Mesozoic to recent evolution of the Andean forearc of northern Chile (22-24 s)

  • Adrian J. Hartley

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


The Andean forearc of northern Chile comprises four morphotectonic units, which include from east to west:
1) The Cordillera de la Costa: composed of Jurassic granites and andesites, thought to represent a volcanic arc, the Mejillones terrane, an accreted allochthonous terrane, and the Lower Cretaceous Coloso basin, which formed through forearc extension along the suture between the Mejillones terrane and the Jurassic arc. Palaeomagnetic studies of the above units have identified approximately 29+/-11 degrees of clockwise rotation. Rotation is due to extension (caused by subduction roll back and slab pull), at an angle to the direction of absolute motion of the South American Plate.
2) The Central Depression: a large arid basin containing isolated
fault-bounded blocks of pre-Mesozoic metamorphosed igneous rocks, Triassic sediments and volcanics, and Jurassic carbonates, deposited in a. back-arc basin setting. The isolated blocks formed through extension along previous thrust faults, these originated through compression of the back-arc basin due to accretion of the Jurassic volcanic arc.
3) The Precordillera.: composed of Permian-Triassic rift-related sediments and volcanics, Jurassic continental sediments synchronous with back-arc basin sedimentation, and Cretaceous and Oligo-Miocene continental sediments deposited in foreland basins. Palaeomagnetism has identified clockwise rotation in rocks ranging in age from Jurassic-Miocene. Rotation in the Precordillera. affected larger structural blocks than in the Cordillera de la Costa.
4) The Salar Depression: a. series of arid continental basins developed on continental crust. These basins nay have originated in the Triassic, when rifting of the South American craton is thought to have taken place.
In conclusion, palaeomagnetic and geological evidence is consistent with the view that the north Chilean forearc was largely under an extensional stress regime. However, the presence of extensive compressional structures in Palaeocene and older rocks in the forearc together with the currently active foreland thrust belt of Argentina. indicate that throughout the evolution of the Andean Orogen, a delicate balance between compressional and extensional tectonic regimes has existed.
Date of AwardOct 1987
Original languageEnglish
SupervisorPeter Turner (Supervisor)


  • Andes
  • forearc
  • palaeomagnetism
  • rotation
  • Chile

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