Widely distributed Mid-Neoproterozoic mafic rocks of the Qilian – Qaidam – East Kunlun region record the tectonic evolution of the northeastern Tibetan Plateau. This study presents whole-rock geochemistry, zircon U–Pb geochronology and Hf isotopes for the Xialanuoer gabbros of the central South Qilian Belt (SQB). Zircon laser ablation – inductively coupled plasma – mass spectrometry (LA-ICP-MS) U–Pb dating indicates that the gabbros were emplaced at ca. 738 Ma, indicating they are contemporaneous with mafic magmatism elsewhere in the northeastern Tibetan Plateau. The gabbros have low SiO2, Cr and Ni contents and Mg# values, are relatively enriched in light rare-earth elements (LREEs) and depleted in high-field-strength elements (HFSEs; e.g. Nb and Ta), have no positive Zr or Hf anomalies and have relatively high Nb/Ta but low Nb/La ratios. These data indicate that the Xialanuoer gabbros formed from calc-alkaline basaltic magmas that were originally generated by the partial melting of an enriched mantle of type-I (EMI-type) enriched region of the lithospheric mantle, underwent little to no crustal contamination prior to their emplacement, and have within-plate basalt geochemical affinities. Combining these data with the presence of widespread contemporaneous continental rift-related magmatism and sedimentation in the North Qilian, Central Qilian, South Qilian, Quanji, North Qaidam and East Kunlun regions suggests that the northeastern Tibetan Plateau underwent Mid-Neoproterozoic continental rifting, which also affected other Rodinian blocks (e.g. Tarim, South China, Australia, North America and Southern Africa).