Abstract

The Precambrian lithosphere of western Canada was assembled into the present crustal configuration between ca. 2.0–1.78 Ga by plate collisions, sometimes accompanied by arc magmatism, with subsequent cooling of the lithosphere since ca. 1.7 Ga. Collisional processes inferred along preserved plate sutures include (1) subduction of oceanic lithosphere and accretion of Proterozoic arc crust to the western Rae Province; (2) marginal basin consumption and tectonic entrapment of the Hearne Province between coeval subduction–collision zones; and (3) amagmatic marginal basin closure, perhaps analogous to the roots of small collisional orogens, such as the Pyrenees. Seismic reflection profiles acquired during the Lithoprobe Alberta Basement Transect have captured images of syn- to post-collisional structures along these sutures and evidence for crustal-scale thrust imbrication and rigid body accretion of Archean crust with preservation of precollisional tectonic fabric. The degree to which lithospheric mantle beneath Archean crustal blocks was preserved during these collisions is unknown, although tectonic geometries imply significant thermal and (or) mechanical interaction. Post-collisional, intrusive mafic magmatism is imaged widely in both seismic reflection and refraction surveys. These magmatic events are demonstrably Proterozoic, based on crosscutting relationships seen on seismic reflection profiles and geochronology of lower crustal xenoliths, and are comparable in scale to Phanerozoic igneous provinces (e.g., large igneous provinces) but have little preserved surface manifestation. Reactivation of Precambrian basement structures is limited or very subtle, reflecting strength control by the mantle on stress transmission and crustal failure. Long-wavelength elastic deformation of the crust during the Phanerozoic occurred in regions associated with, or adjacent to, Proterozoic mafic magmatism, suggesting local rheologic control of anomalous Phanerozoic paleotopography.

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