Evolution of a ~2.7Ga large igneous province: a volcanological, geochemical and geochronological study of the Agnew Greenstone Belt, and new regional correlations for the Kalgoorlie Terrane (Yilgarn Craton, Western Australia)

Patrick C Hayman, Nicolas Thebaud, Mark J Pawley, Stephen J Barnes, Ray A F Cas, Yuri Amelin, Jyotindra Sapkota, Richard J Squire, Ian H Campbell, Ian Pegg

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38 Citations (Scopus)


The thick package of ~2.7Ga mafic and ultramafic lavas and intrusions preserved among the Neoarchean of the Kalgoorlie Terrene in Western Australia provides valuable insight into geological processes controlling the most prodigious episode of growth and preservation of juvenile continental crust in Earth's history. Limited exposure of these rocks results in uncertainty about their age, physical and chemical characteristics, and stratigraphic relationships. This in turn prevents confident correlation of regional occurrences of mafic and ultramafic successions (both intrusive and extrusive) and hinders the interpretation of tectonic setting and magmatic evolution. A recent stratigraphic drilling program of the Neoarchean stratigraphy of the Agnew Greenstone Belt in Western Australia has provided continuous exposures through a c. 7km thick sequence of mafic and ultramafic units. In this study, we present a volcanological, lithogeochemical and chronological study of the Agnew Greenstone Belt, and provide the first pre-2690Ma regional correlation across the Kalgoorlie Terrane. The Agnew Greenstone Belt records ~30m.y. of episodic ultramafic-mafic magmatism that includes two cycles, each defined by a komatiite that is overlain by units that become more evolved and contaminated with time. The sequence is divided into nine conformable packages, each consisting of stacked subaqueous lava flows and comagmatic intrusions, as well as two sills without associated extrusions. Lavas, with the exception of intercalations between two units, form a layer-cake stratigraphy and were likely erupted from a system of fissures tapping the same magma source. The komatiites are not contaminated by continental crust ([La/Sm]PM~0.7) and are of the Al-undepleted Munro-type. Crustal contamination is evident in many units (Songvang Basalt, Never Can Tell Basalt, Redeemer Basalt, and Turrett Dolerite), as judged by [La/Sm]>1, negative Nb and Ti anomalies, and geochemical mixing trends towards felsic contaminants. Crystal fractionation was also significant, with early olivine and chromite (Mg#>65) followed by plagioclase and clinopyroxene removal (Mg<65), and in the most evolved case, titanomagnetite accumulation. Three new TIMS dates on granophyric zones of mafic sills and one ICP-MS date from an interflow felsic tuff are presented and used for regional stratigraphic correlation. Cycle I magmatism began at ~2720Ma and ended ~2705Ma, whereas cycle II began ~2705Ma and ended at 2690.7 ± 1.2Ma. Regional correlations indicate the western Kalgoorlie Terrane consists of a remarkably similar stratigraphy that can be recognised at Agnew, Ora Banda and Coolgardie, whereas the eastern part of the terrane (e.g., Kambalda Domain) does not include cycle I, but correlates well with cycle II. This research supports an autochthonous model of greenstone formation, in which one large igneous province, represented by two complete cycles, is constructed on sialic crust. New stratigraphic correlations for the Kalgoorlie Terrane indicate that many units can be traced over distances >100km, which has implications for exploration targeting for stratigraphically hosted ultramafic Ni and VMS deposits.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)334-368
Number of pages35
JournalPrecambrian Research
Publication statusPublished - 2015


  • Agnew Greenstone Belt
  • Archean volcanism
  • Basin architecture
  • Chronology
  • Kalgoorlie Terrane
  • Large igneous province

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