
Lakeside 70 cement or epoxy resin for mounting the
rock specimens; (f) Stains for distinguishing minerals
by impregnating the rock section.
The thin section may be covered by a microscope
cover glass or a suitable lacquer (Merck, Germany) if 3.1. Preparation
no further surface treatment is required. In order to obtain a representative sample of the
2.2. The equipment for examining the thin section rock, more than one specimen should be selected dur-
normally consists of a petrographic microscope, as this ing field work. Wherever possible, oriented specimens
is best suited to the examination of thin sections. should be collected and the original strike and dip of
Stereoscopic binocular microscopes have been one face of the specimen should be recorded.
employed in determining grain size, shape and surface The preparation of thin sections has been described
characteristics of individual particles, but this method in detail by Allman and Lawrence [a].
has many disadvantages when compared with methods
in which the petrographic microscope is used. An ore 3.2. Examination of thin sections
microscope or a metallographic microscope is often The determination of the minerals present in a thin
useful to identifv- opaaue
. . minerals. section can be carried out only by a trained petrogra-
44 International Society for Rock Mechanics

pher, while the modal analysis can be done by any meter is obtained by computing the diameter of a
person under the supervision of the petrographer. sphere having the same volume and density as the par-
Determination of minerals present. Well-established ticle [2].
methods and techniques exist [3] for the determination Fabric analysis. As the quantitative fabric analysis
of the minerals present in a thin section, so as to enable requires the use of a universal stage by a specially
the rock to be classified as igneous, metamorphic or trained operator, the normal analysis should be con-
sedimentary. fined to simple observations which might have an in-
For the purpose of practical rock mechanics, certain fluence on the mechanical behaviour of a rock. This
simplifications can be made but whenever possible the includes comments on the orientation and shape of
internationally recognised names of rocks should be grains, grain contacts and the matrix or cement. For
used. normal rock mechanics purposes the igneous rocks can
For the modal analysis of the rock specimens any be regarded as isotropic apart from macroscopic fea-
one of the methods mentioned previously can be used, tures such as jointing, fissuring, flow banding and vesi-
depending on the facilities available. cular structures.
Determination of microjiiactures and secondary alter-
ations. During the analysis of a specimen, considerable
care should be taken to examine it for mechanical
flaws, microfractures and layers of apparently weaker The report of a petrographic examination for
material which might have a bearing on the engineering engineering purposes should be confined to short state-
behaviour or strength of the rock. This includes an ments on the case history (project, origin, etc.), the geo-
examination of the degree of weathering or other logical classification of the rock and details relevant
secondary alterations. to the mechanical properties of the specimen or the
Determination of grain size. A rough estimate of the rock mass. Wherever possible this should be combined
average grain size is normally part of the examination. with a report on the mechanical parameters such as
However, as the mechanical behaviour of some rocks point-load index, uniaxial or triaxial compressive
depends to a large extent on the grain size of the con- strength.
stituent minerals, a thorough measurement of the size A suggested format for a petrographic report is given
distribution of these components is within individual in the Appendix.
beds or laminations advisable.
The determination of the sizes of essentially spheri-
cal particles presents no problem. In contrast, accurate
measurement of the sizes of tabular, prismatic or ir- 1. Wahlstrom E. E. Petrographic Morphology. John Wiley, New
regular particles may be difficult. For such particles, York (1955).
2. Allman M. & Lawrence D. F. Geologicul L&oratory Techniques.
size may be expressed in terms of volume, mass, maxi- Blandford Press, London (1972).
mum, intermediate or minimum intercepts, area or 3. Moorhouse W. W. The Study of Rocksin Thin Sections. Harpers
average or nominal diameters. The nominal dia- Geoscience Series, New York (1959).
Suggested Method for Petrographic Description of Rocks 45



?oc k name I
Specimen No: Collected by : Wrographic classification:
Description of sampling point: OF THIN SECTION
5eological formation I
Thin section No: Date:


Degree of watheriny : Texture 2
Structure (incl. bedding ):



Point load index Porosity : _. . 7.

. . . . . . . MRr , wet/dry Density : ,. . .b$m
normal/parallel to foliation Water absorption:

Any other results,