Mineralization ages of many mineral deposit types (such as orogenic Au, stratabound Cu, and Mississippi Valley-type Pb-Zn deposits) are still difficult to date by the traditional isotopic chronometry because of the lack of suitable minerals. We have made efforts to establish a widely suitable dating technique to determine ore formation ages using a high-precision 40Ar/39Ar method on ubiquitously present fluid inclusions in quartz, sphalerite, and other nonpotassium minerals from hydrothermal deposits. The Xitian W-Sn polymetallic deposit in central South China contains several minerals suitable for isotopic dating for interchronometer comparison. 40Ar/39Ar laser step heating of 16 micas from ore veins, greisen, and metallogenic granites yields flat age spectra and thus well-defined ore formation ages ranging from 152.4 ± 1.5 (2σ) to 148.1 ± 1.4 Ma with an average of 150.2 ± 0.6 Ma. 40Ar/39Ar progressive crushing of nine quartz samples produces well-defined isochron lines for their primary fluid inclusions corresponding to isochron ages of 153.7–149.9 Ma with an average of 151.6 ± 0.6 Ma. Cassiterites from three hand specimens have weighted mean 206Pb/238U ages of 151.5 ± 1.7 (2σ), 149.7 ± 2.1, and 151.7 ± 2.1 Ma. All these new geochronological dates and previous molybdenite Re-Os ages yield well-constrained mineralization ages of 153–148 Ma for the Xitian W-Sn polymetallic deposit, which also confirms conclusively that the quartz 40Ar/39Ar progressive crushing technique is a feasible, valid dating technique. Furthermore, significant age information on the secondary fluid inclusions is potentially obtained simultaneously by this technique. We expect that this novel dating technique will be widely applied to determine the geologic fluids trapped in minerals during hydrothermal mineralization, hydrocarbon accumulation, metamorphism, tectonic activities, and other geologic processes.

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