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Keywords:

  • Apatite (U-Th)/He thermochronometry;
  • kimberlites;
  • Slave craton;
  • dynamic topography

Abstract

[1] New apatite (U-Th)/He (AHe) thermochronometry data and key geologic constraints from Slave craton kimberlites are used to develop a model for the Phanerozoic burial, unroofing, and hypsometric history of the northwestern Canadian shield. AHe dates range from 210 ± 13 to 382 ± 79 Ma, are older in the eastern Slave craton and decrease westward, and resolve the spatial extent, thickness, and history of now-denuded sedimentary units. Results indicate Paleozoic heating to temperatures ≥85–90°C, suggesting regional burial beneath ≥2.8 km of strata while the region was at sea level, followed by the westward migration of unroofing across the craton. This Paleozoic-Mesozoic history does not correlate with sea level change, instead requiring Paleozoic subsidence of the craton followed by surface uplift. The AHe data restrict Cretaceous burial to ≤1.6 km, followed by unroofing, Eocene terrestrial sediment deposition, and removal of Phanerozoic sedimentary cover across the region by present day. The craton underwent ≥300 m of post-100 Ma elevation gain, based on ~100 Ma marine sedimentary xenoliths entrained in ~75–45 Ma kimberlites at modern elevations of 550–600 m. The transition from Paleozoic-Mesozoic subsidence to surface uplift may signal a change from predominantly northern (Franklinian-Innuitian) to western (Canadian Cordillera) plate boundary controls on continental interior processes, with the latter driving the east-to-west wave of unroofing. Canadian Cordillera evolution also affected the Cretaceous-early Tertiary history. Dynamic topography due to changing mantle flow regimes and proximity to sediment sources influenced the Phanerozoic surface evolution of the northwestern Canadian shield.