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The Murchison Greenstone Belt, South Africa: Accreted slivers with contrasting metamorphic conditions

Abstract : This paper presents new petrological and geochronological data for the ∼3.09-2.92 Ga Murchison Greenstone Belt (MGB), located in South Africa's Kaapvaal Craton, and discusses their geotectonic implications. The MGB is made of three tectono-metamorphic units: the Silwana Amphibolites, the Murchison Unit and the La France Formation. They underwent contrasting clockwise pressure-temperature-deformation (P-T-D) histories, and are separated from each other by relatively narrow, high-strain shear zones, with a sinistral, transpressive top-to-the-south movement, consistent with the deformation patterns observed throughout the belt. These patterns are explained by a N-S compressional stress field, affecting the Murchison Belt between 2.97 and 2.92 Ga. Results of new petrological investigations indicate that ultramafic to felsic volcano-sedimentary rocks of the Murchison Unit underwent a greenschist- to lower-amphibolite-facies metamorphism at maximum P-T conditions of 5.6 ± 0.6 kbar at 570 °C, along a relatively hot, minimum apparent geotherm of ∼30 °C/km. In contrast, the Silwana Amphibolites and the La France Formation were metamorphosed at much higher peak metamorphic conditions of 8.7-10 kbar, 630-670 °C, and 8-9 kbar, 600-650 °C, respectively, and require a colder apparent geotherm of ∼20 °C/km. A retrograde, nearly isothermal-decompression P-T path followed by isobaric cooling is also inferred for the La France Formation. The timing of the structural-metamorphic overprint is bracketed between 2.97 and 2.90 Ga, which is constrained by U-Pb zircon ages of a syn-deformation granite within the Murchison Unit and the post-deformation Maranda granite, respectively. Monazite and xenotime from La France metapelites yield much younger ages of ca. 2.75 Ga, with few inherited components at 2.92 Ga. They point to a later activation of the MGB, perhaps related with tectono-thermal events in the Rooiwater Complex and the Pietersburg Greenstone Belt. The relatively cold apparent geotherms recorded in the Silwana and La France rocks, the contrasted peak P-T conditions between the different units, and the near isothermal decompression of the La France Formation indicate that the Kaapvaal craton crust must have been cold enough to enable significant crustal thickening and strain localisation along narrow shear zones and, as a consequence, fast tectonic juxtaposition of rocks metamorphosed at different crustal depths. These features are similar to those observed along Palaeozoic or modern day, oblique subduction-collision zones, but different to those of hot Archaean provinces. We therefore interpret the MGB as representing part of an oblique collision-zone between two terrains of the Kaapvaal craton: the Witwatersrand and Pietersburg terrains.
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Sylvain Block, Jean-François Moyen, Armin Zeh, Marc Poujol, Justine Jaguin, et al.. The Murchison Greenstone Belt, South Africa: Accreted slivers with contrasting metamorphic conditions. Precambrian Research, Elsevier, 2013, 227 (April 2013), pp.77-98. ⟨10.1016/j.precamres.2012.03.005⟩. ⟨hal-00691575⟩

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