NI 43-101 puts a fair amount of legal liability on the Qualified Person preparing a resource or reserve estimate. The QP is to stand behind the accuracy of their work and take legal responsibility for it.
Every so often some new mining software comes along and I often wonder what are the risks in using it? Some examples of new mining software that I have heard about but not personally used nor seen in any 43-101 studies are MiningMath SimSched, the ThreeDify’s software packages, and Bentley.
Given that I as a QP am legally responsible for my work, I am apprehensive about how one can be assured that the new software will deliver accurate results that I can rely on and thereby will accept legal liability. The last thing I would want to do is prepare a public technical report which is subsequently found to be in error due to a software bug. Irrespective of 43-101, if you are working at a mining operation the last thing you want to do is present management with an incorrect reserve, pit design, or production plan. If you are a consultant, how agreeable will your client be when you tell him that his study was done using a novel software package and not one of the industry standard packages?
I recall when I was working as an employee of a major mining company that there was a reluctance to adopt any new software that was unproven and not an industry standard. That large mining company had no issues with paying the high purchase price and annual maintenance fees for their software licenses. However that many not be the same situation for the small junior mining company or small consultant. The new software may be cheaper, may be great, and may be an improvement at a lower cost, but I’m not sure how one addresses the software risk. There is no rule that says “all software output is correct simply because it comes from a computer”.
Sometimes I wonder when mines go through rigorous mine-to-mill field reconciliations on ore tonnage or head grade, the problems always seem to be either an operational issue or a geological modelling difficulty. What about it being some type of a software bug or incorrect software toggle that the field reconciliation is trying to match to?
As a QP, I suggest the onus is on the new software developer to demonstrate that they can produce reliable and comparable results under all conditions. They need to convince the users that their software is accurate. Perhaps over time as new software gets wider industry adoption, we will see more public reports that use it and hence it will get more acceptance.
When developing a market for new software, it’s interesting to ask whether better long term traction will be derived from more consultant usage or more mining company usage. Will mining companies use the software if their consultants are using it, or will consultants use it if more mining companies are using it? It’s an interesting question that new software vendors must deal with in order to grow their market share.