In situ U-Pb dating and element mapping of three generations of monazite: Unravelling cryptic tectonothermal events in low-grade terranes

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

97 Citations (Scopus)


In situ U-Pb dating of monazite and xenotime in sedimentary rocks from the mid-Archean Soanesville Group in the Pilbara Craton, yields ages for provenance, diagenesis and multiple low-grade metamorphic events. Detrital monazite and xenotime grains give dates > 3250 Ma, whereas diagenetic xenotinte provides a new minimum age of 3190 10 Ma for deposition of the basal Soanesville Group, previously constrained between similar to 3235 Ma and similar to 2955 Ma. Metamorphic monazite provides evidence for three episodes of growth: at 2.88, 2.16 and 1.65 Ga. Element mapping of monazite for La, Sm, Y and Th reveals distinct cores and rims in some crystals that were used to guide the placement of analytical spots during in situ U-Pb dating by sensitive high-resolution ion microprobe (SHRIMP). Specifically, La and Sm distributions closely correlate with different generations of monazite. The presence of two generations in single monazite crystals highlights the need for characterizing mineral chemistry prior to geochronology. It also shows the importance of using in situ dating techniques rather than methods that rely on the analysis of entire, potentially multi-aged, crystals. The ages recorded by metamorphic monazite span more than one billion years and are interpreted to record cryptic tectonothermal events within the craton. The 2.88 Ga age coincides with a phase of regional deformation, metamorphism and gold mineralization along a major crustal lineament, whereas the most common monazite age population (at 2.16 Ga) corresponds with the migration of a foreland fold-and-thrust belt across the craton. The youngest age (1.65 Ga) coincides with an episode of tectonic reworking in the Capricorn Orogen along the southern Pilbara margin. The prolonged history of monazite growth may, in part, relate to channelized fluid flow during reactivation of long-lived N- to NE-trending crustal structures that transect the craton. Despite repeated episodes of metamorphism, the isotopic system in each generation of monazite remained unperturbed, yielding precise dates. The ability of monazite to record three separate events, and in some instances two events in a single crystal, distinguishes it from most other low-temperature mineral chronometers, which are readily reset during metamorphic overprinting. Low-temperature monazite geochronology can provide a detailed isotopic history of cryptic thermal events and reveal the temporal and spatial patterns of far-field fluid flow related to tectonic processes. The previously unrecognized history of crustal fluid flow in the Pilbara Craton has implications for chemical, mineralogical and isotopic studies seeking to understand conditions on the early Earth. (c) 2006 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)670-690
JournalGeochimica et Cosmochimica Acta
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2007


Dive into the research topics of 'In situ U-Pb dating and element mapping of three generations of monazite: Unravelling cryptic tectonothermal events in low-grade terranes'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this