Late Archaean superplume events: A Kaapvaal-Pilbara perspective

P. G. Eriksson*, K. C. Condie, W. Van Der Westhuizen, R. Van Der Merwe, H. De Bruiyn, D. R. Nelson, W. Altermann, O. Catuneanu, A. J. Bumby, J. Lindsay, M. J. Cunningham

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

65 Citations (Scopus)


The 2714-2709 Ma Ventersdorp Supergroup overlies Mesoarchaen basement rocks and sedimentary strata of the Neoarchaean Witwatersrand Supergroup. The latter basin was inverted by tectonic shortening and suffered the loss of up to 1.5 km of stratigraphy prior to deposition of the Ventersdorp volcanics. Thermal uplift and fluvial incision prior to the basal Klipriviersberg Group flood basalts appear to have been limited, but this could also reflect a hot dry palaeoclimate acting on a peneplained plateau. Rapid ascent of ponded magma beneath thinned sub-Witwaterstrand lithosphere, transported laterally from a mantle plume starting head possibly situated marginally to the Kaapvaal craton is inferred for this unit of up to 2 km of predominantly tholeiitic basalts with subordinate, basal komatiites. Crustal extension related to ascent of the ponded magma followed, leading to the formation of a set of graben and half-graben basins, in which immature clastic sedimentary, and felsic to mafic lavas and pyroclastics of the Platberg Group were laid down. The Platberg basins show no evidence for reactivation of pre-existing crustal structures. The Fortescue Group of the Pilbara craton has an analogous lower flood basaltic succession, followed by graben-fills similar to those of the Platberg Group. Differences in the Fortescue include evidence for significant thermal uplift prior to the onset of volcanism, subaqueous basalts in the south of the Pilbara craton, evidence for two episodes of flood basaltic volcanism, possibly related to two plumes at c. 2765 and 2715 Ma, and graben basins aligned along existing cratonic structures. Both Kaapvaal and Pilbara flood basalts and graben-related sedimentary-volcanic deposits are thought to have been part of a c. 2.7 Ga global superplume event. The plume inferred for the Fortescue Group flood basalts was probably related to rifting and the breakup of a plate larger than the preserved Pilbara craton. Uppermost Ventersdorp units (Bothaville Formation terrestrial clastic and Allanridge Formation tholeiitic rocks) suggest a combination of thermal subsidence, allied to continued plume (minor komatiites) and graben basin influences. In the Kaapvaal craton, the Transvaal Supergroup lies unconformably above the Ventersdorp. Basal "protobasinal" successions reflect discrete fault-bounded basin-fills, analogous to those of the Platberg Group; however, it is inferred that the former depositories were related to craton marginal plate tectonic influences, specifically the c. 2.6 Ga Limpopo orogeny. Thin fluvial sheet sandstones of the Black Reef Formation unconformably succeed the protobasinal rocks and reflect the transition to an epeiric drowning of much of the Kaapvaal craton. A shallow shelf carbonate-banded iron formation platform succession (Chuniespoort-Ghaap Groups) developed in two sub-basins on the Kaapvaal craton. They are mirrored by the approximately coeval Hamersley chemical epeiric sediments on the Pilbara craton, and both Kaapvaal and Pilbara transgressive successions are related here to a possible second, c. 2.5 Ga superplume event, which raised sea levels globally. Evidence for the younger superplume event is less clear than for the c. 2.7 Ga event.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)207-247
Number of pages41
JournalJournal of Geodynamics
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2002
Externally publishedYes


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