Xenotime occurs as epitaxial overgrowths on detrital zircons in the Mesoproterozoic Revett Formation (Belt Supergroup) at the Spar Lake red bed-associated Cu-Ag deposit, western Montana. The deposit formed during diagenesis of Revett strata, where oxidizing metal-bearing hydrothermal fluids encountered a reducing zone. Samples for geochronology were collected from several mineral zones. Xenotime overgrowths (1–30 μm wide) were found in polished thin sections from five ore and near-ore zones (chalcocite-chlorite, bornite-calcite, galena-calcite, chalcopyrite-ankerite, and pyrite-calcite), but not in more distant zones across the region. Thirty-two in situ SHRIMP U-Pb analyses on xenotime overgrowths yield a weighted average of 207Pb/206Pb ages of 1409 ± 8 Ma, interpreted as the time of mineralization. This age is about 40 to 60 m.y. after deposition of the Revett Formation. Six other xenotime overgrowths formed during a younger event at 1304 ± 19 Ma. Several isolated grains of xenotime have 207Pb/206Pb ages in the range of 1.67 to 1.51 Ga, and thus are considered detrital in origin.
Trace element data can distinguish Spar Lake xenotimes of different origins. Based on in situ SHRIMP analysis, detrital xenotime has heavy rare earth elements-enriched patterns similar to those of igneous xenotime, whereas xenotime overgrowths of inferred hydrothermal origin have hump-shaped (i.e., middle rare earth elements-enriched) patterns. The two ages of hydrothermal xenotime can be distinguished by slightly different rare earth elements patterns. In addition, 1409 Ma xenotime overgrowths have higher Eu and Gd contents than the 1304 Ma overgrowths. Most xenotime overgrowths from the Spar Lake deposit have elevated As concentrations, further suggesting a genetic relationship between the xenotime formation and Cu-Ag mineralization.