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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Tectonic significance of the Atnarko complex, Coast Mountains, British Columbia Israel, Steve A.


The Atnarko complex located in west-central British Columbia comprises pre-Early Jurassic metavolcanic and metasedimentary rocks, termed the Atnarko assemblage, which is structurally interleaved with Late Triassic to Early Cretaceous orthogneiss. The Atnarko assemblage correlates with continental margin assemblages found within the Coast plutonic complex. Tectonic interaction between the Insular and Intermontane superterranes resulted in several phases of deformation including; 1) poorly preserved Jurassic deformation, 2) Early to mid-Cretaceous, southwest to west directed, compression, 3) mid-Cretaceous, north to northeast directed, compression, 4) mid- to Late Cretaceous dextral and sinistral ductile/brittle shearing, and 5) post latest Cretaceous brittle faulting. Peak metamorphism coincides with generation of migmatite in the Early Cretaceous (~117-115 Ma) and is contemporaneous with penetrative ductile fabrics. The Atnarko complex had cooled below 350°C by the Late. Comparison of the Atnarko complex to equivalent portions of the orogen along strike, indicates a post mid-Cretaceous change in structural style. To the northwest the orogen records continued southwest-directed compression which dominates the deformation style; while to the southeast large dextral strike-slip faults dominate. Relative plate motions between ca. 70-60 Ma indicate that dextral transpression occurred between the Kula and North American plates. Strain during this transpressive deformation was partitioned into compressive and translational regions. The Atnarko complex area is situated at the transition between translation and compression. The conditions of the lower and middle crust within the orogen were established by how strain was partitioned across the orogen. The distributed strain also shaped how the orogen responded to Tertiary extension. Continued compression to the northwest of the Atnarko complex led to increased crustal thickness and partial melting of lower and middle crust in the Tertiary. Conversely, the cessation of compression in the southeast lead to a more stable (i.e. cooler) crustal lithosphere. A change in relative plate motions in the early Tertiary triggered full-scale, orogen-perpendicular, collapse in the northwest facilitated by decoupling between the middle and lower crusts along thermally weakened layers. Localized orogen-parallel extension occurred in the southeast which was kinematically linked to large dextral strike-slip faults where the upper crust remained coupled to the middle and lower crust.

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