Abstract

The mafic-ultramafic assemblages of the Versoyen complex exposed in the Valaisan domain is close to the boundary between the Internal and the External domains of the western Alps. Zircons extracted from the Versoyen complex suggest an emplacement during Paleozoic times, and probably during the Visean (~337 Ma). The base of the Versoyen complex is formed of laccoliths and sills associated with black shales, while pillow basalts and tuffs predominate at the uppermost levels. Locally, basaltic dikelets intruded leucocratic gneiss. Ultramafic-mafic cumulates form the bottom of the thickest intrusions while diabases are present along the chilled margins. All these rocks have been affected by a polyphased metamorphism under eclogitic to blueschist and greenschist facies conditions. Magmatic textures have been destroyed and the igneous mineralogy is seldom preserved. The mafic rocks of the Versoyen complex show tholeiitic to alkali-transitional affinities. The pillow basalts and the sill cores have flat REE patterns characteristic of N-MORB and T-MORB. Their εNd (assuming an age of 337 Ma) ratios range from + 5.7 to + 9 which suggest a mixing of N-MORB and OIB sources. The sill margins show Th, U and LREE-enrichments and negative εNd ratios. These features are likely related to contamination when hot mafic magmas intruded unconsolidated sediments rich in water. The high Th, U, LREE abundances and low εNd ratio of the basaltic dikelet are probably related to crustal contamination occurring during magma ascent. The geochemical characteristics of the Versoyen rocks are compatible with a tholeiitic magma emplaced into a small oceanic basin in the vicinity of a continent. The importance of pre-Mesozoic crustal thinning evidenced in one segment of the boundary between the Internal and External zones of the Alps suggests that the Pennine Front is an Alpine mega-thrust inherited from a Variscan suture.

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