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Paleozoic tectonics of the southern Chinese Tianshan: Insights from structural, chronological and geochemical studies of the Heiyingshan ophiolitic mélange (NW China)

Abstract : In the southern Chinese Tianshan, the southernmost part of the Central Asian Orogenic Belt (CAOB), widespread ophiolitic mélanges form distinct tectonic units that are crucial for understanding the formation of the CAOB. However, the timing of tectonic events and subduction polarity are still in controversy. In order to better understand these geological problems, a comprehensive study was conducted on the Heiyingshan ophiolitic mélange in the SW Chinese Tianshan. Detailed structural analysis reveals that the ophiolitic mélange is tectonically underlain by sheared and weakly metamorphosed pre-Middle Devonian rocks, and unconformably overlain by non-metamorphic and undeformed lower Carboniferous (Serpukhovian) to Permian strata. The igneous assemblage of the mélange comprises OIB-like alkali basalt and andesite, N-MORB-like tholeiitic basalt, sheeted diabase dikes, cumulate gabbro and peridotite. Mafic rocks display supra-subduction signatures, and some bear evidence of contamination with the continental crust, suggesting a continental marginal (back-arc) basin setting. Zircons of a gabbro were dated at 392 ± 5 Ma by the U-Pb LA-ICP-MS method. Famennian-Visean radiolarian microfossils were found in the siliceous matrix of the ophiolitic mélange. Mylonitic phyllite which displays northward-directed kinematic evidence yielded muscovite 40Ar/39Ar plateau ages of 359 ± 2 Ma and 356 ± 2 Ma. These new data, combined with previously published results, suggest that the mafic protoliths originally formed in a back-arc basin in the Chinese southern Tianshan during the late Silurian to Middle Devonian and were subsequently incorporated into the ophiolitic mélange and thrust northward during the Late Devonian to early Carboniferous. Opening of the back-arc basin was probably induced by south-dipping subduction of the Paleo-Tianshan Ocean in the early Paleozoic, and the Central Tianshan block was rifted away from the Tarim block. Closure of the back-arc basin in the early Carboniferous formed the South Tianshan Suture Zone and re-amalgamated the two blocks.
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Bo Wang, Liangshu S. Shu, Michel Faure, Bor-Ming Jahn, Dominique Cluzel, et al.. Paleozoic tectonics of the southern Chinese Tianshan: Insights from structural, chronological and geochemical studies of the Heiyingshan ophiolitic mélange (NW China). Tectonophysics, Elsevier, 2011, 497 (1-4), pp.85-104. ⟨10.1016/j.tecto.2010.11.004⟩. ⟨insu-00536922⟩

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