Traditionally, the strata of the Luonie Valley, Dechang County, SW Sichuan, China, are considered to contain a suite of felsic volcanic rocks (the Huili Group) that erupted after c. 1050 Ma. However, we report here new age constraints, elemental and Lu–Hf isotope geochemistry for a different suite of older basaltic agglomerate lava, basaltic tuff lava and basalt from the same area, which we name the Luonie Formation. New dating results show that the basaltic volcanic suite of the upper part of the Luonie Formation formed at 1126.1 ± 9.9 Ma, significantly earlier than deposition of the Huili Group, but comparable in age to the 1142 ± 16 Ma Laowushan Formation in central Yunnan Province. Granite intrusion into the Luonie Formation dated 1050.7 ± 12.7 Ma provides crucial supporting evidence for this earlier depositional age. We also report a maximum sedimentary age of c. 1158 Ma for the underlying arkose, implying stratigraphic conformity with the basaltic volcanic rock suite.

The ϵHf(t) values of the basaltic volcanic rocks are mainly positive, indicating that the rocks are mainly derived from the depleted mantle and slightly stained by crustal materials. The characteristics of P*, Nb* and Zr* anomalies also support this view. The distribution patterns of trace and rare earth elements indicate that the basaltic volcanic rocks formed in an extensional setting. The Zr/4–Y–2Nb and Th–Nb/16–Zr/117 discrimination diagrams also provide evidence for this understanding. Lithofacies analysis shows that basaltic volcanic wrocks with the characteristics of both continental and marine facies should be formed in a littoral–neritic environment. We propose here that the evidence is consistent with a phase of continental extension that preceded the convergence of the SW Yangtze Block to form part of Rodinia.

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