Abstract

Formations on the northwestern flank of the Barberton Greenstone Belt have hosted over 85% of all the gold recovered from the ca. 3550 to 3000 Ma Barberton Supergroup since early discoveries in 1872. This sector of the greenstone belt also happens to coincide with a complex tectonic architecture resulting from successive stages of folding and faulting superimposed onto a complex lithostratigraphy. Of particular importance has been the influence of two diapiric granitoid intrusions that caused added structural complexity following their emplacement ca. 3227 to 3250 Ma. Of these the larger Kaap Valley Pluton invaded the area north of present day Barberton town causing the separation of the greenstones into a northern arm (Jamestown Schist Belt) and a southern sector which remained attached to the main greenstone belt (Moodies Hills). The ballooning pluton produced vertical as well as horizontal flattening stresses, the latter reactivating earlier high-angle faults and resulting in subhorizontal strike-slip movements, particularly along the Barbrook Fault Zone, which acted as a right-lateral strike-slip fault. Formations north of this fault were buckled, following progressive deformation in the region known as the Sheba Hills, into major synclinal folds (Eureka and Ulundi Synclines) with folded axial planes that dip steeply to the south, southeast or east. The second granitoid intrusion (Stentor Pluton), which has been extensively modified by subsequent magmatic events, caused significant flattening of greenstone belt rocks in the northeastern part of the Barberton Greenstone Belt (Three Sisters region) as well as in other areas rimming the granitic body. Combined, the two plutons produced a wide range of interference and reactivated structures particularly affecting a triangular region extending from the Jamestown Schist Belt into the area occupied by the New Consort Gold Mine and areas to the east. This paper attempts to outline, in the simplest manner, the geological and structural evolution of the main gold-producing region of the Barberton Goldfield. The principal aim is therefore to highlight the structural influence of the diapiric plutonism and the manner in which the plutons contributed significantly to the horizontal reactivation of pre-existing regional faults, which in turn, resulted in the progressive deformation of a heterogeneous lithological terrane.

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