The Sillon Houiller is one of the main crustal discontinuities of the Variscan domain of the French Massif Central. Paradoxically, its kinematics and its tectonic significance are still a matter of debate.
Since Grolier and Letourneur ’s works, a Stephanian sinistral offset, inferred from the emplacement of numerous coal basins along the fault, is widely accepted.
The earlier history of this accident is still debated and subject to controversies. The finite offset of the Sillon Houiller results from the superposition of 3 distinct events. The first one is a brittle/ductile accident that is probably at the origin of the main left-lateral motion. Dated granitoid intrusions and Visean tuff basins seal this accident. The later Stephanian motion is revealed by brittle faulting related to coal basin opening. Finally, a vertical offset of the fault is suggested by a few strong-dipping striations.
The Visean offset of the Sillon Houiller has first order implications for the understanding of the western Europe Variscan orogeny. We suggest that the Sillon Houiller and the Paris Basin Magnetic anomaly belong to a single crustal discontinuity interpreted as the eastern boundary of the Armorican/Massif Central block. The 15° clockwise rotation affecting this crustal block and inferred from the structural study of this domain occurred along this accident. The magnetic and gravimetric anomaly may be the result of Visean mafic intrusions, such as quartz diorites that are exposed in the northern part of the Massif Central close to the southern end of the anomaly.