Cambrian volcanic rocks in Nova Scotia occur in small grabens or half grabens in the Avalon Zone (Composite Terrane) as part of a thin sequence of continental to shallow-marine Cambro-Ordovician rocks. In the northern Antigonish Highlands, the volcanic rocks occur mainly in the Lower Cambrian McDonalds Brook Group. In southern Cape Breton Island, they occur predominantly in the Middle Cambrian Bourinot Group. The chemistry of these volcanic rocks indicates that they are bimodal (basalts–rhyolites) and within plate. The basalts are alkalic in the Antigonish Highlands and tholeiitic in Cape Breton Island. The rising basaltic magma is postulated to have produced the felsic magma by anatexis of the crust. It is proposed that the Antigonish Highlands volcanic rocks erupted in a small pull-apart basin. A similar structural setting is probable in southern Cape Breton Island, but there the bounding faults are poorly exposed. These basins probably formed during a period of transpression in the last stages of the late Hadrynian Cadomian deformation.

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