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Publication Type:

Journal Article


Precambrian Research, Volume 364, p.106339 (2021)






Neoarchean subduction, plate tectonics, Sturgeon Lake greenstone belt, Western Wabigoon terrane, Winnipeg River terrane


The Neoarchean is considered as a pivotal era during the Earth’s evolution in terms of cratonization and development of plate tectonics. The supporting crustal processes, however, remain elusive due in part to limited comprehensive imaging of crustal structures underlying Neoarchean terranes. This study uses new seismic, magnetotelluric, and geologic data from the Metal Earth Sturgeon transect (70 km) and existing seismic and aeromagnetic data to investigate the Neoarchean crustal architecture underlying the greenstone-dominated western Wabigoon terrane (WWT) and the tonalite-trondhjemite-granodiorite-dominated Winnipeg River terrane (WRT) of the Superior craton. The results suggest that (1) the Sturgeon Lake greenstone belt of the WWT is 5–10 km thick and separated by a thrust fault from the underlying basement, (2) the basement is characterized by gneissic fabrics from the mid- to lower-crust of probable Paleo to Mesoarchean WRT rocks, and that (3) the crust was extensively reworked by Neoarchean post-tectonic magmatism that was characterized by carbon- and/or hydrogen-rich silicates and likely caused by partial melting of mantle/crustal rocks triggered by subduction-related fluids/melts. With the reprocessed Lithoprobe seismic data from the same region, a 3D crustal architecture is reconstructed and reveals a convergent belt between the main WRT to the north and a continental margin promontory of the WRT to the south. This Neoarchean convergent belt is characterized by an allochthonous greenstone belt as a thrust sheet in the upper crust, a collision zone in the mid- to lower-crust, an apparent crustal root of 3–5 km relief, and subcreted crustal rocks beneath a mantle wedge. Published data suggest that an outboard, north-dipping subduction zone associated with the Wawa terrane provided the fluids/melts for the post-tectonic magmatism in the WRT-WWT crust. This study favors a model of subduction followed by collision over a collision-only model, which indicates that multiple subduction zones were operative synchronously in a periodduring the assembly of the western Superior craton. Cratonization by accretionary orogenesis due to plate tectonics in the Neoarchean, therefore, is imaged and characterized in this study using a 3D crustal architecture.