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Use professional judgment: Know the assumptions underlying a best practice

Transactions of the Society for Mining, Metallurgy, and Exploration , 2014, Vol. 336, No. 1, pp. 421-425

Abbott, Jr., D.M.


The problem with best practices occurs when they do not work. This happens when the seldom-stated assumptions underlying the practice are not met. This paper provides some examples for the mining industry: (1) when core splitting is inappropriate, (2) when the use of fire assays for placer samples is inappropriate, and (3) when high-grading may be acceptable. Geologic conclusions are, in the final analysis, expressions of judgment predicated upon knowledge and experience. A geologic conclusion, however, purports to be more than an arbitrary determination it is reached as a consequence of method. No specific method is required, but the method used must be an orthodox method, in accordance with orthodox definition of terms, and the one best adapted to the dealing with the questions asked about the property in question. Whether the so-called “best practice” is really applicable to the job at hand must be decided on the basis of professional scientific judgment. When one decides to deviate from a published “best practice” for sound scientific reasons, describe in detail in the report what the so-called “best practice” is, why it was inappropriate for the project, and why the method used was better. If one becomes aware that a “best practice” is being proposed, actively urge those proposing it to include in its description the underlying assumptions that must be met in order for the “best practice” to be valid.