The Central Asian Orogenic Belt represents a Late Paleozoic archipelago, but crustal growth and the reworking and exhumation of the individual microcontinental massifs remain poorly constrained. Here, we use the Axi epithermal deposit to examine continental preservation and exhumation in the Central Asian Orogenic Belt of the Chinese Western Tianshan region. Zircon U–Pb dating and geochemistry demonstrate that the andesitic host rock formed via the incremental addition of magma in an Andean-type magmatic arc setting at 362, 354 and 342 Ma. Pyrite Re–Os data and textural evidence reveal two mineralization events at 355 and 332 Ma. Zircon (U–Th)/He data reveal temperatures of c. 180°C until 317.8 ± 9.8 Ma, which is interpreted to record the timing of exhumation of the andesite and gold ore bodies prior to their burial by Carboniferous-age sediments. Further sedimentary concealment continued until the Late Mesozoic when the system was re-exhumed between 148.6 ± 8.6 and 120.0 ± 13 Ma at a rate of c. 9.8 m Ma−1, as shown by apatite (U–Th)/He data. Collectively, the geochronology/thermochronology data show that the Chinese Western Tianshan region records a transition from compressional to extensional tectonism during the Late Paleozoic and Late Mesozoic. The shallow epithermal mineralization was protected from erosion by post-mineralization deposition.

Supplementary material: Trace element and zircon U–Pb data for the andesitic host are available at

You do not have access to this content, please speak to your institutional administrator if you feel you should have access.