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Abstract

Field-based investigation of ‘Infracambrian’ rocks cropping out on the eastern flank of Al Kufrah Basin (area 500 000 km2) reveals a an approximately 500 m-thick clastic succession of massive and cross-bedded sandstones, separated by 60 m-thick mudrock intervals. New zircon age data indicate a maximum age of deposition of approximately 950 Ma; furthermore, the absence of zircons of Pan-African age suggests a minimum depositional age older than the Pan-African Orogeny. Previously unreported folding and spaced cleavage affects these deposits to produce a pronounced NE–SW-striking tectonic grain that is interpreted to result from NW–SE-directed orthogonal compression during the Pan-African Orogeny. These Infracambrian rocks are therefore unlikely to be suitable analogues for weakly deformed strata shown to exist beneath the Cambro-Ordovician strata of the Al Kufrah Basin. Earlier work mapped a series of Infracambrian marble outcrops along strike of the clastic deposits; thin section petrography reveals that some of these are basic igneous rocks metamorphosed to greenschist facies. Interpretation of gravity data over the Al Kufrah Basin shows NE–SW-striking faults, parallel to outcrop structures, and secondary NW–SE faults. The data do not support earlier interpretations of a rhomboidal geometry in the deep subsurface of the basin, which has previously been attributed to strike-slip (pull-apart) processes. This research impacts on earlier suggestions that the Al Kufrah Basin opened as one of a series of en echelon pull-apart basins situated along a 6000 km-long shear zone known as the Transafrican Lineament, stretching from the Nile to the Niger Delta.

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