The boundaries of the West African craton, with special reference to the basement of the Moroccan metacratonic Anti-Atlas belt
Geological Society Special Publication
The West African craton (WAC) was constructed during the Archaean and the c. 2 Ga Palaeoproterozoic Eburnian orogeny. Mesoproterozoic quiescence at c. 1.7-1.0 Ga allowed cratonization. In the absence of Mesoproterozoic activity, there are no known WAC palaeogeographical positions for that time. At the beginning of the Neoproterozoic, the WAC was affected by several extensional events suggesting that it was subjected to continental breakup. The most important event is the formation of the Gourma
... ation of the Gourma aulacogen in Mali, and the Taoudeni cratonic subcircular basin and deposition of platform sediments in the Anti-Atlas. At the end of the Neoproterozoic, the WAC was subjected to convergence on all its boundaries, from the north in the Anti-Atlas, to the east along the Trans-Saharan belt, to the south along the Rockelides and the Bassarides and to the east along the Mauritanides. This led to a partial remobilization of its cratonic boundaries giving rise to a metacratonic evolution. The WAC boundaries experienced Pan-African Neoproterozoic to Early Cambrian transpression and transtension, intrusion of granitoids and extrusion of huge volcanic sequences in such as in the Anti-Atlas (Ouarzazate Supergroup). Pan-African tectonism generated large sediment influxes around the WAC within the Peri-Gondwanan terranes whose sedimentary sequences are marked by distinctive zircon ages of 1.8-2.2 Ga and 0.55-0.75 Ga. WAC rocks experienced Pan-African low grade metamorphism and large movements of mineralizing fluids. In the Anti-Atlas, this Pan-African metacratonic evolution led to remobilization of REE in the Eburnian granitoids due to the activity of F-rich fluids linked to extrusion of the Ouarzazate Supergroup. During the Phanerozoic, the western WAC boundary was subjected to the Variscan orogeny, for which it constituted the foreland and was, therefore moderately affected, showing typical thick-skin tectonics in the basement and thin-skin tectonics in the cover. During the Mesozoic, the eastern and southern boundaries of the WAC were subjected to the Atlantic opening including Jurassic dolerite intrusion and capture of its extreme southern tip by South America. The Jurassic is also marked by the development of rifts on its eastern and northern sides (future Atlas belt). Finally, the Cenozoic period was marked by the convergence of the African and European continents, generating the High Atlas range and Cenozoic volcanism encircling the northern part of the WAC. The northern metacratonic boundary of the WAC is currently uplifted, forming the Anti-Atlas Mountains. The boundaries of the WAC, metacratonized during the Pan-African orogeny have been periodically rejuvenated. This is a defining characteristic of the metacratonic areas: rigid, stable cratonic regions that can be periodically cut by faults and affected by magmatism and hydrothermal alteration -making these areas important for mineralization.