The inability to establish absolute ages for gold deposition in the Pine Creek orogen of northern Australia has led to conflicting ore deposit models, ranging from intrusion related, which predict that gold mineralization was synchronous with granite magmatism (ca. 1835–1820 Ma), to orogenic, which place ore deposition nearly 100 m.y. later. Here we present ion microprobe U-Pb geochronology for a mineralized quartz reef from Tom's Gully mine, Mount Bundey, Northern Territory, Australia, and nearby granitic rocks and associated contact aureoles. Isotopic dating of zircon and monazite indicates that intrusion and contact metamorphism occurred ca. 1825 Ma, whereas hydrothermal monazite from the auriferous quartz reef gives a mean 207Pb/206Pb age of 1780 ± 10 Ma, interpreted as the time of gold mineralization. Mineralization therefore postdated intrusion by ∼45 m.y. and preceded a postulated ca. 1740–1730 Ma cratonwide orogenic gold event by ∼50 m.y. Hence, neither the intrusion-related model nor the recently proposed orogenic model is applicable. Combined with a reevaluation of age data from the nearby Goodall gold deposit, our data suggest that mineralization coincides with, and may be related to, an episode of regional low-grade metamorphism, deformation, and fluid circulation (Shoobridge event). Our results demonstrate the importance of high-precision in situ geochronology and detailed petrography for deciphering age relationships in ore deposits, and of testing the veracity of models for ore formation.

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