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The AAPG/Datapages Combined Publications Database

Rocky Mountain Association of Geologists


The Mountain Geologist
Vol. 56 (2019), No. 4. (October), Pages 397-420

New Constraints on the Timing and History of Breccia Dikes in the Western San Juan Mountains, Southwestern Colorado

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In the western San Juan Mountains, clastic (breccia) dikes crop out in Paleozoic to Cenozoic rocks. The dikes are tabular to bifurcating masses up to several meters thick and are exposed on northwest or northeast trends for up to several kilometers. They are matrix- to clast-supported with angular to rounded pebble- to boulder-sized fragments that in most dikes are dominated by Proterozoic igneous and metamorphic rocks. U-Pb analyses (n = 3) reveal a range of zircon ages in all samples with several containing high proportions of 1820 to 1390 Ma zircons. The majority of Proterozoic zircons are interpreted as direct contributions from basement rocks during breccia dike formation and emplacement.

Field relations and U-Pb zircon analyses reveal that breccia dikes formed in intervals from 66 to 30 Ma (Ouray) and 27 to 12 Ma (Stony Mountain); some dikes are closely allied with mineralization. The dikes formed at depths over 500 meters where Proterozoic basement was fragmented, entrained, and transported to higher structural levels along with pieces of Paleozoic to Cenozoic rocks. A close spatial relationship exists between breccia dikes and latest Mesozoic to Cenozoic plutons. This is best exemplified near Ouray where clastic dikes share similar trends with ∼65 Ma granodiorite dikes, and there is a clear transition from intrusive rocks to altered-brecciated plutons, and finally to breccia dikes. The preponderance of evidence supports breccia dike formation via degassing and explosive release of CO2-charged volatiles on deep fractures related to emplacement of 70 to 4 Ma plutons or mantle melts.

In addition to breccia dikes, several post-80 Ma events in the region involved explosive release of volatile-charged magmas: 29-27 Ma calderas, ∼25 Ma diatremes, and ∼24 Ma breccia pipes. Causal factors for production of these gas-charged magmas remain poorly understood, but partial melting or assimilation of altered and metasomatized lithospheric mantle could have played a role.

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