U–Pb Ages of Neoarchean Granitoids from the Black Hills, South Dakota, USA: Implications for Crustal Evolution in the Archean Wyoming Province

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Precambrian Research

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archean; crustal evolution; laurentia; wyoming province; black hills; zircon, U–Pb geochronology


Geochemistry | Geology | Tectonics and Structure


Zircons in basement rocks from the eastern Wyoming province (Black Hills, South Dakota, USA) have been analyzed by ion microprobe (SHRIMP) in order to determine precise ages of Archean tectonomagmatic events. In the northern Black Hills (NBH) near Nemo, Phanerozoic and Proterozoic (meta)sedimentary rocks are nonconformably underlain by Archean biotite–feldspar gneiss (BFG) and Little Elk gneissic granite (LEG), both of which intrude older schists. The Archean granitoid gneisses exhibit a pervasive NW–SE-trending fabric, whereas an earlier NE–SW-trending fabric occurs sporadically only in the BFG, which is intruded by the somewhat younger LEG. Zircon crystals obtained from the LEG and BFG exhibit double terminations, oscillatory zoning, and Th/U ratios of ∼0.6±0.3—thereby confirming a magmatic origin for both lithologies. In situ analysis of the most U–Pb concordant domains yields equivalent 207Pb/206Pb ages (upper intercept, U–Pb concordia) of 2559±6 and 2563±6 Ma (both ±2σ) for the LEG and BFG, respectively, which constrains a late Neoarchean age for sequential pulses of magmatism in the NBH. Unzoned (in BSE) patches of ∼2560 Ma zircon commonly truncate coeval zonation in the same crystals with no change in Th/U ratio, suggesting that deuteric, fluid-assisted recrystallization accompanied post-magmatic cooling. A xenocrystic core of magmatic zircon observed in one LEG zircon yields a concordant age of 2894±6 Ma (±2σ). This xenocryst represents the oldest crustal material reported thus far in the Black Hills. Whether this older zircon originated as unmelted residue of ∼2900 Ma crust that potentially underlies the Black Hills or as detritus derived from ∼2900 Ma crustal sources in the Wyoming province cannot be discerned. In the southern Black Hills (SBH), the peraluminous granite at Bear Mountain (BMG) of previously unknown age intrudes biotite–plagioclase schist. Zircon crystals from the BMG are highly metamict and altered, but locally preserve small domains suitable for in situ analysis. A U–Pb concordia upper intercept age of 2596±11 Ma (±2σ) obtained for zircon confirms both the late Neoarchean magmatic age of the BMG and a minimum age for the schist it intrudes. Taken together, these data indicate that the Neoarchean basement granitoids were emplaced at ∼2590–2600 Ma (SBH) and ∼2560 Ma (NBH), most likely in response to subduction associated with plate convergence (final assembly of supercontinent Kenorland?). In contrast, thin rims present on some LEG–BFG zircons exhibit strong U–Pb discordance, high common Pb, and low Th/U ratios—suggesting growth or modification under hydrothermal conditions, as previously suggested for similar zircons from SE Wyoming. The LEG–BFG zircon rims yield a nominal upper intercept date of ∼1940–2180 Ma, which may represent a composite of multiple rifting events known to have affected the Nemo area between ∼2480 and ∼1960 Ma. Together, these observations confirm the existence of a Paleoproterozoic rift margin along the easternmost Wyoming craton. Moreover, the ∼2480–1960 Ma time frame inferred for rifting in the Black Hills (Nemo area) corresponds closely to a ∼2450–2100 Ma time frame previously inferred for the fragmentation of supercontinent Kenorland.