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The chemical character of mafic rocks from the Arctic Alaska–Chukotka terrane records rifting of continental crust during the early Paleozoic, possibly during the Ordovician. The mafic rocks are part of a metamorphosed Neoproterozoic to Devonian continental margin sequence preserved in a Mesozoic metamorphic terrane, the Nome Complex, of Seward Peninsula, Alaska. Protoliths of the mafic rocks include basalt and mafic clastic rocks, which were interlayered with calcareous, pelitic, and feldspathic sediments, and gabbro and diabase, likely feeder dikes and sills to the basalt. Major-element, trace-element, and rare-earth element (REE) analyses of these mafic rocks, together with analyses of Nd, Pb, and Sr isotopes, form two compositional groups. The two groups differ in Nb/Y (one plots as basalt, the other as alkali to subalkali basalt), TiO2, P2O5, and Nb (and other elements). The high-Ti group is characterized by enrichment of light REE; the low-Ti group lacks such enrichment. The trace-element and isotopic characteristics of the two groups resemble typical non-arc magmas derived from the mantle: the low-Ti group has compositions between normal mid-ocean ridge basalt (N-MORB) and enriched mid-ocean ridge basalt (E-MORB), while those of the high-Ti group are between E-MORB and ocean-island basalt (OIB). The two groups have overlapping positive values of εNd (+0.34 to +7.40). TiO2/Yb ratios suggest the high-Ti group formed from melts generated under normal thickness of continental crust, while the low-Ti group formed from melts generated at shallower conditions, presumably after rift-related crustal thinning had progressed.

Geologic, paleontologic, and geochronologic characteristics of the Nome Complex support an origin along the NE margin of Baltica. The rift-related magmatism in the Nome Complex likely occurred during the opening of the Uralian ocean along that margin; by implication, related parts of the Arctic Alaska–Chukotka terrane may have experienced a similar origin.

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