Mechanisms and Episodes of Deformation Along the Chilean–Pampean Flat-Slab Subduction Segment of the Central Andes in Northern Chile

  • Fernando Martínez
  • César Arriagada
  • Sebastián Bascuñán
Part of the Springer Earth System Sciences book series (SPRINGEREARTH)


The knowledge of the tectonic architecture, timing, and the mechanisms of deformation that affected the western slope of the Chilean–Pampean flat-slab subduction segment of the Central Andes in northern Chile are a key to understand the complete evolution of this Andean segment. In Chile, this segment is composed of two tectonic provinces: The Coastal and the Frontal Cordilleras. Traditionally, this broad intracontinental deformation zone that characterized this segment has been compared with the Rocky Mountains, in terms of structural styles and age of deformation, although the complex interaction between extensional Mesozoic structures and different styles of contractional structures suggest that this segment resulted from multiple episodes of deformation. We present the results of a study developed along the Coastal and Frontal Cordillera of northern Chile (27°–28° S), based on regional fieldwork, structural analysis, and geochronological dating of synorogenic deposits. Our results have revealed that the structure of this region consists of NNE-striking inverted and basement-involved contractional structures. The occurrence of these structural styles suggests that a hybrid tectonic mechanism dominated by tectonic inversion and basement-involving thrusting was responsible of its current configuration. On the other hand, the U–Pb ages determined in the synorogenic deposits exposed on the footwall of the main faults indicate that the Andean deformation could have initiated during the Late Cretaceous in the Coastal Cordillera associated with tectonic inversion and then this migrated to the east as basement-involved thrusting during the Paleocene–Miocene times.


Chilean–Pampean flat subduction zone Cretaceous deformations Cenozoic deformations Tectonic inversion Basement-involved structures Northern Chile 



This work has been supported by the research project “The crustal structure and timing deformation along the Chilean flat-slab subduction segment (27°–29° S), Central Andes,” funded by the Fondo Nacional de Desarrollo Científico y Tecnológico (Fondecyt), Chile (grant 3140557). We would like to thank Midland Valley Company for providing the academic license for the Move software used in this study. We also acknowledge Laura Giambiagi and Guido Gianni whose reviews greatly enriched earlier versions of this article. Finally, we thank Sergio Villagrán and Marco Vaccaris for their assistance in the field and J. Vargas and R. Valles (Geology Department, Universidad de Chile), for zircon sample preparation, as well as L. Solari for the U–Pb LA-ICP-MS analyses (LEI, UNAM).


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© Springer International Publishing AG, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Fernando Martínez
    • 1
  • César Arriagada
    • 2
  • Sebastián Bascuñán
    • 2
  1. 1.Facultad de Ingeniería y Ciencias Geológicas, Departamento de GeologíaUniversidad Católica del NorteAntofagastaChile
  2. 2.Departamento de Geología, Facultad de Ciencias Físicas y MatemáticasUniversidad de ChileSantiagoChile

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