Abstract

Redbeds with a large thickness in the lower Cretaceous record abundant geologic information in the Minle Basin. We have conducted the paleoweathering conditions, provenance, and tectonic settings based on mineralogy and geochemistry. Our results indicate that mudstone samples are characterized by abundant illite with negligible amounts of K-feldspars and analcime. The lower part of the lower Cretaceous is rich in quartz, whereas the upper part is dominated by dolomite and analcime. We suggest that this is caused by the decreasing input of the clastic influx during the middle-late early Cretaceous. High index of compositional variation values (average 1.33) indicate first-cycle sediment supply, suggesting an overall compositional immaturity and short-distance transportation. These characteristics are consistent with an active regional extension tectonic setting. The M+-4Si-R2+ system (M+=Na++K++2Ca2+;4Si=Si/4;R2+=Fe2++Mg2+) and Th/U versus Th consistently reveal that the lower Cretaceous experienced a positive gradient in chemical weathering from young to old formations. Although the patterns of trace elements in three formations of the lower Cretaceous are different, those of the rare earth elements (REEs) tend to be consistent. The significant enrichment of light REEs, heavy REEs fractionation, and distinctive negative Eu anomalies suggest derivation from an old, upper continental crust composed of predominantly felsic sediments. This interpretation is supported by several discrimination diagrams such as titanium dioxide-nickel (Ti2O-Ni), which shows the characteristics of immature recycled sediments. A few sensitive elements, ratios, and normalized REE patterns indicate a provenance of an active continental margin and a continental island arc (CIA). The La-Th-Sc, Th-Co-Zr/10, and Th-Sc-Zr/10 discrimination plots further confirm the CIA signature. Thus, we conclude that the early Cretaceous redbeds in the Minle Basin, Hexi Corridor, were deposited in a dustpan-shaped half-graben basin in a CIA setting when northwest China was influenced by intense regional extension.

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