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Uranium-Th-Pb dating of phosphate minerals in very low-grade metasedimentary rocks from the Archean Pilbara Craton, Western Australia, has revealed a long history of deformation and fluid flow during the Paleoproterozoic. However, this technique has not detected evidence for fluid flow along craton margins during Phanerozoic rifting and breakup. We report the use of in situ Th-Pb geochronology of rhabdophane, a hydrous light rare earth element phosphate, to date fluid flow in shale from the 2.76 Ga Mount Roe Basalt from drill hole number 6 of the Archean Biosphere Drilling Program (ABDP6), northwestern Pilbara Craton. Thorium-Pb dating of rhabdophane in carbonaceous shale yields three main populations with weighted mean 208Pb/232Th ages of 152 ± 6 Ma, 132 ± 4 Ma, and 119 ± 4 Ma, which indicates phosphate growth up to 2.64 b.y. after deposition. The rhabdophane ages are coeval with three major breakup events in eastern Gondwana: separation of Southwest Borneo and Argoland from Australia (ca. 156−152 Ma), breakup of Greater India from Australia (ca. 140−135 Ma), and separation of Greater India/India from Antarctica (ca. 123 Ma). The proximity of drill hole ABDP6 to major Mesoarchean faults and shear zones on the craton margin, which are parallel to rift propagation and basin development, points to episodic reactivation of ancient crustal structures >2.8 b.y. after their formation. Our results also highlight the potential of rhabdophane as a U-Th-Pb geochronometer for dating low-temperature (<200 °C) fluid flow and hydrous alteration. The migration of Mesozoic fluids through Archean shales adds weight to questions about the origin of geochemical signals in ancient altered rocks and how to extract information about the early environment and biosphere.
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