Abstract

The Mesozoic magmatic history of the North American margin records the evolution from a more segmented assemblage of parautochthonous and allochthonous terranes to the more cohesive northern Cordilleran orogenic belt. We characterize the setting of magmatism, tectonism, and epigenetic mineralization in the western Fortymile mining district, east-central Alaska, where parautochthonous and allochthonous Paleozoic tectonic assemblages are juxtaposed, using sensitive high-resolution ion microprobe (SHRIMP) U-Pb zircon geochronology, whole-rock geochemistry, and feldspar Pb isotopes of Mesozoic intrusions and spatially associated mineral prospects. New SHRIMP U-Pb zircon ages and published U-Pb and 40Ar/39Ar ages indicate four episodes of plutonism in the western Fortymile district: Late Triassic (216–208 Ma), Early Jurassic (199–181 Ma), mid-Cretaceous (112–94 Ma), and Late Cretaceous (70–66 Ma). All age groups have calc-alkalic arc compositions that became more evolved through time. Pb isotope compositions of feldspars from Late Triassic, Early Jurassic, and Late Cretaceous igneous rocks similarly became more radiogenic with time and are consistent with the magmas being mantle derived but extensively contaminated by upper crustal components with evolving Pb isotopic compositions. Feldspar Pb isotopes from mid-Cretaceous rocks have isotopic ratios that indicate magma derivation from upper crustal sources, probably thickened mid-Paleozoic basement. The origin of the mantle component in Late Cretaceous granitoids suggested by Pb isotopic ratios is uncertain, but we propose that it reflects asthenospheric upwelling following slab breakoff and sinking of an inactive inner subduction zone that delivered the previously accreted Wrangellia composite terrane to the North American continental margin, after the outer Farallon subduction zone was established.

Epigenetic Pb-Zn-Ag ± Cu prospects in the western Fortymile district are spatially associated with splays of the northeast-trending Kechumstuk sinistral-normal fault zone and with ca. 68–66 Ma felsic intrusions and dikes. The similarity between Pb isotope compositions of feldspars from the Late Cretaceous igneous bodies and sulfides from the epithermal prospects suggests a Late Cretaceous age for most of the mineralization. Fluid flow along the faults undoubtedly played a major role in mineralization. We interpret displacement on the northeast-trending faults to be a far-field effect of dextral translation along Late Cretaceous plate-scale boundaries and faults that were roughly parallel to the subsequently developed Denali and Tintina fault systems, which currently bound the region.

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