By Mike O’Brien
Mineral Resources and Reserves are not easy things to define. Qualified Persons (QP – NI43-101) and Competent Persons (CP – JORC, SAMREC etc) exist to do difficult things independently and provide a level of comfort to investors, clients and regulatory authorities.
During the exploration and development of a mineral property, it is common (and good practice) for exploration or mineral companies to build a three-dimensional geology model before a resource estimate is required. Subsequently, independent QP/CPs are often engaged to estimate and sign off on the mineral resource to meet regulatory requirements.
Building a three-dimensional geology model to constrain the estimation domains takes time and costs money. (But not as much as drilling it) In many instances, quite rightly, clients feel that they have a superior level of knowledge of the deposit and that the client can rely on the existing interpretation. In a depressed market, proposals look a lot more acceptable to clients, without the budget and hours needed to construct a three-dimensional geology model. Particularly if the client views such an exercise as at best a duplication of previous efforts. But sometimes clients do not have the knowledge or experience to provide a robust model.
By using the domain model provided by a client, the QP or CP is limiting the independence of the resource estimation process to populating a predetermined volume (tonnage) with grades from sampling data. Simply accepting a predetermined interpretation could have a very significant impact on tonnage and contained metal.
Before accepting any pre-existing domains for the estimation, it would be prudent for the QP/CP to safeguard the independent nature of his or her work (paraphrasing from CRIRSCO, 2012) by ensuring that:
- Data spacing and distribution is sufficient to establish the degree of geological and grade continuity appropriate to the resource category
- The level of confidence in (or conversely, the uncertainty of) the geological interpretation of the mineral deposit
- The nature of the data used
- Any assumptions made
- The effect of alternative interpretations
How this should be done, is at the discretion of the QP/CP. In the words of Harry Parker, “Check everything and trust no one!” (Standard Definitions. 2012. CRIRSCO).