Abstract

Following growth of the Canadian Cordillera during the Mesozoic, the southern Cordillera was subject to extension during the Paleocene and Eocene that correlated with widespread volcanic activity in south-central British Columbia, including across much of the Nechako–Chilcotin plateau. In 2008, Geoscience BC acquired 330 km of deep vibroseis reflection profiles on the plateau, mostly over the Stikinia arc terrane, but also over its eastern contact with the oceanic Cache Creek terrane. All seven seismic reflection lines reveal a strongly reflective lower crust that extends from 7 to 9 s down to the Moho, which is defined by the downward termination of reflectivity at 11–12 s. In the uppermost crust, extension occurred by block faulting with faults soling into subhorizontal to shallowly dipping detachments above 10 km depth. Extension in the deeper upper and middle crust, which was partly controlled by antiforms likely related to earlier shortening, was accommodated on a network of anastomosing shear zones that sole out into the top of the reflective lower crust. The lower crustal reflections correlate with seismic P-wave velocities of 6.45–6.98 km/s, indicating that the reflective lower crust has a more mafic composition than the middle crust. As in other extensional settings, we suggest that this pervasive fabric of reflectors arises from the intrusion of mantle-derived basaltic magma into zones of ductile shearing, and that differentiation of these melts resulted in the widespread Paleocene to Eocene volcanism. Reflector dips indicate that extension was approximately east–west, consistent with north-northwest-trending horsts separated by basins filled with Paleocene to Eocene volcanic and volcaniclastic rocks.

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