We have tested a Rb-Sr technique that permits ore deposits to be dated using common gangue minerals such as calcite and fluorite. The only conditions the deposit must meet are that (1) it have minerals with a low Rb/Sr ratio and (2) it be enclosed by wall rock with a high Rb/Sr ratio. Because hydrothermal minerals acquire a strontium-isotope composition that is usually similar to that of the wall rock, minerals with low Rb/Sr ratio should record and retain the isotopic composition the wall rock had at the time of mineralization. The difference between that ratio and that of the wall rock at present is a function of time and the Rb/Sr composition of the wall rock.
The technique was tested using fluorite and calcite from three deposits ranging in age from Tertiary to Precambrian. In all cases the age determined here closely resembles that obtained by conventional K-Ar and Rb-Sr dating methods. The precision, however, can be poor and depends chiefly on the strontium-isotope heterogeneity of the wall rock and its Rb/Sr enrichment.