Cape Breton Island is divided into four terranes on the basis of contrasts in pre-Carboniferous geology. The Blair River Complex in the north is an exposure of North American Grenvillian basement, analogous to the Humber zone basement in Newfoundland. Ordovician to Devonian metavolcanic, metasedimentary, gneissic, and granitic rocks of the Aspy terrane are correlative with parts of the Gander terrane of Newfoundland and New Brunswick. The Bras d'Or terrane, characterized by low-pressure gneisses, a carbonate-clastic platform sequence, and late Precambrian-Early Cambrian plutons, may be correlative with units previously included in the Gander terrane in southern Newfoundland and the Avalon terrane in southern New Brunswick. The Mira terrane in southeastern Cape Breton Island, including late Precambrian to Early Cambrian volcanic and sedimentary sequences and fossiliferous Cambrian-Ordovician units, is clearly part of the Avalon terrane. Therefore, with the exception of the Dunnage terrane, which is not represented in Cape Breton Island, the terranes of Newfoundland continue through Cape Breton Island. They are offset to the northwest to the mainland part of the Appalachian orogen in New Brunswick.

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