Abstract

The southern margin of the Pilbara Craton in northwestern Australia underwent regional heating, folding, and thrusting as well as extensive fluid flow during collision in the Paleoproterozoic. However, the precise timing of this event is uncertain. Previous geochronologic studies of Archean basement rocks have yielded a wide range of younger radiometric dates (from ca. 2.4 Ga to ca. 2.0 Ga), interpreted to record multiple hydrothermal alteration events. In situ U-Pb geochronology of authigenic monazite and xenotime in very low grade Archean metasedimentary rocks from across the craton suggests that the Pilbara was affected by at least two cryptic thermotectonic events, the first between ca. 2430 Ma and ca. 2400 Ma, and the second between ca. 2215 Ma and ca. 2145 Ma. The older event is restricted to three localities in the west, and its cause is unknown. The younger event affected most of the craton (>100,000 km2), spanning a 70 m.y. period from ca. 2215 Ma nearest the collisional margin in the south, to ca. 2145 Ma toward the craton interior in the north. The widespread geographic and stratigraphic distribution of ca. 2.2 Ga phosphates suggests that fluid flow was pervasive. This event was probably driven by the northward-advancing Ophthalmian fold-and-thrust belt that developed during protracted collision. The associated low-grade metamorphic front migrated over ∼350 km at an average rate of ∼5.0 mm/yr, placing important constraints on the rate and duration of deformation and metamorphism in orogenic settings.

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