The geology of the Cartwright Lake area consists of a >2 km thick conformable sequence of Early Proterozoic supracrustal rocks intruded by calc-alkaline granitoid plutons. The supracrustal succession comprises a basal series of tholeiitic basalts, an overlying bimodal sequence, and an uppermost series of calc-alkaline andesites. The bimodal sequence incorporates abundant tholeiitic basalts and associated mafic tuffs, lesser felsic hyaloclastites and pyroclastics, and minor interflow greywacke–mudstone turbidites.Petrogenetic models involving trace-element concentrations indicate that most of the extrusive and intrusive rocks were derived from similar parent magmas that formed by extensive partial melting of a garnet lherzolite upper-mantle source. The parent liquids fractionated along an early tholeiitic trend and a later calc-alkaline trend, producing the observed geochemical variations in the mafic and intermediate volcanic assemblages. Ponding of mafic magma at the base of the crust may have promoted crustal fusion, thereby generating felsic liquids, which erupted and formed the dacite–rhyolite suite.The geology and geochemistry of the volcanic assemblages are consistent with a subduction-related origin in a volcanic-arc setting. The majority of geochemical evidence favours the interpretation that the Cartwright Lake segment of the arc developed on relatively thin sialic crust.