Fault gouge analyses: K-Ar illite dating, clay mineralogy and tectonic significance-a study from the Sierras Pampeanas, Argentina

Bense, Frithjof; Wemmer, Klaus; Löbens, Stefan; Siegesmund, Siegfried
January 2014
International Journal of Earth Sciences;Jan2014, Vol. 103 Issue 1, p189
Academic Journal
We introduce a method for the detailed interpretation of K-Ar illite fine-fraction ages of fault gouges from non-sedimentary host rocks. Ages are cross-evaluated with several independent parameters, e.g. illite crystallinity, illite polytype quantification, grain size, mineralogical observations, K-Ar muscovite and biotite host-rock cooling ages as well as low-temperature thermochronological data (AFT, AHe, ZHe). This interpretation approach is applied to a regional study in order to constrain the 'deformation path' of the Eastern Sierras Pampeanas in NW Argentina. In the course of this study, a large number of gouge-bearing fault zones were systematically sampled and analysed. Obtained K-Ar illite fine-fraction ages range from Devonian to Cretaceous times, documenting a long-lasting brittle fault activity in this region. Ages >320 Ma are synchronous with a period of intra-Carboniferous compressional tectonism, whereas Permo-Triassic ages are contemporaneous to a flat-slab subduction episode of the Farallon plate beneath the South American plate. Middle to Late Permian and Early Triassic ages as well as Early Jurassic to Middle Cretaceous ages correlate with extensional tectonics in this region. Additionally, K-Ar illite ages reveal a propagation of brittle deformation from north to south in the Sierras de Córdoba and San Luis. Data integrity and consistency with other chronometers and geological evidence show that the here suggested interpretation is valid and can provide a powerful tool to evaluate cooling and deformation histories. Despite of that, we could show that the reliability of fault gouge data strongly depends on the regional cooling.


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