Yarrol terrane of the northern New England Fold Belt: Forearc or backarc?

Bryan, S.E., Holcombe, R.J. and Fielding, C.R. (2001) Yarrol terrane of the northern New England Fold Belt: Forearc or backarc? Australian Journal of Earth Sciences, 48(2), pp. 293-316. ISSN (print) 0812-0099


The Upper Devonian to Lower Carboniferous volcanosedimentary rocks of the Yarrol terrane of the northern New England Fold Belt have previously been ascribed to a forearc basin setting. New data presented here, however, suggest that the Yarrol terrane developed as a backarc basin during the Middle to early Late Devonian. Based on field studies, we recognise four regionally applicable stratigraphic units: (i) a basal, ?Middle to Upper Devonian submarine mafic volcanic suite (Monal volcanic facies association); (ii) the lower Frasnian Lochenbar beds that locally unconformably overlie the Monal volcanic facies association; (iii) the Three Moon Conglomerate (Upper Devonian - Lower Carboniferous); and (iv) the Lower Carboniferous Rockhampton Group characterised by the presence of oolitic limestone. Stratigraphic and compositional differences suggest the Monal volcanic facies association post-dates Middle Devonian silicic-dominated magmatism that was coeval with gold-copper mineralisation at Mt Morgan. The Lochenbar beds, Three Moon Conglomerate and Rockhampton Group represent a near-continuous sedimentary record of volcanism that changed in composition and style from mafic effusive (Late Devonian) to silicic explosive volcanism (Early Carboniferous). Palaeocurrent data from the Three Moon Conglomerate and Rockhampton Group indicate dispersal of sediment to the west and northwest, and are inconsistent with derivation from a volcanic-arc source situated to the west (Connors-Auburn Arch). Geochemical data show that the Monal volcanic facies association ranges from tholeiitic subalkaline basalts to calc-alkaline basaltic andesite. Trace and rare-earth element abundances are distinctly MORB-like (e.g. light rare earth element depletion), with only moderate enrichment of the large-ion lithophile elements in some units, and negative Nb anomalies, suggesting a subduction-related signature. Basalts of the Monal volcanic facies association are best described as transitional between calc-alkali basalts and N-MORB. The elevated high field strength element contents (e.g. Zr, Y, Ti) are higher than modern island-arc basalts, but comparable to basalts that floor modern backarc basins. This geochemical study, coupled with stratigraphic relationships, suggest that the eruption of backarc basin basalts followed widespread Middle Devonian, extension-related silicic magmatism (e.g. Retreat Batholith, Mt Morgan), and floored the Yarrol terrane. The Monal volcanic facies association thus shows similarities in its tectonic environment to the Lower Permian successions (e.g. Rookwood Volcanics) of the northern New England Fold Belt. These mafic volcanic sequences are interpreted to record two backarc basin-forming periods (Middle - Late Devonian and Late Carboniferous - Early Permian) during the Late Palaeozoic history of the New England Orogen. Silicic-dominated explosive volcanism, occurring extensively across the northern New England Fold Belt in the Early Carboniferous (Yarrol terrane, Campwyn Volcanics, Drummond and Burdekin Basins), reflects another period of crustal melting and extension, most likely related to the opening of the Drummond Basin.

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