One of the keys to understanding the origin of Archaean greenstone belts lies in the geological relationships between mafic and ultramafic greenstones, felsic to intermediate volcanic rocks and terrigenous sediments. Traditional models for greenstone belt evolution have been based on in-situ stratigraphic relationships. Most of these models, for example an oceanic island-arc developed on oceanic basement, back-arc basins, and the recently popular plume model, predict concordant stratigraphic relationships among the various greenstone belt lithologies. However, rather than being depositional in nature, several authors have indicated that many of the relationships between the different lithologies in greenstone belts are in fact tectonic, suggesting an allochthonous origin for most greenstone sequences. All of these latter models make analogies to Phanerozoic tectonic processes involving accretion of oceanic materials with volcanism related to both plate subduction and rifting. In this paper, we have evaluated the geological relationships between volcanic rocks and sediments in three regions in the Superior province, where the accretion of oceanic material can be documented, and direct comparisons are made to geological processes in Phanerozoic accretionary complexes. In the Malartic area in the southeastern Abitibi Subprovince, 3 to 4 km thick slices of komatiite and tholeiite, with intercalated terrigenous sediment, are tectonically imbricated and are overlain by calc-alkaline volcanics which postdate tectonic stacking. In both the Larder Lake region of the southwestern Abitibi belt and in the Beardmore-Geraldton belt, at the south-eastern limit of the Wabigoon belt, slices of iron-rich tholeiite and chemical sediments of an oceanic origin are tectonically imbricated with terrigenous sediment. The Malartic-Val d'Or area is considered to be an example of accretion of an Archaean oceanic plateau, while the Larder Lake and the Beardmore-Geraldton regions are potentially typical of accretion of normal oceanic crust in an arc-environment. Phanerozoic accretion of oceanic crust is accompanied by a step-back in subduction, and in this paper we suggest that oceanic crust accretion may have been the principal mechanism by which the locus of subduction migrated towards the south of the Superior province. Asthenospheric upwelling associated with the isolated sinking plate may have been responsible for widespread late-magmatism. This scenario requires that magmas be erupted through previously accreted volcanic, plutonic and sedimentary material. Furthermore, later ridge subduction will result in transpressional tectonics and eruption of mafic sequences over mature and immature volcano-plutonic sequences. The combined result of the plate tectonic scenario envisaged would result in the well-described "cyclic stratigraphy" of many granite greenstone sequences.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Geochemistry and Petrology