Origin and tectonic evolution of the Qilian Precambrian basement on NW China were investigated using zircon U-Pb ages with collaborating stratigraphic and paleontological evidence. Zircon grains were separated from two schists, two granitic gneisses and one mylonized gneiss and dated with SHRIMP. Seventy percent of sixty-one detrital zircon ages from two schists ranges from 0.88 Ga to 3.09 Ga, mostly within 1.0 Ga to 1.8 Ga with a peak at 1.6 Ga to 1.8 Ga, and twenty percent varies from 2.0 Ga to 2.5 Ga. A few falls in the Archean and Neoproterozoic periods. The two granitic gneisses were dated 930±8 Ma and 918±14 Ma, whereas the mylonized granitic gneiss was dated 790±12 Ma. These ages represent two periods of magmatisms, which can be correlated with the early and late stages of magmatisms associated with the Jinningian movement on the Yangtze Blocks. The results from this and previous studies indicate that the ages of the Precambrian detrital zircons from the Qilian Block are widely distributed in the Proterozoic era, distinct from the North China Block which was stable in the Neo-Mesoproterozoic era. By contrast, the age histograms of the detrital zircons from the Qilian Block is similar to those from Precambrian basement of the Yangtze Craton. Therefore, it is suggested that the Qilian Block had a strong affinity toward the Yangtze Craton and might belong to the supercontinent Gondwana in the Neoproterozoic time. This inference is supported by Nd model age (T DM), stratigraphic, and paleontological evidence. It is further considered that the Qilian Block was rifted from the supercontinent Gondwana during late Sinian to form an isolated continent in the Proto-Tethyan Ocean, moving towards the Alaxa Block in the North China Craton. The part of Proto-Tethyan Ocean between the Qilian and Alaxa Blocks should correspond to the so-called Paleo-Qilian Ocean. Following the closure of the Paleo-Qilian Ocean in the early Paleozoic, the Qilian Block collided with the Alaxa Block to form the North Qilian Orogenic Belt. Based on this tectonic explanation, the North Qilian ophiolites should represent parts of lithosphere from the Proto-Tethyan Ocean. Lithological and geochronological evidence also indicates that the Qilian Block underwent continental reactivation possibly induced by the deep northward subduction of the North Qaidam Block in early Paleozoic time.
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