National Instrument 43-101(6.2) specifies that “before an issuer files a technical report, the issuer must have at least one qualified person (“QP”) who is responsible for preparing or supervising the preparation of all or part of the technical report complete a current inspection on the property that is the subject of the technical report.” In some study reports one may see a long list of QP’s but only one or two have made an actual site visit. I have worked on numerous studies and not been involved in the site inspection.
In most cases the limited number of people attending the site inspection may be due to the high cost for travel to a remote site, the logistics of travelling with a larger team, and the associated fee cost for the personnel. In some cases the site visits personnel may be controlled simply because there isn’t much to see at the property. In other instances, only a few persons on the team are physically available given the timing of visit. Therefore given the limitations on the site inspection, it is important to get the best bang for the buck.
On the site inspections that I have been involved in, they ranged in scope from a simple tour of the property taking photographs to more detailed data room reviews, meeting the owner’s team, meeting with vendors and potential contractors.
In my opinion the more advanced the study the more important the site visit becomes. At the feasibility stage it is important that several QP’s complete one or more site visits if possible. Also they should be there at the same time so that they see and hear the same things. Obviously they will eventually split into groups to focus on areas of their responsibility but the general overall messages should be consistent to the entire team.
For an earlier stage (e.g. PEA), it is less critical that a large team complete the site visit. However in some circumstances the travel and time costs can be significant for even one person to make the trip. Therefore it is important to make the best use of the time.
I would recommend that the QP selected to make the site visit be in prior contact with other team members to determine what information they will require. The QP is then responsible to go and collect that data if possible. Obviously sorting through information files in different disciplines may be difficult for one person, but inspecting and photographing sites of interest to others may be of value. In addition making first contact with local vendors and contractors may also be useful on behalf of others on the study team. Ultimately spending an extra day or two at site or in-country can be relatively inexpensive compared to the fixed cost of the travel itself. Once back at the office, the QP should distribute his findings to the rest of the team, benefiting the team with better information. Often this post-visit information sharing does not happen.
My bottom line is that I have rarely seen pre-trip data gathering lists for the QP site visits. In many cases the QP simply goes to collect the information they personally need. Generally the pre-trip agendas tend to focus on travel and hotel logistics and not so much on information gathering needs. Quick drive-by site visits meet the legal requirements of NI 43-101 but don’t add much to the overall study but could be made more effective.