Abstract

A review and comparison of the tectonic history of the North China and Slave cratons reveal that the two cratons have many similarities and some significant differences. The similarities rest in the conclusion that both cratons have a history of a Wilson Cycle, having experienced rifting of an old continent in the late Archean, development of a rift to passive margin sequence, collision of this passive margin with arcs within 100–200 Ma of the formation of the passive margin, reversal of subduction polarity, then eventual climactic collision with another arc terrane, microcontinental fragment, or continent. This cycle demonstrates the operation of Paleozoic-style plate tectonics in the late Archean. The main differences lie in the later tectonic evolution. The Slave’s post-cratonization history is dominated by subduction dipping away from the interior of the craton, and later incorporation into the interior of a larger continent, whereas the North China Craton has had a long history of subduction beneath the craton, including presently being located above the flat-lying Pacific slab resting in the mantle transition zone, placing it in a broad back-arc setting, with multiple mantle hydration events and collisions along its borders. The hydration enhances melting in the overlying mantle, and leads to melts migrating upwards to thermochemically erode the lithospheric root. This major difference may explain why the relatively small Slave craton preserves its thick Archean lithospheric root, whereas the eastern North China Craton has lost it.

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