Interested in the Harquail School of Earth Sciences?

Fill out this form and we will contact you with details about our programs!

Learn More!

Publication Type:

Journal Article


Precambrian Research, p.106204 (2021)






Archean superior craton, Extensional basin, KOMATIITE, peperite, Pontiac Subprovince, Synsedimentary volcanism


New field observations from the Pontiac subprovince, Superior Province, supported by whole-rock geochemistry provide strong evidence for extensional magmatism and volcanism during deposition of the ca. 2685 Ma Pontiac sediments. Contacts between basaltic and komatiitic volcanic rocks and sedimentary rocks are concordant and weakly deformed, inconsistent with an allochthonous emplacement model proposed for volcanic successions in the Pontiac subprovince. Structural observations and aeromagnetic imagery show that the volcanic rocks are present as thin (<500 m), laterally continuous (>30 km) conformable successions within the turbiditic succession and were emplaced prior to the earliest deformation of the Pontiac subprovince. Sediment-matrix breccias with fluidal and blocky igneous clasts identical to the compositions of the mafic–ultramafic rocks occur along intrusive contacts with Pontiac Group wacke. These textures are interpreted as peperite, representing the interaction of magma or lava with wet, unconsolidated sediment. Peperite was observed along the margins of tholeiitic-komatiitic rocks and calc-alkaline lamprophyre intrusions, indicating that these magmas were broadly synchronous with the deposition of the Pontiac sediments. The volcanic rocks are characterized as tholeiitic basalt and Al-depleted to Al-undepleted komatiite, have high Nb/Th, flat to positive light rare earth element (REE) slopes, and flat heavy REE slopes, consistent with partial melting of a mantle plume. The calc-alkaline lamprophyre intrusions have low Nb/Th and prominent negative light and heavy REE slopes, consistent with partial melting of a previously metasomatised mantle. The presence of autochthonous komatiitic and tholeiitic rocks is consistent with the Pontiac subprovince developing as an extensional basin within the Abitibi subprovince in response to an upwelling mantle plume ca. 2.7 Ga. This model is incompatible with uniformitarian evolutionary models for the Superior craton interpreting the sedimentary subprovinces as accretionary prisms that formed during subduction processes. Non-uniformitarian models invoking stagnant-lid tectonics predict the formation of extensional basins and ascent of depleted mantle-derived magmas associated with upwelling mantle plumes, but the ability to produce source-metasomatism magmas without subduction is highly contested. The evolution of the Pontiac basin may thus reflect a transitional period in the Neoarchean where stagnant-lid and proto-subduction styles of tectonism were operating intermittently.