Abstract

Deep seismic reflection profiling of the southern Alberta crystalline basement, namely the Archean Medicine Hat block (MHB), has revealed that the crust is characterized by west- and southwest-dipping reflection fabrics, a layered lower crust, and geometric cutoffs that are interpreted to be remnants of a complex tectonic history. Upper to middle crustal dipping reflections are interpreted to be associated with Archean rocks drilled below the Western Canada Sedimentary Basin and their geometry is consistent with east- and northeast-verging imbrication. Layered lower crustal reflections of the MHB are interpreted as Early Proterozoic delaminated Loverna block crust and injected mafic material, based on geometric relationships, xenolith dating, and gravity modelling. The reflection Moho is diffuse below the MHB at ∼15 s two-way time (∼47 km). This is similar to estimates based on adjacent seismic refraction data and is up to ∼8 km deeper than regions north of the MHB. The MHB crust is interpreted to have undergone two episodes of crustal deformation in the Precambrian: (1) Late Archean formation of the MHB crust by continental collision of two Archean domains along a crustal-scale ramp; and (2) Early Proterozoic crustal shortening associated with the formation of the Vulcan structure, the delamination of the Loverna block crust, and postcollisional injection of mafic melts beneath the MHB crust. Radiometric dating of lower crustal xenoliths suggests a significant Early Proterozoic thermal event in the deep crust beneath the MHB that is coeval with orogenic activity in the Trans-Hudson Orogen and the East Alberta Orogen.

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