A sinuous zone of gently southeast-dipping low-angle Tertiary normal faults is exposed for 100 km along the eastern margins of the Anaconda and Flint Creek ranges in southwest Montana. Faults in the zone variously place Mesoproterozoic through Paleozoic sedimentary rocks on younger Tertiary granitic rocks or on sedimentary rocks older than the overlying detached rocks. Lower plate rocks are lineated and mylonitic at the main fault and, below the mylonitic front, are cut by mylonitic mesoscopic to microscopic shear zones. The upper plate consists of an imbricate stack of younger-on-older sedimentary rocks that are locally mylonitic at the main, lowermost detachment fault but are characteristically strongly brecciated or broken. Kinematic indicators in the lineated mylonite indicate tectonic transport to the east-southeast. Syntectonic sedimentary breccia and coarse conglomerate derived solely from upper plate rocks were deposited locally on top of hanging-wall rocks in low-lying areas between fault blocks and breccia zones. Muscovite occurs locally as mica fish in mylonitic quartzites at or near the main detachment. The 40Ar/39Ar age spectrum obtained from muscovite in one mylonitic quartzite yielded an age of 47.2 + 0.14 Ma, interpreted to be the age of mylonitization. The fault zone is interpreted as a detachment fault that bounds a metamorphic core complex, here termed the Anaconda metamorphic core complex, similar in age and character to the Bitterroot mylonite that bounds the Bitterroot metamorphic core complex along the Idaho–Montana state line 100 km to the west. The Bitterroot and Anaconda core complexes are likely components of a continuous, tectonically integrated system. Recognition of this core complex expands the region of known early Tertiary brittle–ductile crustal extension eastward into areas of profound Late Cretaceous contractile deformation characterized by complex structural interactions between the overthrust belt and Laramide basement uplifts, overprinted by late Tertiary Basin and Range faulting.

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