The timing of deformation and associated gold mineralization in SE California, USA, is contentious, partly due to the challenges involved with dating ductile deformation. We therefore combine modern geo- and thermochronology with field and microscopic observations to show that the Cargo Muchacho Mountains preserve evidence of northward thrusting in a kilometer-scale ductile shear zone during the Late Cretaceous Laramide Orogeny, accompanied by hydrothermal fluid flow, gold mineralization, and pegmatite emplacement. Penetrative strain was largely accommodated within the Jurassic metavolcaniclastic Tumco Formation, whereas intrusive Jurassic granitoids behaved as competent bodies. Quartz microstructures suggest deformation at ∼500 °C, which is consistent with fabrics defined by amphibolite facies minerals. The timing of thrusting is constrained by dynamically recrystallized titanite with a U-Pb age of 68 ± 1 Ma and late syn-kinematic pegmatites that yield U-Pb zircon ages of 65.0 ± 4.2−63.2 ± 4.8 Ma. Syn-kinematic fluid flow was focused into a lateral thrust ramp where the shear zone foliation was deflected around a relatively rigid pluton, creating zones rich in magnetite-quartz veins and epidote, and precipitating gold associated with pyrite and chalcopyrite. Dating of these sulfides via Re-Os yields an age of 64.7 ± 0.8 Ma, which confirms a Laramide age for the gold mineralization. Together, apatite from the pegmatites and a nearby Jurassic granite yields a U-Pb age of 60.4 ± 3.5 Ma, reflecting cooling to below 530−450 °C. Comparison with published studies suggests that thick-skinned deformation in the Cargo Muchacho Mountains was driven by flat-slab subduction of the conjugate Hess Plateau, which occurred several million years after and to the south of flat-slab subduction of the conjugate Shatsky Rise. This suggests that the conjugate Hess Plateau may have been subducted up to several hundred kilometers farther north than previously thought. Metamorphic devolatilization of underplated Orocopia Schist likely generated the gold-bearing hydrothermal fluids, and anatexis of the schist formed the peraluminous pegmatites, which highlights the importance of schist underplating and devolatilization along much of the Californian and Mexican cordillera.
New constraints on the timing and character of the Laramide Orogeny and associated gold mineralization in SE California, USA
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Tarryn K. Cawood, Amy Moser, Ariel Borsook, Alan D. Rooney; New constraints on the timing and character of the Laramide Orogeny and associated gold mineralization in SE California, USA. GSA Bulletin 2022; doi: https://doi.org/10.1130/B36251.1
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