Tectonic models for Borneo’s Cenozoic evolution differ in several aspects, particularly in the extent to which they include paleomagnetic data suggestive of strong counterclockwise rotation between 30 and 10 Ma. Key areas are undersampled. We present the results of a paleomagnetic study of Eocene to Early Miocene sandstones from northwest Sabah, principally from the Crocker Formation. We obtained reliable site means from 11 locations along a 250 km northeast-southwest transect using thermal demagnetization to isolate characteristic remanent magnetization (ChRM) directions. The Crocker Formation sandstones are pervasively remagnetized; pyrrhotite dominates the ChRM signal. Locations can be grouped into different domains on the basis of the relative sense of rotation about a vertical axis. Mean ChRM directions for seven locations between Kota Kinabalu and Keningau (declination, dec 12°–19°; inclination, inc –22°–23°) indicate minor clockwise rotation and modest tilting, whereas two locations near Tenom (dec 321°–345°, inc –6°–24°) record counterclockwise rotation and modest tilting. Although we cannot precisely date the age of remagnetization, the results of fold tests from 4 locations, interpreted within the regional structural framework, strongly indicate that remagnetization occurred between 35 and 15 Ma, the waning stages of the Sarawak orogeny to an early phase of the Sabah orogeny. Our results pose serious difficulties for current tectonic models in which Borneo rotates 50° counterclockwise as a rigid block between 30 and 10 Ma. With respect to prior paleomagnetic studies, we suspect that an early episode of strong regional counterclockwise rotation (before 35 Ma) was overprinted not only by differential clockwise rotation of crustal blocks during opening of the South China Sea (32–23 Ma), but also locally by a younger (after 10 Ma) counterclockwise rotation.
- Received 8 September 2011.
- Revision received 23 March 2012.
- Accepted 27 March 2012.
- © 2012 Geological Society of America