Age and composition of dykes emplaced before and during the opening of the Tasman Sea—source implications

Dykes are common in the wave-cut platforms along the coast from Newcastle to Sydney. According to some authors, they may be related to the opening of the Tasman Sea that commenced ca 84 Ma ago. However, there are few detailed radiogenic dating and geochemical studies to evaluate this. We attempt to resolve this by K–Ar dating of plagioclase in and geochemical studies of, basaltic dykes intruding Permo-Triassic sequences on the wave-cut platforms and Carboniferous and Permo-Triassic sequences inland. The plagioclase separated from the dykes give K–Ar ages ranging from 266 to 53 Ma with the majority older than 84 Ma indicating that most dykes were emplaced before the Tasman Seafloor formation. The dykes are generally mildly alkaline, high-Ti basalts; fewer are tholeiitic and calc-alkaline, low-Ti basalts. Strongly light rare earth element (LREE)-enriched patterns typify the former and flat, LREE-depleted or slightly to moderately enriched LREE patterns, the latter. High-Ti basalts have ocean-island-basalt-like and low-Ti basalts, calc-alkaline or mid-ocean ridge basalt (MORB)-like patterns. Most high-Ti and some low-Ti basalts show plume-like characteristics, others N-type MORB and arc-like characteristics. Dykes intruding the Carboniferous sequences show a distinct contamination signature that could be crustal or due to subduction-related metasomatism of the subcontinental lithospheric mantle. The sources of the basaltic magmas vary substantially and in places changes with time. All alkali basalts are derived from enriched asthenospheric sources at varying depths (90–147 km) and most tholeiitic, low-Ti basalts have been extracted from asthenospheric and depleted asthenospheric–lithospheric sources indicating substantial compositional heterogeneity of the mantle. Further, Nd model ages varying from Neoproterozoic (940–580 Ma) to Paleozoic (460–370 Ma) suggest variation in the age of mantle sources for the basalts.