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Chapter 2

First Estimates of Grade and Tonnages
and Potential Grade and Tonnages

It is common practice in exploration to start with economic evaluations as early as
possible and to update these evaluations in parallel with the physical exploration work
with an ever improving data base. The purpose of this ongoing process is to have a
ready base for go/no-go decisions after each exploration stage before proceeding to
the next normally more expensive stage. An economic evaluation needs tonnage and
grade information to work with. In an early stage, the geologist has only an tentative
idea about expected grades and tonnages based on the initial geological concept and
early concrete indications through observations from trenches or a limited number of
drill holes. This early idea about grades and tonnages we will call grade potential and
tonnage potential.
If the exploration of a possible deposit is well advanced, one can work with
geostatistical methods, which take the spatial interdependence of drill hole data into
account (see e.g. Wellmer 1998, Stat. Eval.) and are certainly the best way to arrive at
the most reliable input data. At an early exploration stage, however, a sufficiently large
data base is not available for geostatistical methods. Other cruder methods have to be
applied to arrive at approximate estimates of grade and tonnage or potential grade and
tonnage. Many exploration projects have a chequered history with many owners. Sillitoe
(1995) examined the history of 53 Circumpacific producing base- and precious metal
mines. Only a third went from discovery to the stage of producing mine in one go,
meaning with one company, for the second third two attempts were necessary, and for
the last third up to 11 different companies tried their exploration luck and only the last
one was successful to bring the deposit into production. Consequently one frequently
deals with a mixed bag of data sets. For example, there might be a property...

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