The Proterozoic assembly of Australia, the understanding of which is critical for reconstructing Proterozoic supercontinents, involved amalgamation of the West Australian (WAC), North Australian (NAC), and South Australian cratons (SAC). However, the basement between these Archean to early Proterozoic lithospheric blocks is mostly buried beneath younger basins; hence, its composition and age and the timing of Proterozoic assembly remain uncertain. In situ zircon U-Pb-O-Hf analyses of igneous rocks from drillholes that intersected basement beneath the northwestern Canning Basin reveal the presence of a substantial domain of juvenile Proterozoic lithosphere, the Percival Lakes province, between the WAC and NAC. Although isotopically distinct from the neighboring WAC and NAC, the Percival Lakes province is strikingly similar to other juvenile Proterozoic tectonic elements between the WAC, NAC, and SAC. Combining isotope and seismic data, we interpret the Percival Lakes province as part of an ~1700 × 400 km Proterozoic lithospheric domain that lacks evidence of Archean provenance but consists mainly of reworked remnants of Mesoproterozoic oceanic crust that survived WAC-NAC-SAC convergence. The apparent absence of Archean lithosphere between the cratons implies they never directly collided or that complete collision was prevented by impingement of three-dimensional promontories in the converging lithospheric blocks. Instead, the Percival Lakes province and other Proterozoic elements between the WAC, NAC, and SAC consist of oceanic lithosphere extracted from Earth’s mantle in the Proterozoic. Our results imply that WAC-NAC convergence was younger than Columbia amalgamation at ca. 1.8 Ga and that Proterozoic Australia formed during the earliest phases of Rodinia assembly at ca. 1.3 Ga.
Preserved intercratonic lithosphere reveals Proterozoic assembly of Australia
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Yongjun Lu, Michael T.D. Wingate, Robert H. Smithies, Klaus Gessner, Simon P. Johnson, Anthony I.S. Kemp, David E. Kelsey, Peter W. Haines, David McB. Martin, Laure Martin, Mark Lindsay; Preserved intercratonic lithosphere reveals Proterozoic assembly of Australia. Geology 2022; doi: https://doi.org/10.1130/G50256.1
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