Ion microprobe (SHRIMP II) dating of zircons from tonsteins interbedded with coal seams from the Candiota and Faxinal coalfields (Early Permian, Rio Bonito Formation, Parana Basin, Brazil) is presented. The mean ages obtained (290.6 +/- 1.5 Ma) are more precise than previously published intervals. Calibrations of chronostratigraphic data with radiometric ages show that the main coal succession from the southern Basin is constrained to the Middle Sakmarian. The +/- 2 Ma time interval of deposition supports the hypothesis that the coal-generating process was quite rapid in terms of geological time. In a general context, Faxinal and Candiota coals are assigned, into the Protohaploxypinus goraiensis Subzonc, besides some paleocological differences evidenced by palynological studies. This bio-interval does not correspond to a consistent palynostratigraphic tool and more accurate biostratigraphic zonation for the Carboniferous-Permian interval must be delineated. The new results have far-reaching significance for correlations of the Basin with sequences of the Argentinian Paganzo Basin (302 +/- 6 Ma and 288 +/- 7 Ma) and also with the Karoo Basin, with the lowermost Ecca Group (288 +/- 3 Ma and 289.6 +/- 3.8 Ma). This new evidence supports the presence of an active and widespread Lower Permian explosive volcanic event in western Gondwana, which is interpreted as the same volcanism which produced the Choiyoi Group in western Argentina. According to this correlation the ash-fall source is located about 1400 km to the southwest of their area of deposition. (C) 2007 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.