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Type: Journal article
Title: High grade metamorphism of sedimentary rocks during palaeozoic rift basin formation in Central Australia
Author: Maidment, D.
Hand, M.
Williams, I.
Citation: Gondwana Research, 2013; 24(3-4):865-885
Publisher: Int Assoc Gondwana Research
Issue Date: 2013
ISSN: 1342-937X
Statement of
D.W. Maidment, M. Hand, I.S. Williams
Abstract: Exhumation of middle and lower crustal rocks during the 450–320 Ma intraplate Alice Springs Orogeny in central Australia provides an opportunity to examine the deep burial of sedimentary successions leading to regional high-grade metamorphism. SIMS zircon U–Pb geochronology shows that high-grade metasedimentary units recording lower crustal pressures share a depositional history with unmetamorphosed sedimentary successions in surrounding sedimentary basins. These surrounding basins constitute parts of a large and formerly contiguous intraplate basin that covered much of Neoproterozoic to early Palaeozoic Australia. Within the highly metamorphosed Harts Range Group, metamorphic zircon growth at 480–460 Ma records mid-to-lower crustal (~ 0.9–1.0 GPa) metamorphism. Similarities in detrital zircon age spectra between the Harts Range Group and Late Neoproterozoic–Cambrian sequences in the surrounding Amadeus and Georgina basins imply that the Harts Range Group is a highly metamorphosed equivalent of the same successions. Maximum depositional ages for parts of the Harts Range Group are as low as ~ 520–500 Ma indicating that burial to depths approaching 30 km occurred ~ 20–40 Ma after deposition. Palaeogeographic reconstructions based on well-preserved sedimentary records indicate that throughout the Cambro–Ordovician central Australia was covered by a shallow, gently subsiding epicratonic marine basin, and provide a context for the deep burial of the Harts Range Group. Sedimentation and burial coincided with voluminous mafic magmatism that is absent from the surrounding unmetamorphosed basinal successions, suggesting that the Harts Range Group accumulated in a localised sub-basin associated with sufficient lithospheric extension to generate mantle partial melting. The presently preserved axial extent of this sub-basin is > 200 km. Its width has been modified by subsequent shortening associated with the Alice Springs Orogeny, but must have been > 80 km. Seismic reflection data suggest that the Harts Range Group is preserved within an inverted crustal-scale half graben structure, lending further support to the notion that it accumulated in a discrete sub-basin. Based on palaeogeographic constraints we suggest that burial of the Harts Range Group to lower crustal depths occurred primarily via sediment loading in an exceptionally deep Late Cambrian to Early Ordovician intraplate rift basin. High-temperature Ordovician deformation within the Harts Range Group formed a regional low angle foliation associated with ongoing mafic magmatism that was coeval with deepening of the overlying marine basin, suggesting that metamorphism of the Harts Range Group was associated with ongoing extension. The resulting lower crustal metamorphic terrain is therefore interpreted to represent high-temperature deformation in the lower levels of a deep sedimentary basin during continued basin development. If this model is correct, it indicates that regional-scale moderate- to high-pressure metamorphism of supracrustal rocks need not necessarily reflect compressional thickening of the crust, an assumption commonly made in studies of many metamorphic terrains that lack a palaeogeographic context.
Keywords: Central Australia
Rift basin
Detrital zircon
Rights: © 2013 International Association for Gondwana Research.
DOI: 10.1016/
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Earth and Environmental Sciences publications

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