Implications of mining project cost overruns for QP liability

Cost overruns are not new to engineering projects. It is a problem when the scale and frequency is high. Unfortunately, the mining industry has a reputation for cost overruns during project construction. Different people have estimated mining cost overruns to nearly 40%. This is significant because all the CRIRSCO standards require capital and operating cost accuracy of ±25% and ±15% for prefeasibility and final feasibility studies, respectively. The US Securities and Exchange Commission’s (SEC’s) Regulation S-K 1300, in addition to this, asks qualified persons (QPs) to state the accuracy of their cost estimates in technical report summaries filed with the Commission. In this post, I am going to share my thoughts on the causes of these cost overruns and the implications for QP liability in public reports.

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Regulation S-K 1300 and Limited QP Liability

When I teach my short course on the basics of Regulation S-K 1300 one of the discussion points that takes the most time is how S-K 1300 handles qualified person (QP) liability. Under S-K 1300, as with all the CRIRSCO standards, the QP is liable for misstating or omitting material facts. The Canadian National Instrument (NI) 43-101, section 6.4(2) and Item 3 of Form 43-101F1, allows QPs to disclaim certain items of the disclosure in the technical report if the QP is “relying on a report, opinion, or statement of another expert
who is not a qualified person, or on information provided by the issuer, concerning legal, political, environmental, or tax matters relevant to the technical report” so long as the QP provides certain disclosures. S-K 1300, on the other hand, only provides that the QP can disclaim certain items of disclosure that he/she received from the registrant.

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What We Know About ESG Disclosures from Mine Safety Disclosures

Mining companies are under pressure from stakeholders to provide more relevant environmental, safety and governance (ESG) disclosures. Since 2010, the US Securities & Exchange Commission (SEC) has required a range of mine safety disclosures in an effort to elicit more ESG disclosures for companies with mining operations. After over a decade of this disclosure regime, I believe there are lessons we can learn from this subset of ESG disclosures. This post will summarize my thoughts on this.

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Now Clarified: SEC’s Regulation S-K 1300’s Compliance Timeline

When the Securities & Exchange Commission (SEC) passed its new mining property disclosure rules (Regulation S-K 1300) it set January 1, 2021 as the compliance date. Specifically, the SEC required that companies with material mining operations “must comply with the final rule amendments for the first fiscal year beginning on or after January 1, 2021.” While the compliance date for a company’s annual report has been clear from the beginning, the implications for when a company needs to file a registration statement within its “first fiscal year beginning on or after January 1, 2021” that requires disclosures of exploration results, resources and reserves have not been that obvious. The SEC, in guidance issued in April 2019, clarified circumstances under which disclosures of exploration results, resources and reserves in registration statements prior to the first annual report that is S-K 1300 complaint do not have to comply with S-K 1300. In this post, I will do my best to explain this to mining professionals who are not attorneys.

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Was the SEC Encouraging Companies to use External QPs in S-K 1300?

Since the US Securities & Exchange Commission (SEC) passed its new mining property disclosure rules, I have heard many suggest that the SEC would prefer mining companies to use external professionals (i.e. consultants) as qualified persons (QPs) instead of their own employees. Such people cite the fact that the Commission, in the rules, allowed a third-party firm (i.e. a consulting company) to sign a technical report summary (TRS) and provide written consent on behalf of its employees who prepare the TRS. They point to the fact that the rules do not provide the same allowance for employees. This is simply not true and I will attempt to explain the Commission’s reasoning for arriving at this position in this post.

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Free OEM training courses: How free are they?

Yours truly training at Tinaja Hills in 2007

I have attended my share of “free” training courses offered by original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) and/or their vendors. Most of them have been very good. But the one that stands out the most was the training portion of Caterpillar’s Quarry Days in 2006 at their Tinaja Hills facility near Tucson, Arizona. I attended sessions on fleet management using FPC and ground engaging tools, among others. And I remember thinking how much all this is costing CAT to provide these “free” courses.

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The mine & its local community: Aiming for a sustainable relationship

Mining protest rally

A mine and its local community are inextricably linked. The two will thrive together or fail together but rarely will one thrive without the other for any length of time. Yet, mine planning engineers and mine managers often do not comprehensively evaluate the effect of the life-of-mine plan on the local community and vice versa. The quest for truly sustainable mines is unattainable without understanding how to ensure sustainable development of the local community.

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Bull/Bear Markets and Mine Plans

Gold bullion

This week, I read several articles on gold’s bear run on the markets (you can find my favorite here). Several news outlets noted that gold dipped below $1,500/oz., which takes it below 20% of its peak price (the official definition of a bear market). This made me wonder how this trend, if it were to continue (not that I think it will), affects the current mine plans at gold mines. If the trend continues, those of you in long-range mine planning are going to be getting calls from your boss (or the corporate office) asking for revisions to the current plan using different gold prices. In this post, I intend to share my thoughts on how mine engineers account for market volatility in long-range mine plans.

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