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Tectonic accretion and underplating of mafic terranes in the Late Eocene intraoceanic fore-arc of New Caledonia (Southwest Pacific): geodynamic implications

Abstract : This paper deals with the tectonic events that result in the accretion of mafic terranes in the fore-arc region and a close juxtaposition of ultramafic rocks, low grade and high-grade mafic terranes in many collisional orogens. The example is taken from New Caledonia where tectonic accretion, subduction, underplating and obduction of mafic terranes took place during the late Eocene in an intra-oceanic forearc setting. The late Eocene tectonic complex comprised three major terranes: an overlying ultramafic, mainly harzburgitic allochthon named the Ophiolitic Nappe, an intermediate mafic, mainly basaltic off-scraped melange, composed of kilometre-scale slices of oceanic upper crust, called the Poya Terrane, parts of which have been metamorphosed into an eclogite/blueschist facies complex, the Pouebo Terrane; and a lower, continental basement formed by the Norkolk Ridge terranes. Based upon exhaustive sampling of the mafic terranes and field surveys, our tectonic, micropaleontologic and geochemical data reveal that Poya and Pouebo terranes rocks originally formed within one single Campanian to late Paleocene oceanic basin, floored by tholeiitic basalt associated with some minor seamount-related intraplate alkali basalt. The tholeiitic basalt displays a continuous range of compositions spanning between “undepleted” and “depleted” end-members; the former being volumetrically predominant. The overall geochemical and isotopic features indicate an origin from a prominently heterogeneous mantle source during the opening of a marginal basin, the South Loyalty Basin, which almost completely disappeared during Eocene convergence. The opening of this basin originally located to the east of the Norfolk Ridge was synchronous with that of Tasman Sea basin as a consequence of oceanward migration of the west-dipping Pacific subduction zone. Establishing the origin of the ultramafic Ophiolitic Nappe is beyond the scope of this paper; however, it appears to be genetically unrelated to the mafic Poya and Pouebo terranes. Although it was located in the Late Eocene fore-arc, the Ophiolitic Nappe and the corresponding oceanic lithosphere originated before the Late Cretaceous, to the east of the South Loyalty Basin in a back-arc setting; or alternatively in a much older, trapped basin. For reasons that remain unclear, a new east-dipping subduction started in the Eocene and consumed most of the South Loyalty Basin, forming the intra-oceanic Loyalty Arc. Due to a changing subduction regime (underplating of the Diahot Terrane?), the mafic slices that now form the Poya Terrane were tectonically accreted in the Loyalty fore-arc region and remained under low pressure-low temperature conditions (possibly at the subsurface) until the Norfolk Ridge reached the subduction zone diachronously. This resulted in the final obduction of the fore-arc area. The two-step obduction involved first the mafic complex forming the Poya Terrane and thereafter the lithospheric mantle that now forms the Ophiolitic Nappe. In contrast, pieces of the accretionnary complex were dragged down into the subduction zone, underplated at depth ca. 70 km and metamorphosed into high-temperature eclogite to form the Pouebo Terrane metamorphics that display the same geochemical features as the Poya Terrane basalt. A mid-to-late Eocene syntectonic piggy-back sedimentary basin (the Nepoui flysch basin) mainly filled with mafic clastic material and shallow water carbonates that record the progressive uplift of the fore-arc region due to the accretion and underplating of mafic ocean-related and other material. In contrast, a slightly younger foreland basin located upon the Norfolk Ridge (the Priabonian Bourail Flysch basin) received a massive input of detrital material derived from the Norfolk Ridge itself and a time-increasing amount of mafic, Poya-derived material that recorded the first step of obduction. Thereafter, the Bourail Flysch was overthrust by the Poya Terrane and finally by the Ophiolitic Nappe. At the same time, buoyancy-driven uplift and exhumation of the high-pressure metamorphic complex occurred as a consequence of the diachronous blocking of the subduction zone. Finally, for a short time a new subduction started along the west coast of New Caledonia and generated small amounts of active margin-related magmas. These events have resulted in the close juxtaposition of unmetamorphosed and highly metamorphosed mafic and ultramafic terranes that may represent a good pre-collision analogue of mafic/ultramafic belts found in many collisional mountain ranges.
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Dominique Cluzel, Jonathan C. Aitchison, Christian Picard. Tectonic accretion and underplating of mafic terranes in the Late Eocene intraoceanic fore-arc of New Caledonia (Southwest Pacific): geodynamic implications. Tectonophysics, Elsevier, 2001, 340, pp.1-2, 23-60. ⟨10.1016/S0040-1951(01)00148-2⟩. ⟨hal-00089721⟩

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