A geochemical and geothermometric study of the Nahlin ophiolite, northwestern British Columbia




McGoldrick, Siobhan S.G.

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The Nahlin ophiolite represents one of the largest (~80 km long) and best-preserved ophiolites in the Cordillera of British Columbia and Yukon, Canada, yet it has been understudied compared to other ophiolites worldwide. Bedrock mapping at 1:20,000 scale in the Menatatuline Range area shows that the ophiolite is structurally disrupted with mantle bodies divisible into two massifs: Hardluck and Menatatuline. Studies of 30 samples show that both massifs consist of spinel harzburgites and minor lherzolites that have been strongly depleted by melt extraction (<2 wt % Al2O3 and ~45 wt % MgO). Clinopyroxene REE abundances determined by LA-ICP-MS illustrate different extents of depletion between the two massifs, with YbN varying from 2.3 – 5.0 and 1.7 – 2.2 in the Hardluck and Menatatuline massifs, respectively. Inversion modelling of the clinopyroxene REE abundances yields ~10 – 16% melting in the Hardluck massif and ~16 – 20% melting in the Menatatuline massif, with melt compositions that are compositionally similar to the gabbros and basalts proximal to the mantle rocks. All these extrusive and intrusive rocks in the ophiolite have an arc-signature, implying that the Nahlin ophiolite formed in a supra-subduction zone (SSZ) environment. The Nahlin peridotites document a two-stage evolution: depletion of a locally heterogeneous mantle source by hydrous fractional melting, followed by refertilization of the refractory harzburgite in the mantle wedge evidenced by LREE enrichment in clinopyroxene and whole-rock chemistry. This two-stage evolution is also recorded by the thermal history of the harzburgites. The REE-in-two-pyroxene thermometry has been reset following cryptic and modal metasomatism and relatively slow cooling, whereas major element two pyroxene geothermometry records temperatures varying from near solidus (~1290 °C) to ~800 °C, with the highest temperatures recorded in samples from the Menatatuline massif. The refractory nature of the Menatatuline harzburgites in combination with the arc-influenced volcanic geochemistry provides overwhelming evidence for a SSZ origin. Peridotite from the Hardluck massif displays characteristics of both abyssal and SSZ peridotites. These geochemical and geothermometric constraints can be reconciled by evolution of the Hardluck and Menatatuline massifs as two separate segments along a backarc ridge system, later juxtaposed by dextral strike-slip faulting. Alternatively, the Nahlin ophiolite may represent proto-forearc seafloor spreading associated with subduction initiation akin to the proposed origins of the Izu-Bonin-Mariana arc (Stern et al. 2012; Maffione et al. 2015). In any case, the geochemical data for peridotites and magmatic rocks herein require that the SSZ-type Nahlin ophiolite reside in the upper plate at an intraoceanic convergent margin. This interpretation has strong implications for models of northern Cordilleran tectonics, where the Cache Creek terrane is typically shown as a subducting ocean basin during Cordilleran orogenesis.



ophiolite, Cache Creek terrane, Nahlin fault, volcanic geochemistry, geothermometry, peridotite, harzburgite, supra-subduction zone ophiolite