Abstract

This lithologic and geochemical study treats two Tertiary volcanic formations in the Andean foothills of central Chile deposited during and after an inferred culmination of crustal attenuation. The Abanico and Farellones Formations, which are described in their type localities just east of Santiago, formed from volcanic arcs in continental basins during the Oligocene and Early Miocene, respectively. Aphyric basic lavas of tholeiitic affinity, acid pyroclastic rocks, and lacustrine deposits constitute the >3100-m-thick Abanico Formation. The overlying >2100-m-thick Farellones Formation consists of calc-alkaline lavas (basalts absent) with thick pyroclastic deposits at the base.

Both formations have Nd-Sr isotope signatures within the mantle array; the Abanico rocks (εNd ≈ +5.7) plot closer to N-MORB (normal mid-oceanic-ridge basalt) than the Farellones rocks (εNd = +3.9 to +5.1). The REE (rare earth element) patterns indicate greater depth to the mantle source and a smaller degree of partial melting with time. The Abanico lavas segregated within the stability field of spinel, whereas the lavas of the upper Farellones member show residual garnet in their source. Geochemical changes with time are systematic: the greatest contrast is between the middle and upper Farellones members in 1–2 m.y., e.g., for basaltic andesites, La/Yb increases from 4.3 (Abanico) to 5.6, 6.0, and 11.6 (lower, middle, and upper Farellones members).

The bimodal composition of the Abanico Formation and the lower Farellones member indicates that volcanism took place during episodes of extensional conditions. Extension with subsidence is independently shown by the burial metamorphic pattern. Voluminous pyroclastic flows, structural relationships, and other evidence suggest recurrent caldera collapse. The first extensional episode ended with contraction and folding of the Abanico rocks, and the second episode resulted in uplift of the lower and middle Farellones members, followed by a more passive tectonic regime. Sequences showing many similarities with the Abanico and Farellones Formations occur along the Andean foothills of Chile. They decrease in age from Late Cretaceous– Paleocene at 23°S to Early Miocene–late Miocene at 35°S and might be explained by oblique subduction of oceanic ridge.

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