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Chemistry of neogene basalts of British Columbia and the adjacent pacific ocean floor : a test of tectonic discrimination diagrams Erdman, Linda Ruth


Seventy-one samples of subalkaline and alkaline basalts from British Columbia and the adjacent Pacific seafloor were analyzed for 33 major, trace and rare earth elements using X-ray flourescence (XRF) and instrumental neutron activation analysis (INAA). These basalts are all less than 22 Ma in age and come from various magmatic belts, each with a distinct, well-known, tectonic setting; (1) Convergent margin (Garibaldi and Pemberton Belts), (2) Back-arc (Chilcotin Basalts), (3) Hotspot (Anahim Volcanic Belt), (4) Incipient rift (Stikine Volcanic Belt), (5) Arc-trench gap (Alert Bay Volcanic Belt) and (6) Ocean floor (Offshore basalts of the Juan de Fuca-Explorer Ridge Systems). Element abundances and ratios were plotted on eighteen diagrams that have been proposed to discriminate between tectonic settings on the basis of magma chemistry. Although eruption through continental crust has modified the abundances of Ba, Th, U, K and Sr, in most cases this did not affect the ability of the diagrams to distinguish tectonic setting. On most diagrams basalts from back-arc, hotspot, incipient rift and arc-trench gap settings plotted in the within plate basalt (WPB) field, but distinction between these different WPB settings could not be made. Two samples from the Masset Formation on the Queen Charlotte Islands, included with the Anahim Belt hotspot suite, were consistently classified as convergent margin. Samples from the ocean floor plotted in the N-MORB or E-MORB fields. Three convergent margin samples from the Pemberton Belt always plotted in the convergent margin field, but on most diagrams all eight samples from the Garibaldi Belt plotted in the WPB field because of their depletion in LIL elements. La is the only rare earth element obtained by INAA that is essential for identifying the tectonic environment of magma genesis. The ratio La/Nb, is an effective separator of within plate basalts (WPB), including E-MORB, (La/Nb less than 1.2) from convergent margin basalts (La/Nb greater than 2.0). N-MORB lie between the ratios 1.2 and 2.0. Th, Ta and Hf also obtained by INAA, are important discriminant elements. However, Nb and Zr, obtained by XRF analysis convey much of the same information. The ratio Nb/16 as an estimate of Ta and Zr/39 as an estimate for Hf produced acceptable results on diagrams that originally incorporated Ta and Hf. Effective discrimination can therefore usually be achieved using XRF elements alone. Convergent margin, within plate and ocean floor tectonic settings were best distinguished on Th-Hf/3-Ta, Ti-Zr-Y and Ti-Zr-Sr, Ti/Y vs. Nb/Y, Th/Yb vs. Ta/Yb, (Ba/La)CH vs. (La/Sm)CH and V vs. Ti/1000. Slightly less effective plots were MnO-Ti0₂-P₂0₅, La vs. Th, La vs. Nb and K₂0/Yb vs. Ta/Yb. On the other hand Ti0₂-K₂0-P₂0₅, MgO-Fe0*-Al₂0₃ and La vs. Ba provided little information concerning the tectonic setting of individual samples. Ti/Cr vs. Ni, Sm/Ce vs. Sr/Ce, Cr vs. Ce/Sr and Cr vs. Y diagrams were useful for distinguishing unfractionated convergent margin basalts from MORB plus WPB.

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