Formed during late Proterozoic – early Paleozoic, the St. Lawrence rift system of eastern North America hosts an active seismic zone, also displaying evidence of subsequent tectonic reactivation in Paleozoic and Mesozoic times. However, lack of a detailed reconstruction of the basement geometry and limited geochronological constraints limit our understanding of its structural evolution. Late Silurian – Early Devonian fault reactivation is demonstrated here in typical fault sites of the St. Lawrence rift system by combining structural observations of basement structures and a mineralogical, morphological, and K–Ar isotopic study of clay-rich fault material (<0.4 µm et 1–2 µm). The K–Ar data of clay-rich size fractions from gouges of varied rock types from Saint-Laurent and Montmorency faults define two isochron ages at 436 ± 45 and 406 ± 22 Ma that are within analytical uncertainty and give an average at 421 ± 15 Ma. However, these two faulting episodes could also picture a single long-lasting phase of foreland subsidence of the Appalachian orogen starting during the Late Ordovician – Early Silurian deformation in the external Humber zone and continuing during Late Silurian – Early Devonian subsidence related to a normal faulting. This interpretation is based on a different mineral composition of the younger size fractions that consist of smectite-enriched clay minerals and could, therefore, correspond to the end of a reactivation event that was episodically active between 436 ± 45 and 406 ± 22 Ma. The faults were selectively reactivated depending on their location relative to pre-existing metamorphic and tectonic fabrics of the Grenvillian basement. The identified Late Silurian – Early Devonian reactivation of the Saint-Laurent and Montmorency faults was contemporaneous with the subsidence of the adjacent Appalachian foreland, resulting in SE-dipping faults in the crystalline basement of the St. Lawrence rift system and NW-dipping faults in the Appalachian cover.

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