Abstract

We have conducted a regional survey of the oxygen isotope compositions of drill core samples from the Precambrian basement of the Alberta sedimentary basin. The majority of samples have whole-rock δ18O (SMOW) values between +7 and +11‰, as is typical of crustal rocks. However, there are also a significant number of samples with δ18O values less than +5‰. In these samples, high-grade minerals such as pyroxene, amphibole, and biotite commonly show retrograde alteration to chlorite and (or) epidote. The majority of low-δ18O samples are from a 250 x 50 km zone in northwestern Alberta, which we refer to as the Kimiwan isotope anomaly. The anomaly is significant in that the most reasonable explanation for generating such a laterally extensive zone of rocks, with δ18O values below +5‰, is through high-temperature interaction with surface-derived fluids in an extensional tectonic setting. We propose, therefore, that the low-δ18O samples define a hitherto unrecognized extensional zone in the Alberta basement. Available geochronological data indicate that fluid–rock interaction and associated δ18O depletion occurred at ca. 1800 Ma. Oxygen and hydrogen isotope data on mineral separates from this zone indicate that the surface fluids responsible for 18O depletion were of meteoric origin. Seismic reflection profiles acquired during the Lithoprobe Alberta Basement Transect reveal the presence of basement faults spatially associated with the zone of 18O depletion. We propose that these faults were extensional in nature at ca. 1800 Ma. Periodic reactivation of these basement structures during the Phanerozoic played an important role in the development of faults in the overlying sedimentary basin.

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