Two major groups of sedimentary rocks hosting zinc–lead deposits in the northern Canadian Cordillera can be distinctly partitioned on the basis of depositional tectonics. A Proterozoic to Early Cambrian succession of carbonates and elastics is separated from a Late Cambrian to Devonian basinal shale and laterally equivalent platformal carbonate sequence by a regional erosional hiatus. This partitioning is emphasized by bimodal minor element distributions in carbonate-hosted sphalerite found throughout these rocks. Two populations of sphalerite, individually contained within the two major groups of host rocks, are separated by a unit that is relatively barren of mineralization. A regional geologic map, diagrammatic cross section, and time–space projection illustrate the stratigraphy, depositional tectonics, and location of sphalerite occurrences, and are presented as a framework for further research.