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Sulfur- and oxygen-isotope constraints on the sedimentary history of apparent conglomerates from the Nuvvuagittuq Greenstone Belt (Nunavik, Québec)

Abstract : Mafic igneous rocks of the Nuvvuagittuq Greenstone Belt (NGB) crystallized before 3.8 Ga and possibly as early as 4.3 Ga, potentially making the belt the oldest known supracrustal sequence on Earth. However, detrital zircons from a rare quartz-biotite schist in the NGB yield significantly younger ages of ≈3.77 Ga or less. These appear to be inconsistent with the ages of the mafic igneous rocks, as the quartz-biotite schist has been interpreted as a metaconglomerate, formed by the dismantling of preexisting lithologies. In order to assess this genetic interpretation, we performed a sulfur and oxygen isotope study of the quartz-biotite schist. Sulfide grains found in quartz clasts and the matrix show significant mass-independent fractionation of sulfur isotopes (+0.2‰≤Δ33S‰≤+1.0‰; mean Δ33S=+0.5±0.1‰). Secondary sulfides from crosscutting veins do not show mass-independent fractionation of sulfur isotopes (-0.1‰≤Δ33S≤+0.3‰; mean Δ33S=+0.1±0.1‰). Oxygen isotope compositions of quartz from clasts, matrix and a fine-grained lens are highly enriched in 18O (16.9‰≤δ18O≤26.7‰). Non-zero Δ33S values indicate a surficial origin for sulfur, probably the Eoarchean atmosphere, while high δ18O values suggest a low-temperature (65±18 °C) origin for the quartz, likely as chemical precipitation of a chert precursor from Si-saturated seawater. Therefore, the coupled S- and O-isotope measurements show that primary isotopic signatures characteristic of surficial environments survived the protracted metamorphic history of the NGB, and suggest that the quartz-biotite schist contains material that originated as chemical metasediments. The near mono-mineralic compositions of the clasts (quartz) and their shared 18O-enrichment suggest that they had a common protolith, which was deposited prior to the formation of the schist, and subsequently reworked. Whether the quartz-biotite schist represents a metaconglomerate or a structural melange, it preserves remnants of some of the oldest chemical sediments on Earth.
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Submitted on : Friday, March 25, 2022 - 9:10:53 AM
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y. Kitayama, E. Thomassot, J. O'Neil, B. A. Wing. Sulfur- and oxygen-isotope constraints on the sedimentary history of apparent conglomerates from the Nuvvuagittuq Greenstone Belt (Nunavik, Québec). EARTH AND PLANETARY SCIENCE LETTERS, 2012, 355, pp.271-282. ⟨10.1016/j.epsl.2012.08.026⟩. ⟨insu-03619303⟩

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