Abstract Laser-probe dating of mylonite whole-rock samples from the North Tianshan— Main Tianshan fault zone that cross-cuts the North Tianshan domain’s southern margin yielded 40 Ar / 39 Ar spectra with 255–285 Ma ages. Biotite from an undeformed, Early Carboniferous granite, which cuts the steep mylonitic foliation in the Proterozoic basement of the Yili arcs’s southern margin, gave a 263.4 ± 0.6 Ma plateau age (1σ). Pre-Carboniferous metasediments overlying this basement yielded plateau ages (1σ) of 253.3 ± 0.3 (muscovite) and 252.3 ± 0.3 (biotite) Ma. The Permian ages of mylonites date movement on these ductile, dextral strike-slip shear zones, whereas the mica ages are interpreted by recrystallisation as a result of fluid flow around such transcurrent faults. We propose that the Tianshan’s Permian syn-tectonic bimodal magmatism was created in a non-plume-related Yellowstone-like extensional–transtensional tectonic regime. Gold mineralisation, tracing aqueous flow in the crust, peaked in Permian time and continued locally into the Triassic. The picture is emerging that a convective fluid system partly driven by magmatic heat, existed in a strongly fractured and weakened crust with an elevated heat flow, leading to regional-scale isotope resetting. We suggest that surprisingly young isotopic ages in the literature for early orogenic (ultra)highpressure metamorphism are similarly due to fluid-mediated recrystallisation
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