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Abstract

In New Caledonia, the cover refers to the autochthonous Late Cretaceous to Paleogene sedimentary and volcanic formations unconformably overlying the basement rocks and underlying the allochthonous nappes. The first period of deposition, broadly from the Late Cretaceous to Paleocene (c. 105–56 Ma) was controlled by extension and rifting. The second period, broadly the Eocene (c. 56–34 Ma), was dominated by convergence and contraction. The Late Cretaceous part of the cover consists of synrift conglomerates and coal-bearing deposits with interlayered bimodal, subduction-related and intra-plate volcanic rocks. The post-rift deposits are deep water sedimentary rocks deposited under anoxic conditions with reduced terrigenous input. The Paleocene to Eocene formations, mainly carbonates, attest to profound palaeogeographical changes and a switch to a different geodynamic regime, linked to the onset of Eocene convergence. The Middle to Late Eocene formations are typically composed of turbidites and breccias. They were deposited in a typical flexural foreland basin context as an upwards-coarsening sequence topped by an olistostrome. They are associated with tectonic convergence and east-dipping subduction that led to the end-Eocene obduction of ophiolitic nappes. This two-fold evolution, extension then compression, can be integrated in the wider framework of the plate tectonic evolution of the SW Pacific.

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