Glacially-influenced deep-marine sedimentation of the Late Precambrian Gaskiers Formation, Newfoundland, Canada


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    The term ‘diamictite’ is used throughout this paper to refer to lithified, poorly sorted mixtures of gravel clasts and matrix, regardless of depositional origin (see Eyles, Eyles & Miall, 1983). A wide variety of terms have been used previously for these deposits (e.g. ‘tillites’) as discussed later in the text.


The Late Proterozoic Conception Group, exposed on the Avalon Peninsula in Newfoundland, Canada, is a 4 km thick turbidite succession containing a conformable 300 m thick sequence of diamictites (the Gaskiers Formation) near the base. Massive and crudely-stratified diamictites form beds up to 25 m thick which have a tabular geometry with slightly erosive basal contacts and are interbedded with mudstones and fine-grained, thin-bedded turbidites. These diamictites are interpreted as submarine debris flow deposits. Disrupted diamictites form strongly deformed units that contain large, complexly folded rafts of mudstone and turbidite facies. These diamictite units are interpreted as submarine slumps. Diamictites contain glacially-striated and faceted clasts; clasts and matrix are predominantly of volcanic provenance. One outcrop shows interbedded volcanic agglomerate and diamictite, and volcanic bombs can also be identified.

The interbedding of diamictites with turbidites and the stratigraphic context provided by the thick sequences of turbidites below (Mall Bay Formation) and above (Drook Formation) indicate a deep marine slope setting of diamictite deposition. Diamictite facies record remobilization and downslope transfer of large volumes of unstable volcanic and glacial debris initially deposited in a shallower water marginal marine zone. The regional tectonic framework suggests the Conception Group accumulated in a deep, southward-opening ensialic rift basin with active but waning volcanic centres to the north.

The Gaskiers Formation may be representative of other Late Precambrian glacially-influenced diamictite sequences that were deposited around the North Atlantic region and in Europe. These deep marine diamictite sequences characterized by debris flows, turbidites, and slump deposits, can be contrasted with more extensive shallow marine shelf diamictite sequences found in association with dolomites and tidally influenced shallow water facies in other basinal settings.