Abstract

Paleomagnetic methods have been used in economic geology to date mineralization in sediment-hosted ore deposits and thereby help to develop ore deposit models and understand the geodynamic settings in which mineralization can occur. However, paleomagnetic ages are sometimes inconsistent with other geochronological techniques and with geological observations. Here we test the veracity of paleomagnetic ages for sediment-hosted ores through a study of the Irish Midlands ore field. We find that unaltered rocks distal to mineralization that are of equivalent age to the ore host sequence have comparable characteristic remanent magnetic directions to those previously derived from the ores. This indicates that remagnetization of the rocks was probably independent of the ore-forming process. Comparison with the apparent polar wander path for Europe suggests an age of ca. 310 Ma for this event, consistent with the timing of the Variscan orogeny. Fold test results support this, indicating the signal was acquired after tilting and/or folding of the host rocks. Petrology and magnetic data suggest that nanometric magnetite particles are the remanence carrier. Based on independent geochronological and geological constraints, we conclude that mineralization formed in Ireland in the early Carboniferous coincident with basin development and that paleomagnetic dates were reset during the later orogenic overprint. Caution is therefore warranted in the interpretation of paleomagnetic dates for ore systems, and geodynamic models for mineral systems based on these may be erroneous.

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