Mount Kinabalu in North Borneo is a 10 million year old pluton. A pluton is a magma plume from the mantle which was not able to reach the surface and erupt as a volcano, but solidified underground and has since been exposed by erosion.

It is reported that Kinabalu is rising at a rate of 5mm per year, pushed up by forces from below. In 2015 there was a powerful earthquake which killed 18 people. With volcanoes, rising terrain and earthquakes are often a portent of more dramatic things to come, though not necessarily imminently. Could this also be true of plutons?


I searched the mentioned earthquake, and if i understood it right it is attributed to a fault line formed by two laterally moving crustal units (a "normal fault"). Mount Kinabara itself is not to blame, though the earthquake triggered landslides as secondary effects at its steep flanks. I also found papers on the geological history of the area that offer explanations of the causes of the earthquake. As to portents and the future, if only i knew ... :-)

There is this publication (Wang et. al. 2015, open access) about the earthquake attributing it to a normal fault directly beneath Mt Kinabalu. The epicentre's position is marked on a profile in the publication.

  • $\begingroup$ So far as I can establish, Kinabalu is well away from any plate margin, so what would be the cause of any fault beneath it and why did it's weight not crush this fault long ago? If a comparison is made with volcanoes, it should be compared to a dormant or extinct volcano, as they are also sealed off from the mantle by huge plugs of solidified magma. $\endgroup$ – Michael Walsby Dec 1 '19 at 11:53
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    $\begingroup$ Faults and plate margins are completely different things. There are different types of faults, e.g. transform, normal, listric, ... And. btw., if there is no margin today, maybe there was one in the past ;-) ? Edit: found this paper: link.springer.com/article/10.1186%2Fs40562-017-0072-9 $\endgroup$ – user18411 Dec 1 '19 at 12:02
  • $\begingroup$ I see your Geoscience article gives a date of 5 - 6 million years for the creation of Kinabalu, but other sources quote 10 million years, so there seems to be considerable uncertainty about its age. I can't find anything which attributes a cause of the pluton's creation. $\endgroup$ – Michael Walsby Dec 1 '19 at 21:29
  • $\begingroup$ The article attributes the cause of the 2015 earthquake to a fault system, not activity in the structure itself. I understood your question went that way. It cites other work about age and origin of the structure. $\endgroup$ – user18411 Dec 1 '19 at 23:30
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    $\begingroup$ There are no enemies here. You've got a few upvotes from my side. I only downvoted once or twice (not you) when i clearly saw false statements despite of published evidence. My point upthread was simply, inferred from the linked publication, that the pluton is not the cause of the earthquake because it (the quake) did not originate inside of it. Instead, the presence of a complex fault system has been indentified. This was only an attempt to answer the question. $\endgroup$ – user18411 Dec 13 '19 at 19:09

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