Extensional detachment faulting and core-complex formation in the southern Barberton granite-greenstone terrain, South Africa: Evidence for a 3.2 Ga orogenic collapse

Kisters A.F.M. ; Stevens G. ; Dziggel A. ; Armstrong R.A. (2003)


The Barberton greenstone belt in South Africa is an Early- to Mid-Archaean, very low-grade metamorphic supracrustal belt that is bordered in the south by a mid- to lower crustal gneiss terrain. Detailed mapping of the contacts between the supracrustal and gneiss domains along the southern margin of the greenstone belt shows that the supracrustal rocks are separated from the high-grade metamorphic gneiss terrain by an extensional detachment that is situated at and close to the base of the belt. The extensional detachment is approximately 1-km wide and its location corresponds with the heterogeneous, mélange-like rocks of the Theespruit Formation. Within the detachment zone, two main strain regimes can be distinguished. Amphibolite-facies rocks at and below the granite-greenstone contacts are characterized by rodded gneisses and strongly lineated amphibolite-facies mylonites. The bulk constrictional deformation at these lower structural levels records, in a subhorizontal orientation, the vertical shortening and horizontal, NE-SW directed stretching of the mid-crustal rocks. The prolate, coaxial fabrics are overprinted by greenschist-facies mylonites at higher structural levels that cut progressively deeper into the underlying high-grade basement rocks. These mylonites have developed during non-coaxial strain and kinematic indicators consistently point to a top-to-the-NE sense of movement of the greenstone sequence with respect to the lower structural levels. This relationship between bulk coaxial NE-SW stretching of mid-crustal basement rocks and non-coaxial, top-to-the-NE shearing along retrograde mylonites at upper crustal levels is consistent with an extensional orogenic collapse of the belt and the concomittant exhumation of deeper crustal levels. The exhumation was initiated under amphibolite-facies conditions at depths of approximately 18 km. The extensional collapse is coeval with or shortly follows the main D2 collisional event in the Barberton greenstone belt at ca. 3230-3220 Ma. Voluminous plutonism at ca. 3225 Ma along the northern margin of the belt is possibly related to the orogenic collapse and associated decompression melting of lower crustal rocks. The extensional collapse coincides with the onset of the coarse-clastic Moodies Group sedimentation which suggests that the small, isolated Moodies basins formed as supradetachment basins in the collapsing hanging wall of the detachment. The steepening of lithologies and fabrics to their present-day vertical attitudes is ascribed to a late-stage solid-state diapiric component of the exhumed hot and buoyant basement gneisses that underlie the relatively cool and dense mafic and ultramafic supracrustal succession. © 2003 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.

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