U-Pb and Th-Pb dating of monazite from hydrothermal quartz veins (“Alpine veins”) from the Lauzière massif (North Belledonne) together with Ar/Ar ages of adularias from the same veins constrain the age of the last tectono-metamorphic events that affected the External Crystalline Massifs (ECM). Ages obtained are surprisingly young. The study of the structural context of the veins combined with our chronological data, allow us to propose a tectonic scenario of the northern ECM for the 15-5 Ma period, which was poorly documented so far.
The quartz veins are of two types: (i) the oldest are poorly mineralized (chlorite and epidote), flat-lying veins. The quartz fibres (= extension direction) are near vertical and seem to be associated with a subvertical dissolution schistosity superimposed upon an early Alpine deformation underlined by “mini-biotite”. They bear a sub-horizontal stretching lineation; (ii) the youngest veins are very rich in various minerals (anatase, rutile, phénacite, meneghinite, beryl, synchysite, ….). They are almost vertical. Their “en echelon” geometry as well as the horizontal attitude of their quartz fibres show a dextral strike-slip regime. Two groups of Th-Pb ages have been obtained: 11 to 10 Ma and 7 to 5 Ma. They were obtained from the most recent veins (vertical veins) sampled in different areas of the massif. The ca. 10 Ma ages are related to veins in the Lauzière granite and its metamorphic country-rocks at about 2 km from the eastern contact of the massif, while the ages of ca. 5 Ma correspond to veins occurring in mylonites along this contact. Adularias provided Ar/Ar ages at ca. 7 Ma. By contrast, a monazite from a vein of the Pelvoux massif (Plan du Lac) yielded a Th-Pb age of 17.6 Ma but in a different structural setting. Except fission track ages, there are very little ages of this range published in the recent literature on the Alps. The latter concern always gold mineralized veins (NE Mont Blanc and SW Lepontine dome). The last compressive tectonic regime dated between 15 and 12 Ma is coeval with (i) the late “Roselend thrust” event, which is recorded in the Mont Blanc by shear-zones with vertical lineation, (ii) the last movements in the basal mylonites of the Swiss Nappes, (iii) the horizontal Alpine veins from the Mont Blanc and Belledonne massifs (with vertical quartz fibres), which are similar to the early veins of the Lauzière. On the contrary, the vertical veins of the Lauzière, dated between 11 and 5 Ma, correspond to a dextral strike slip regime. This suggests that most of the strike-slip tectonics along the ECM took place during two stages (ca. 10 Ma and ca. 7-5 Ma) and not only at 18 Ma as had been proposed previously. Our ages are consistent with the late Miocene-Pliocene overlap of the Digne thrust to the South and to part of the normal movement along the Simplon fault to the North. Thus, all the external crystalline massifs were tectonically active during the late Miocene. This suggests that tectonic events in the external alpine belt may have contributed to some extent to the geodynamical causes of the Messinian crisis.