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Slow-to-Fast Deformation in Mafic Fault Rocks on an Active Low-Angle Normal Fault, Woodlark Rift, SE Papua New Guinea
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  • Marcel Mizera,
  • Timothy Little,
  • Carolyn Boulton,
  • David John Prior,
  • Emma Jane Watson,
  • James B. Biemiller,
  • Joseph White,
  • Norio Shigematsu
Marcel Mizera
Utrecht University

Corresponding Author:[email protected]

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Timothy Little
Victoria University of Wellington
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Carolyn Boulton
Victoria University of Wellington
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David John Prior
University of Otago
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Emma Jane Watson
GNS Science
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James B. Biemiller
University of Texas at Austin
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Joseph White
University of New Brunswick
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Norio Shigematsu
Geological Survey of Japan, National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology
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Slip on the active Mai’iu low-angle normal fault in Papua New Guinea that dips 15–24° at the surface has exhumed in its footwall a single, continuous fault surface across a >25 km-wide dome. Derived from a metabasaltic protolith, the fault zone consists of a ≤3 m-thick zone of gouges and cataclasites that overprint a structurally underlying carapace of extensional mylonites. Detailed microstructural and geochemical data, combined with chlorite-based geothermometry, reveal changing deformation processes and conditions in the Mai’iu fault rocks as they were exhumed. The microstructure of non-plastically deformed actinolite grains inherited from the fine-grained (6–35 µm) basaltic protolith indicate that shearing at depth was controlled by diffusion creep accompanied by grain-boundary sliding of these grains together with chlorite neo-crystallization at T≥270–370°C. In a foliated cataclasite unit at shallower crustal levels (T≈150–270°C), fluid-assisted mass transfer and metasomatic reactions accommodated aseismic, distributed shearing; pseudotachylites and ultracataclasites in the same unit indicate that such creep was punctuated by episodes of seismic slip—after which creep resumed. At the shallowest levels (T≤150°C), gouges contain abundant saponite, a frictionally weak mineral that promotes creep on the shallowest-dipping (≤24°), most poorly oriented part of the Mai’iu fault. Our field, microstructural and geochemical data of freshly exhumed fault rocks support geodetic, seismological, and geomorphic evidence for mixed seismic-to-aseismic slip on this active low-angle normal fault.
Nov 2020Published in Geochemistry, Geophysics, Geosystems volume 21 issue 11. 10.1029/2020GC009171