Abstract

The protolith age of high-grade metamorphic rocks exposed in structurally deep parts of the Omineca Crystalline Belt has been the subject of investigation and controversy for decades. We have applied multiple isotopic dating techniques to rocks of three structural culminations: the Monashee complex (which includes the Frenchman Cap and Thor–Odin gneiss domes), the Grand Forks horst, and the Vaseaux Formation, which lies in the footwall of the Okanagan Valley fault.Frenchman Cap core gneisses contain highly radiogenic Sr that scatters about a 2206 ± 117 Ma (1σ) Rb–Sr isochron with 87Sr/86Sr initial ratio of 0.700 ± 0.002. Monazite and zircon dates for the same rocks are 1851 ± 7 to 2103 ± 16 Ma (only U–Pb dates are given with 2σ errors), with lower intercepts from about 100 to 300 Ma. Sm–Nd whole-rock and crustal-residence (TDM) dates are 2.3 ± 0.2 Ga. Mafic–felsic layering in the core gneiss is also of Early Proterozoic age. There is no geochronometric evidence for Late Proterozoic or Mesozoic migmatization.Frenchman Cap mantling gneisses, including samples from above the Monashee décollement, have radiogenic Sr and unradiogenic Nd compositions that are not consistent with current inferences of a Late Proterozoic to Paleozoic depositional age. Two intrusive granitic rocks, which cut mantling gneiss, are either Early Proterozoic or Mesozoic–Cenozoic with a Proterozoic Sr isotopic signature acquired by assimilation of core gneiss. One other intrusive studied is probably Paleocene Ladybird granite. The age of the mantling gneiss is not yet consistently resolved.Grand Forks Gneiss Unit I paragneiss gives radiogenic whole-rock Sr, zircon U–Pb upper intercept, and Sm–Nd whole-rock crustal-residence dates of 1.7 ± 0.4 Ga, 1681 ± 3 Ma (2σ, but the apparent high precision is very dependent on the assumption made about the time of Pb loss), and 1.9 ± 0.3 Ga, respectively. Unit II and younger Grand Forks Gneiss units are Late Proterozoic or Phanerozoic. All isotope systems have been considerably reset on a centimetre to metre scale by Mesozoic–Cenozoic regional metamorphism. Grand Forks Sr, Pb, and Nd isotope data are much like those for Spokane area pre-Purcell basement.Vaseaux Formation micaceous schist and gneiss give radiogenic whole-rock Sr, zircon U–Pb upper intercept, and Sm–Nd crustal-residence dates of 2.1 ± 0.6 Ga, 1899 ± 49 Ma (2σ), and 2.2 ± 0.1 Ga, respectively. Hornblende-bearing schist and gneiss contain much less radiogenic Sr and more radiogenic Nd. The latter are either tectonic intercalations of Late Proterozoic to Paleozoic eugeosynclinal rocks or Mesozoic–Cenozoic mixtures of mantle-derived magma and older crustal rock. The Vaseaux Formation paragneiss is similar isotopically to paragneiss in the Frenchman Cap core gneiss. This may indicate a similar age, or that Vaseaux sedimentary rocks could be much younger and isochemically derived from a basement of Frenchman Cap character. The first alternative is favored because the three isotope systems are usually not preserved in unison through sedimentary processes. Sr isotopes, in particular, do not usually preserve a provenance age.In all three areas, late Mesozoic to early Cenozoic metamorphic monazite, hornblende, muscovite, and biotite dates provide a record of cooling from a Cretaceous to Paleocene culmination of regional metamorphism, with particularly rapid cooling during Paleocene to Eocene crustal extension and tectonic unroofing.The localities studied are tectonic windows on structural culminations that expose basement that we infer to be part of North America. Their ages fit the pattern of basement ages established for the stable craton. Their extent is consistent with the reconstruction of compressed miogeoclinal rocks. The eastern half of the Cordilleran region on both sides of the United States – Canada border is underlain by Early Proterozoic basement that was attenuated in Late Proterozoic time, compressed during Mesozoic–Cenozoic orogeny, and finally extended in early Cenozoic collapse of the thickened crust. During Mesozoic–Cenozoic orogeny the sedimentary cover of that basement was pushed approximately 200 km eastward and replaced by allochthonous terranes. The tectonic displacements documented in the southern Canadian Cordillera are truly exceptional.

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