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Tectonic Framework of Arctic Alaska

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Project Lead: Alison B. Till - 907-786-7444 - atill@usgs.gov

The Arctic Alaska-Chukotka terrane (AAC) is a microcontinent (or terrane) whose origins are central to understanding the resource potential of northern Alaska and the origin of the Arctic Ocean. Most of the research in this region has focused on the northern part of the microcontinent (the North Slope), where the terrane's younger rocks host Alaska's massive oil and gas deposits; much less research has been carried out in the southern part of the microcontinent (the Brooks Range), where the terrane's older rocks are exposed. This has been a critical oversight, in that these older rocks contain the world-class Red Dog zinc-lead-silver and Arctic copper-lead-zinc deposits. A westward extension of these older rocks, on the Seward Peninsula, contains significant gold and tin deposits. This project will bring together new research and previous work to outline more clearly the origin and early history of the Arctic Alaska-Chukotka terrane and provide context for understanding the genesis of contained ore deposits. This will provide a regional framework within which new mineral exploration may be targeted.

Paleogeography and Tectonic Evolution

Geologic mapping and data from geology, geochemistry, paleontology, and geochronology will be combined to produce a paleogeographic reconstruction of the Arctic Alaska-Chukotka microcontinent and related terranes. This model will offer a testable hypothesis for understanding the geologic and tectonic environments in which mineralization events occurred and will place limits on the global location of the terrane at specific points in time. In illustrating the nature, setting, timing, and sequence of tectonic events that resulted in the formation of the Arctic Alaska-Chukotka terrane, the reconstruction will provide the first comprehensive model for involvement of older parts of the microcontinent in mountain-building processes during opening of the Arctic Ocean. This is critical, both for understanding the formation of the terrane's energy and mineral resources and for developing new exploration strategies to discover those resources.

Geologic Maps

Geologic maps of the southern Brooks Range, both detailed and regional (covering an area as extensive as the Sierra Nevada Mountain Range) will provide evidence for the conclusions presented in the paleoreconstruction and tectonic evolution of the Arctic Alaska-Chukotka terrane.

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Last Modified: 13 December 2016