Continental growth on Early Earth: Crustal electrical conductivity models of the Barberton Greenstone Belt, South Africa

Thursday, 18 December 2014
Ute Weckmann1, Sissy Kutter1 and Maarten De Wit2, (1)Helmholtz Centre Potsdam GFZ German Research Centre for Geosciences, Potsdam, Germany, (2)Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University, Port Elizabeth, South Africa
The Barberton Greenstone Belt (BGB, South Africa) is one of the few Archean remnants where the tectonic evolution of the Early Earth can be studied. The first formation of the crust is a controversially discussed topic among geoscientists. Tectonics on the Early Earth might have been similar to the plate movement and their driving forces that we observe today. However, regarding that some fundamental conditions like the thermal setting were considerably different at this time other processes like vertical mass transport might have played the governing role in tectonics.

Therefore contrasting evolutionary models of the BGB exist, mainly based on a number of geological and petrological studies. However, there is only little information on its deeper architecture. For a better understanding of past processes and the character of the tectonic regime which led to the formation of the BGB, magnetotelluric (MT) surveys were carried out as a part of the German-South African Inkaba yeAfrica research initiative. At approximately 200 MT sites aligned along six profiles (approx. 80 to 110 km length) data was collected during two field experiments in 2009 and 2010.

The MT method images the electrical conductivity of rocks and is particularly sensitive to imprints of tectonic processes resulting in persistent mineralization e.g. along shear planes.

Against the surrounding of significantly conductive geological units like the Phanerozoic Transvaal cover, the rocks of the BGB are generally characterized by high electrical resistivities. Particularly plutons such as the Dalmein Pluton can be traced deeply into the crust. Contrary, faults of the BGB appear as zones of high conductivity down to a depth of 5 to 10 km. We will present 3D inversion results indicating an extension of the plutons of the western BGB beneath the Transvaal cover and a sharp conductivity contrast of the BGB compared to the eastern batholiths. We will discuss existing models of the evolution of the BGB in view of our 3D electrical conductivity images.