Magnetotelluric response and geoelectric structure of the Great Slave Lake shear zone

Xianghong Wu*, Ian J. Ferguson, Alan G. Jones

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

38 Citations (Scopus)


The Great Slave Lake shear zone (GSLsz) is a northeast-trending 25-km-wide dextral continental transform fault from the foothills of the Rocky Mountains in northeast British Columbia to the southeast side of Great Slave Lake. Based on its magnetic expression the GSLsz can be correlated for at least 1300 km, mostly in the subsurface. Magnetotelluric (MT) soundings were made at 60 sites in the soutwest part of the Northwest Territories, Canada, along the LITHOPROBE Slave-Northern Cordillera Lithospheric Evolution (SNORCLE) Transect Corridors 1 and 1A, in the Summer and Autumn of 1996. Of these, 15 sites were along Corridor 1A which crossed the GSLsz, the Great Bear magmatic arc and Hay River terrane to the northwest of the shear zone, and the Buffalo Head terrane to the southeast. The primary objective of the Corridor 1A deployments was to image the structure of the GSLsz. Analysis of MT data indicates that along the Corridor 1A the resistivity structure is approximately 1D at shallow depth ( < 1 km) corresponding to Phanerozoic sedimentary rocks, 2D in the upper to mid crust with a strike ~ N30°E, and approximately 2D in the lower crust to lithospheric mantle with a strike of ~ N60°E. The direction in the upper crust is interpreted to represent the local-scale ( < 50 km) horizontal strike of the GSLsz whereas the direction in the mantle is parallel to the larger-scale strike of the GSLsz. 2D inversions of the MT data reveal that the GSLsz forms a crustal-scale resistive zone ( > 5000 Ωm) that is spatially correlated with a magnetic low. The GSLsz comprises greenschist to granulite facies mylonites. Its high resistivity is interpreted to be due to the resistive nature of the granitic protolith of the mylonites and that mylonites are dominated by rocks deformed in the ductile regime. To the northwest of GSLsz the MT profile reveals crustal conductors beneath the Great Bear magmatic arc and Hay River terrane. The enhanced conductivity occurring beneath the Great Bear magmatic arc is interpreted to be caused by electronic conduction within deformed and metamorphosed rocks of the Hottah terrane or the Coronation Supergroup. The MT results also reveal a mantle conductor beneath the margin of the Hottah terrane and Great Bear magmatic arc that is interpreted to be associated with the subduction of oceanic lithosphere. A second mantle conductor to the southeast is truncated at the GSLsz suggesting an older source for the enhanced conductivity and that the GSLsz includes significant strike-slip motion of sub-crustal lithosphere.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)35-50
Number of pages16
JournalEarth and Planetary Science Letters
Issue number1-2
Publication statusPublished - 2002
Externally publishedYes


  • Great Slave Lake
  • Lithosphere
  • Paleoproterozoic
  • Rae Province
  • Shear zones


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