Abstract

Three fault systems were responsible for Permian to Late Cretaceous deformation of the overriding plate of the Andean convergent margin in the Coastal Cordillera of northern Chile (25°30′ to 27°00′S). Displacements were linked to crustal growth expressed by the emplacement of a sequence of magmatic arcs. The Tigrillo Fault System, active from Triassic to Early Cretaceous time, was characterized by arc-normal extension with increasing left-oblique extension (transtension) from Early Jurassic to Early Cretaceous time. Stretching of the crust created space for Triassic, Early Jurassic and Early Cretaceous arc basins where epiclastic, volcaniclastic and volcanic sequences accumulated in continental to shallow marine environments. Tabular plutonic complexes were emplaced by roof uplift–floor subsidence that allowed a vertical transfer of material in the crust without significant horizontal extension. The Atacama Fault System was initiated at c.132 Ma as a (mainly) left strike-slip fault during left-oblique extension of the margin. Elongate, tabular plutonic complexes were emplaced within the Atacama Fault System between c.132 and c.106 Ma, again by roof uplift–floor subsidence mechanisms. Ductile–brittle transitions in synplutonic mylonitic rocks of the Atacama Fault System provided the setting for Kiruna-type Fe-apatite, and Fe oxide (with Cu and/or Au) ores. The Chivato Fault System was active as an extensional fault system at the eastern side of the Coastal Cordillera during displacement on the Tigrillo Fault System and later, between c.125 and c.93 Ma, as a partitioned left-oblique extensional fault system. In post-Early Cretaceous time the Chivato Fault System was inverted by left-oblique contraction (transpression) when NW-trending transfer faults, some probably reactivated lateral ramps in the Tigrillo Fault System, accommodated clockwise vertical-axis rotations of 35–45°. Contraction inverted the Atacama Fault System and Tigrillo Fault System and was responsible for west-vergent, thin-skinned, fold–thrust deformation in stratified rocks throughout the margin.

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