U–Pb geochronology of tin deposits associated with the Cornubian Batholith of southwest England: Direct dating of cassiterite by in situ LA-ICPMS

  • Richard J. MoscatiEmail author
  • Leonid A. Neymark


The Cornwall and Devon vein- and greisen-type copper and tin deposits of southwest England are spatially and genetically related to shallow-seated granitic intrusions. These late Variscan intrusions, collectively known as the Cornubian Batholith, extend over 200 km and form a continuous granitic spine from the Isles of Scilly Granite in the west to the Dartmoor Granite in the east. The granitic plutons of the Cornubian Batholith were intruded from ~ 295 to 270 Ma without a major hiatus. Twelve samples of cassiterite (SnO2) were obtained from tin deposits associated with seven different plutons within the Cornubian Batholith for in situ LA-ICPMS U–Pb dating. This study of cassiterite was undertaken to obtain the first results of direct dating of ore mineral to refine the geochronology of tin mineralization in this region. Of the cassiterite samples analyzed, the oldest ages were determined within the Kit Hill and Hingston–Gunnislake Granites in the central part of the Cornubian Batholith. The Hingston–Gunnislake cassiterite, from Drakewalls Mine, was the oldest sample dated at 291.8 ± 3.4 Ma. The next oldest dates, 290.5 ± 2.8 and 288.5 ± 2.9 Ma, were from two cassiterite samples extracted from the adjacent Kit Hill Consolidated Mines within the Kit Hill Granite. At the eastern end of the study area, two cassiterite samples within the Dartmoor Granite produced ages of 286.0 ± 1.8 and 284.1 ± 1.3 Ma. The youngest sample from this study, 275.4 ± 1.6 Ma, is from the Balleswidden Mine within the westernmost Land’s End Granite. The cassiterite dates do not reveal any readily observable relationship between ore ages and geographic relationship from west to east throughout the Cornubian Batholith. Incorporating the associated errors, the geochronology does indicate continuous mineralization within the granites for ~ 21 million years, from ca. 295 to 274 Ma. This span falls within the established period of granitic magmatism of ca. 295 to 270 Ma for the Cornubian Batholith and further confirms the reliability of in situ LA-ICPMS U–Pb dating of cassiterite.


Cornwall Devon Cornubian Cassiterite Tin U–Pb Geochronology LA-ICPMS England 



We would like to thank John Faithfull (The Huntarian Museum, University of Glasgow) and Owen Baker (Founder of the Plymouth Mineral and Mining Club, Cornwall) who generously provided the cassiterite samples of this study and some of the hand sample photographs used in Fig. 2. Without their initial contribution, support, and interest in the tin deposits of southwest England, this study would not have been possible. We gratefully acknowledge Anatoly Larin (Institute of Precambrian Geology and Geochronology, Saint Petersburg, Russia) who provided us with cassiterite sample SPG used as a matrix-matched standard in this study. We are also indebted to our colleagues at the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), Aaron Pietruszka and Christopher Holm-Denoma, for their help in optimizing our LA-IPCMS system, and to Dave Adams who provided generous help at the USGS Microbeam Lab in Denver. Special thanks to Christopher Holm-Denoma (USGS), Janet Slate (USGS), the journal editor Bernd Lehmann (Technical University of Clausthal, Germany), and one anonymous journal reviewer who each provided constructive and thoughtful reviews of this manuscript. To all of our invaluable colleagues, we express our sincere appreciation. Any use of trade, firm, or product names is for descriptive purposes only and does not imply endorsement by the U.S. Government.

Supplementary material

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ESM 1 (XLSX 118 kb)


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© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Southwest Isotope Research LaboratoryU.S. Geological SurveyDenverUSA

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