Age and evolution of the deep continental root beneath the central Rae craton, northern Canada

Jingao Liu*, Amy J V Riches, D. Graham Pearson, Yan Luo, Bruce Kienlen, Bruce A. Kjarsgaard, Thomas Stachel, John P. Armstrong

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

27 Citations (Scopus)


Canada is host to at least six separate cratons that comprise a significant proportion of its crustal extent. Of these cratons, we possess knowledge of the cratonic lithospheric roots beneath only the Slave craton and, to a lesser extent, the Superior craton, despite the discovery of many new diamond-bearing kimberlites in Canada's North. Here we present the first age, composition and geothermal information for kimberlite-borne peridotite xenoliths from two localities within the central Rae craton: Pelly Bay and Repulse Bay. Our aim is to investigate the nature and evolution of the deep lithosphere in these regions and to examine how events recorded in the mantle may or may not correlate with the complex history of crustal evolution across the craton. Peridotite xenoliths are commonly altered by secondary processes including serpentinization, silicification and carbonation, which have variably affected the major element compositions. These secondary processes, as well as mantle metasomatism recorded in pristine silicate minerals, however, did not significantly modify the relative compositions of platinum-group elements (PGE) and Os isotope ratios in the majority of our samples from Pelly Bay and Repulse Bay, as indicated by the generally high absolute PGE concentrations and mantle-like melt-depleted PGE patterns. The observed PGE signatures are consistent with the low bulk Al2O3 contents (mostly lower than 2.5%) of the peridotites, as well as the compositions of the silicate and oxide minerals. Based on PGE patterns and Os model ages, the peridotites from both localities can be categorized into three age groups: Archean (3.0-2.6 Ga overall; 2.8-2.6 Ga for Pelly Bay and 3.0-2.7Ga for Repulse Bay), Paleoproterozoic (2.1-1.7 Ga), and "Recent" (<1Ga, with model ages similar to the ca. 546Ma kimberlite eruption age). The Archean group provides the first direct evidence of depleted Archean lithospheric mantle forming coevally with the overlying Archean crustal basement, indicating cratonization of the Rae during the Archean. The subtle difference in Os model ages between Pelly Bay and Repulse Bay coincides with the age difference between crustal basement rocks beneath these two areas, supporting the suggestion that the Rae craton was assembled by collision of separate two Archean blocks at 2.7-2.6 Ga. The Paleoproterozoic peridotites are interpreted to represent newly formed lithospheric mantle, most likely associated with regional-scale underplating during the 1.77-1.70Ga Kivalliq-Nueltin event via removal of the lower portion of Archean lithospheric mantle followed by replacement with juvenile Paleoproterozoic lithospheric mantle. The existence of multiple age clusters in the lithosphere at each locality is consistent with the observation of present-day seismic lithospheric discontinuities (Snyder et al., 2013, 2015) that indicate two or more layers of fossil lithospheric mantle fabric beneath this region. Our data define a shallow mantle lithosphere layer dominated by Archean depletion ages underlain by a layer of mixed Archean and Paleoproterozoic ages. This lithospheric mantle structure is probably a response to complex tectonic displacement of portions of the lithospheric mantle during Paleoproterozoic orogeny/underplating. The best equilibrated Archean and Paleoproterozoic peridotites at both Pelly Bay and Repulse Bay define a typical cratonic geotherm at the time of kimberlite eruption, with a ~200km thick lithospheric root extending well into the diamond stability field, in keeping with the diamondiferous nature of the kimberlites. Such thick lithosphere remains in place to the present day as suggested by seismic and magnetotelluric studies (Snyder et al., 2013, 2015; Spratt et al., 2014). The metasomatically disturbed peridotites in the Rae lithospheric mantle, yielding model ages indistinguishable from kimberlite eruption, may represent parts of the Rae craton mantle root that show anomalous magnetotelluric signatures.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)168-184
Number of pages17
JournalPrecambrian Research
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2016
Externally publishedYes


  • Mantle metasomatism
  • Osmium isotopes
  • Peridotite
  • Platinum group elements (PGE)
  • Rae craton
  • Tectonics


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