Based on structural, geochemical, sedimentological and geochronological studies, we have formulated a model for the evolution of the late Archaean Abitibi greenstone belt of the Superior Province of Canada. The southern volcanic zone (SVZ) of the belt is dominated by komatiitic to tholeiitic volcanic plateaux and large, bimodal, mafic-felsic volcanic centres. These volcanic rocks were erupted between approximately 2710 Ma and 2700 Ma in a series of rift basins formed as a result of wrench-fault tectonics. The SVZ superimposes an older volcanic terrane which is characterized in the northern volcanic zone (NVZ) of the Abitibi belt and is approximately 2720 Ma or older. The NVZ comprises basaltic to andesitic and dacitic subaqueous massive volcanics which are cored by comagmatic sill complexes and layered mafic-anorthositic plutonic complexes. These volcanics are overlain by felsic pyroclastic rocks that were comagmatic with the emplacement of tonalitic plutons at 2717 ±2 Ma. The tectonic model envisages the SVZ to have formed in a series of rift basins which dissected an earlier formed volcanic arc (the NVZ). Analogous rift environments have been postulated for the Hokuroko basin of Japan, the Taupo volcanic zone of New Zealand and the Sumatra and Nicaragua arcs. The difference between rift related ‘submergent’ volcanism in the SVZ and ‘emergent’ volcanism in the NVZ resulted in the contrasting metallogenic styles, the former being characterized by syngenetic massive sulphide deposits, whilst the latter was dominated by epigenetic ‘porphyry-type’ Cu(Au) deposits.
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