In situ U-Pb isotopic dating of columbite-tantalite by LA-ICP-MS

Xu Dong Che*, Fu Yuan Wu, Ru Cheng Wang, Axel Gerdes, Wei Qiang Ji, Zhen Hua Zhao, Jin Hui Yang, Ze Ying Zhu

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

135 Citations (Scopus)


Columbite-tantalite (Coltan) is the most important niobium (Nb)- and tantalum (Ta)-bearing economic mineral, commonly occurring in rare metal granite and pegmatite, alkaline granite, syenite and carbonatite. Its high U but low common Pb contents make it an ideal mineral for U-Pb isotopic dating of Nb-Ta mineralization. In order to establish a feasible coltan dating method by in situ laser-ablation (LA) ICP-MS, we determined the U-Pb ages of five coltan samples from different pegmatites and rare-metal granites in China. In order to evaluate the potential matrix effect between different minerals, a 91500 zircon was used as external standard during analyses. The results show that, compared to the recommended ages, approximately 7-15% younger ages were yielded for the analyzed coltan samples in both single spot and line raster scan analytical methods, indicating a significant matrix effect between coltan and zircon. However, by using a coltan standard from Namibia (Coltan139), the coltan sample from Dahe pegmatite (SNNT) has a weighted mean 206Pb/238U age of 363±4Ma (2σ, n=25) and 357±5Ma (2σ, n=20) in single spot and line raster scan analytical methods, respectively; the coltan samples from Altai No.3 pegmatite (713-79), Yichun topaz-lepidolite granite (Yi-1) and Huangshan albite granite (LS-15) have weighted mean 206Pb/238U ages of 218±2Ma (2σ, n=20), 160±1Ma (2σ, n=20) and 130±1Ma (2σ, n=20), respectively, in single spot mode. These ages agree well with the previously published data, and hence support the reliability of our analytical method. Although the analyzed coltan minerals show a large variation of chemical compositions, no significant matrix effect was observed, which suggests that a coltan material should be used as an external standard for U-Pb dating of coltan by LA-ICP-MS. Using the established analytical protocol, we date the Nanping pegmatite (NP155), a main Nb-Ta deposit in China without known age, and obtain a weighted mean 206Pb/238U age of 391±4Ma (2σ, n=20), which is considered as the best estimation of Nb-Ta mineralization time in the area.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)979-989
Number of pages11
JournalOre Geology Reviews
Issue numberPart 4
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2015
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

A corrigendum to this article can be found in Ore Geology Reviews, vol. 67, p. 400. doi:


  • Altai No.3 pegmatite
  • columbite-tantalite (Coltan)
  • Dahe pegmatite
  • matrix effect
  • Nanping pegmatite
  • U-Pb dating
  • Yichun


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