Professional Accreditation for Resource/Reserve Modelling.
With increasing litigiousness worldwide, and the increasing bureaucratisation of industry, professional accreditation is becoming progressively more important to engineers and geologists. Historically this has been done on a national - or even a state or provincial - basis. This has meant in principle that the international mobility of engineers to work in different jurisdictions has been limited by their need to acquire the appropriate registration or accreditation. In practice, of course, clients have rarely demanded this. However, formal documents such as pre-feasibility studies, required for financing purposes, must usually be signed off by an engineer with the appropriate national accreditation. There have been tentative steps recently towards mutual international recognition of professional engineers' status, and we may hope that these continue.
For geologists, fortunately, the situation is perhaps less fraught than for engineers. Although there has been some formalisation of 'professional geologist' status (for example the 'Chartered Geologist' qualification of the Geological Society of London), this is less widely recognised, and certainly less often required, than the equivalent professional engineering qualifications.
There is, however, one field which is crucial to the financing of mining projects and where some specific professional accreditation and regulation are perhaps required. This is the field of resource and reserve estimation. By default, the engineering institutions (for example AusIMM, IMM, CIM, and AIME/SME) have developed national standards for resource/reserve reporting, and more recently have come together to merge them into a common international standard. However welcome this certainly is, it can be questioned whether these are the appropriate bodies to define such a standard. In particular, they are primarily professional engineering bodies. The matter is coming to a head in the UK where the Institution of Mining and Metallurgy is disappearing in a merger with the Institute of Materials. The main focus of the merged institute will be manufacturing industries. Although the merged institute will inherit the role of administering the reporting standards, geologists are likely to feel that such an institute is otherwise completely irrelevant to their needs.
In any case, one vital area in which the resource/reporting standards remain completely silent is that of methods of estimation. As long as reports are prepared in the correct form, using the correct wording, by a 'competent person' (a professional engineer) they are deemed to be acceptable. There seems to be no control over the specialist competence of the practitioner who actually generates the estimates.
I would propose that the industry should seriously consider the question of full professional accreditation for geostatisticians or more broadly for 'resource assessment professionals'. These include people who may not otherwise have any interest or desire to join an engineering institution - and indeed may not have the engineering background to allow them to do so. They will include geologists, statisticians, and mathematicians. Thus not all of these people would be entitled even to join a professional geological society or institute.
There is an obvious choice of organisation to act as the appropriate professional body to oversee this: the International Association for Mathematical Geology (IAMG). At present there are no qualification barriers to anybody joining IAMG, which is a purely scientific organisation, and that is as it should be. However, there is no reason why a 'professional' member status should not also be defined, with rather strict entry requirements in terms of qualifications and experience. There would necessarily be some cost to establishing a "professional mathematical geologist" accreditation structure, particularly since the IAMG has no permanent national offices or staffing, but this could perhaps be administered in each country or region by the relevant national geological organisation, and the costs of administration would be covered by charging registration and renewal fees.
An immediate benefit of this would be to raise the profile of mathematical geologists. The discipline is barely recognised even among other geologists. And among mathematical geologists there is a sufficient number of practising geostatisticians now that they cannot all be recognised instantly by name. The level of their qualifications, experience, and competence is very variable, and effectively unregulated since the notional accreditation bodies at present - the engineering institutions - tend to have little interest or expertise in this specialist field.
It would be better to work more freely in a world without such bureaucracy, but given that we have to have it, it is better to regulate ourselves than to leave the job to others.