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Scientific Investigations Report 2005–5132
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40Ar/39Ar Geochronology of Hypabyssal Igneous Rocks in the Marañon Basin of Peru—A Record of Thermal History, Structure, and Alteration

By L.M Prueher, R. Erlich, and L.W. Snee

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Hypabyssal andesites and dacites from the Balsapuerto Dome in the Marañon Basin of Peru record the thermal, tectonic, and alteration history of the area. The Marañon Basin is one of 19 sub-Andean foreland basins. The hypabyssal rocks in the Balsapuerto Dome are one of four known occurrences of subvolcanic rocks along the deformation front in Peru. This dome is a potential petroleum structural trap. Petroleum seeps near the dome indicate that a source for the petroleum is present, but the extent and amount of petroleum development is unknown.

The Balsapuerto hypabyssal rocks are plagioclase-, hornblende-, pyroxene-phyric andesites to dacites. Some parts of the dome are pervasively altered to a hydrothermal assemblage of quartz-sericite-pyrite. 40Ar/39Ar geochronology shows that thermal activity related to emplacement of these subvolcanic rocks took place between 12–10 Ma, subsequent to the major periods of Andean folding and faulting, previously assumed to have occurred about 9 Ma. Eleven argon mineral age-spectrum analyses were completed. Argon apparent ages on amphibole range from 12.7 to 11.6 Ma, and the age spectra are simple, which indicates that the ages are very close to emplacement ages. Potassium feldspar yields an argon age spectrum ranging in age from 12.5 to 11.4 Ma, reflecting the period during which the potassium feldspar closed to argon diffusion between the temperature range of 350°C to about 150°C; thus the potassium feldspar age spectrum reflects a cooling profile throughout this temperature range. This age range is consistent with ages of emplacement for the entire igneous complex indicating that an increased thermal state existed in the area for at least 1.0 m.y. Combined with the coexisting hornblende age, this rock cooled from ~580°C to ~150°C in ~1.2 m.y. resulting in an average cooling rate of 358°C /m.y. White mica, or sericite, formed as a later alteration phase associated with quartz- sericite- pyrite and propylitic alteration in some samples. Three age-spectrum analyses on white mica indicate that alteration occurred at 12.5 Ma and again at 11 Ma, and suggest that alteration fluids were present throughout the range of emplacement and as long as 0.5 m.y. afterward.

Based on these data, emplacement of the intrusive body(ies) began at about 12.7 Ma. The hornblende age range can be interpreted to reflect multiple periods of intrusion from 12.7 to 11.6 Ma or a period of thermal activity and high-temperature cooling during this age range. The potassium feldspar cooling age range supports either interpretation. The white mica ages indicate that at least two periods of hydrothermal activity occurred at 12.5 and 11.0 Ma, throughout the period of emplacement and cooling of the intrusive body below about 150°C. The magmatic and hydrothermal systems were active after the intrusion, with temperatures not reaching 150°C until about 1 m.y. after emplacement. Therefore, the thermal effects associated with emplacement of the intrusion and the associated hydrothermal system were probably high enough to destroy petroleum in the host and source rocks. Thus, the Balsapuerto Dome is not a viable source of petroleum. There is no evidence in the rock samples or thin sections for brittle or ductile deformation suggesting that this body was emplaced in its present location after cessation of Andean thrusting. Andean thrusting had been assumed to end about 9 Ma. However, this new data suggested that the Andean thrusting had ceased by about 12–10 Ma.

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Posted November 2005

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