Craton destruction and related resources

Rixiang Zhu*, Hongfu Zhang, Guang Zhu, Qingren Meng, Hongrui Fan, Jinhui Yang, Fuyuan Wu, Zhiyong Zhang, Tianyu Zheng

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

115 Citations (Scopus)


Craton destruction is a dynamic event that plays an important role in Earth’s evolution. Based on comprehensive observations of many studies on the North China Craton (NCC) and correlations with the evolution histories of other cratons around the world, craton destruction has be defined as a geological process that results in the total loss of craton stability due to changes in the physical and chemical properties of the involved craton. The mechanisms responsible for craton destruction would be as the follows: (1) oceanic plate subduction; (2) rollback and retreat of a subducting oceanic plate; (3) stagnation and dehydration of a subducting plate in the mantle transition zone; (4) melting of the mantle above the mantle transition zone caused by dehydration of a stagnant slab; (5) non-steady flow in the upper mantle induced by melting, and/or (6) changes in the nature of the lithospheric mantle and consequent craton destruction caused by non-steady flow. Oceanic plate subduction itself does not result in craton destruction. For the NCC, it is documented that westward subduction of the paleo-Pacific plate should have initiated at the transition from the Middle-to-Late Jurassic, and resulted in the change of tectonic regime of eastern China. We propose that subduction, rollback and retreat of oceanic plates and dehydration of stagnant slabs are the main dynamic factors responsible for both craton destruction and concentration of mineral deposits, such as gold, in the overriding continental plate. Based on global distribution of gold deposits, we suggest that convergent plate margins are the most important setting for large gold concentrations. Therefore, decratonic gold deposits appear to occur preferentially in regions with oceanic subduction and overlying continental lithospheric destruction/modification/growth.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2233–2257
Number of pages25
JournalInternational Journal of Earth Sciences
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2017
Externally publishedYes


  • craton destruction
  • North China craton
  • subduction of oceanic plates
  • rollback and retreat of oceanic plates
  • dehydration of stagnant slabs
  • gold deposit


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