During the early Proterozoic, the 2 km thick differentiated gabbroic Kiernan sills were emplaced into a thick accumulation of pillow basalt and associated deep-water strata, the Hemlock Formation, in the southern Lake Superior region. On the basis of major elements and trace elements (including rare-earth-element data), the Kiernan sills and the hosting volcanic rocks of the Hemlock Formation were determined to be comagmatic in origin, and both evolved from assimilation – crystal fractionation processes. The major assimilated components in these igneous rocks are identified as terrigenous sedimentary rocks. Assimilation affected the abundance of Nb, Ta, light rare-earth elements, and most likely P, Rb, Th, and K in the magma. The effect of chemical contamination from wall-rock assimilation accumulates with increasing differentiation.With wall-rock contamination carefully evaluated, a series of tectonic discriminating methods utilizing immobile trace elements indicates that the source magma was a high-Ti tholeiitic basalt similar to present-day mid-ocean-ridge basalts (MORB). It is suggested from this study that most of the enriched large-ion lithophile elements and LREE of the magma were not inherited from the mantle but from assimilation of supracrustal rocks. Chemical signatures of these rocks are distinctively different from those of arc-related volcanics. A rifting tectonic regime analogous to the opening of the North Atlantic Ocean and extrusion of North Atlantic Tertiary volcanics best fits the criteria revealed by this study.

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