Abstract

The western Canadian Shield of northern Alberta is composed of a series of continental slivers that were accreted to the margin of the Archean Rae hinterland ca. 1.9–2.0 Ga., preserving a unique record of continental evolution for the interval 2.1–2.3 Ga. This part of Laurentia owes its preservation to the accretionary style of tectonic assembly south of the Great Slave Lake shear zone, which contrasts with indentation–escape processes that dominate the Paleoproterozoic record farther north. The Buffalo Head and Chinchaga domains form the central core of this region, comprising a collage of ca. 2325–2045 Ma crustal elements formed on an Archean microcontinental edifice, and similar age crust is preserved as basement to the Taltson magmatic zone. The distribution of magmatic ages and inferred collision and subduction zone polarity are used to indicate closure of intervening oceanic basins that led to magmatism and emplacement of continental margin arc and collisional belts that formed from ca. 1998 to 1900 Ma. Lithoprobe crustal seismic profiles complement the existing geochronologic and geologic databases for northern Alberta and elucidate the nature of late stages of the accretionary process. Crustal-scale imbrication occurred along shallow eastward-dipping shear zones, resulting in stacking of arc slivers that flanked the western Buffalo Head terrane. The seismic data suggest that strain is concen- trated along the margins of these crustal slivers, with sparse evidence for internal penetrative deformation during assembly. Post-collisional mafic magmatism consisted of widespread intrusive sheets, spectacularly imaged as regionally continuous subhorizontal reflections, which are estimated to extend over a region of ca. 120 000 km2. The form of such mid-crustal magmatism, as subhorizontal sheets (versus vertical dykes), is interpreted to represent a style of magma emplacement within a confined block, for which a tectonic free face is unavailable.

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