Tectonics, Timing and Economic Deposits in Papua New Guiea

Organization: The Australasian Institute of Mining and Metallurgy
Pages: 2
Publication Date: Jan 1, 1997
Forty two new apatite and zircon fission track analyses on the Kubor-Marum-Bena Bena area of northern Papua New Guinea severely constrain the timing of tectonic events and hence the tectonic models for New Guinea, particularly arc-continent collision. In addition, the data can be analysed regionally in terms of known and assumed lithospheric fault zones inferred to control mineralisation (eg. Corbett 1994; Kendrick et al 1995; Hill et al 1996) to determine reactivation of these zones. When combined with the new kinematic plate models for the evolution of New Guinea (Hall 1997) there is the potential to predict likely zones of mineralisation. The low-medium grade? Palaeozoic rocks of the Bena Bena terrane yielded a zircon fission track age of 17 Ma, indicating the time of cooling below 200¦C. The age is consistent with `the shift, at about 16-18 Ma, from volcanolithic sediments to mixed provenance sediments rich in quartz and metasedimentary lithic fragments in the southern Finisterre Ranges (Abbott et al. 1994). This shift was recorded in the Sukurum Formation, which ranges in age from Middle Miocene to Pliocene with quartzose and metasedimentary grains in all samples. Although recording rocks at temperatures of 200¦C and hence depths of ---5km, the 17 Ma age suggests the Bena Dena terrane was rapidly cooling at that time due to uplift and erosion, supplying metasediments to the southern flank of the Finisterre Range, currently 100 km to the east. Significantly, the Middle Miocene Akuna Intrusive Complex, dated 14-17 Ma by Page (1976), lies almost entirely within or adjacent to the Bena Bena terrane. Potentially the uplift, erosion and cooling of the terrane at 17 Ma may have been caused by the rising plutons. If so the 800 sq km exposure Akuna Intrusive Complex at the SE end of the Bena Bena terrane may have been the focus of uplift and supplied the metasedimentary detritus to the Finisterre Range. This suggests that the Finisterre Range was not far removed from the Bena Bena terrane, perhaps less than the 200 - 400 km indicated by Abbott et al (1984). The Akuna Intrusive Complex probably resulted from subduction of the Solomon Sea Plate beneath the PNG margin. In order for the subducted slab to reach depths of -100km below the area to facilitate partial melting and plutonism (Hamilton 1994), subduction probably commenced 3-5 Ma Ma before plutonism, ie at or prior to 20 Ma suggesting a significant change in the tectonic regime at -20 Ma, perhaps related to collision of the Solomons - Ontong Java Plateau collision (eg. Hall 1997). The main result to emerge from the 28 apatite fission track analyses is that the whole of the study area underwent rapid cooling due to uplift and denudation in the Late Miocene, mainly between 7-10 Ma. Results from several samples indicate that they were not totally overprinted prior to uplift indicating maximum burial of -3 km in the Middle Miocene, assuming normal temperature gradients. The burial is less if higher gradients are assumed, allowing for Middle Miocene plutonism. The Late Miocene cooling in the Mobile Belt agrees well with the Pliocene to Recent cooling in the Fold Belt to the SW, interpreted to be due to uplift and erosion associated with fold and thrust deformation of the Miocene Limestones (Hill & Gleadow 1989). This timing relationship suggests, that compressional deformation in the Mobile Belt occurred in the Late Miocene, at 105 Ma, and that the deformation migrated towards the undeformed foreland in the southwest in the Pliocene, at 5-2 Ma. The regional Late Miocene uplift and denudation in the Mobile Belt is also consistent with that postulated by Crowhurst et al (1996; 1997) for northwest PNG, although they considered the event to have occurred mainly from 8-5 Ma. If so, then the uplift and denudation may have been migrating from east to west as well as to the south into the Fold Belt. These timing relationships place significant constraints on tectonic models for the area, indicating that the major compressional pulse in PNG commenced in the northeast at -10 Ma and migrated to the southwest and west in the latest Miocene to Pliocene. This suggests that the initial arc-continent collision and associated shortening occurred in the Late Miocene around -10-12 Ma. This immediately followed intrusion and cooling of the Akuna Intrusive Complex at -17-14 Ma and the Bismarck Intrusive Complex at -12.5 Ma (Page 1976), indicating a linkage between the end of plutonism and the start of compressional deformation. The timing is consistent with the observation of Hamilton (1994) that in areas of subduction `the common regime in overriding plates is extensional and leading edges are crumpled only in collisions. This suggests that the Middle Miocene magmatism in northern New Guinea occurred during extension above a subducting slab and was terminated by Late Miocene arc collision and resultant compression commencing at -10-12 Ma. In general, these data indicate that the acme of denudation and cooling in the Mobile Belt was in the Late Miocene, with relatively little denudation there since. In contrast, Hill & Gleadow (1989) found that the peak of denudation in basement outcrops in the Fold Belt was in the Pliocene at -4 Ma. However, in this study some samples from the Mobile Belt yielded Pliocene ages or high
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