Abstract

The Steep Rock Group of northwest Ontario's Wabigoon subprovince is one of the world's thickest Archean carbonate platform successions. It was deposited unconformably over a 3001-2928 Ma gneissic terrane, and contains a remarkable group of biogenic and oolitic limestones, dolostones, micrites, and karst breccias capped by a thick paleosol developed between and over karst towers. The presence of aragonite fans, herringbone calcite, and rare gypsum molds suggests that the carbonate platform experienced at least local anaerobic and hypersaline depositional conditions. This sequence shows that a combination of chemical and biological processes was able to build a carbonate platform 500 m thick by 3 billion years ago. The carbonate platform is structurally overlain by a mixture of complexly deformed rocks of the Dismal Ashrock forming a mélange with blocks of ultramafic volcaniclastic rocks, mafic volcanics, carbonate, tonalite, lenses of Fe-ore rock, and metasedimentary rocks, in a shaly, serpentinitic, and fragmental ultramafic volcaniclastic matrix. The mélange shows evidence of polyphase deformation, with early high-strain fabrics formed at amphibolite facies, and later superimposed brittle fabrics related to the final emplacement of the mélange over the carbonate platform. An amphibolite- through greenschist-grade shear zone marks the upper contact of the mélange with overlying mafic volcanic and tuffaceous rocks of the ca. 2932 Ma Witch Bay allochthon, interpreted as a primitive island arc sequence. We suggest an evolutionary model for the area that begins with rifting of an arc sequence (Marmion Complex of the Wabigoon arc) that initiated subsidence and sedimentation on the Steep Rock platform and its correlatives that extend for a restored strike length exceeding 1000 km. Shallow water carbonate sedimentation continued until the platform was uplifted on the flanks of a flexural bulge related to the approach of the Witch Bay allochthon, representing collision of the rifted arc margin of the Wabigoon subprovince with the Witch Bay arc. Mélange of the Dismal Ashrock was formed as off-axis volcanic rocks were accreted to the base of the Witch Bay allochthon prior to its collision with the Steep Rock platform.

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