Far too often small operators, in a mistaken attempt to reduce costs, conduct little or no sampling before beginning to mine. Probably the first thing one needs to determine is what the goal of your sampling program is.

Using poorly planned sampling methods is a technique guaranteed to give poor results. When beginning a sampling project, it’s important to plan what you are doing in advance. When designing a sampling program the first thing that has to be considered is: What are you trying to determine? Are you exploring for new deposits or trying to characterize the average grade of a known vein or other deposit?

The goals of a prospecting or exploration sampling program are not the same as the goals in ore characterization sampling.

In prospecting or exploration, one is looking for ore deposits concentrations of mineralization that would be worthy of further investigation. In an exploration project, the miner is looking to find new ore bodies, paystreaks or patches of nuggets. The goal in this type of operation is to identify likely locations for deposits and prospect there to see if some valuable deposits can be found.
In sampling, one is taking a more or less known deposit and testing it to characterize the extent and grade of the deposit, determine its size, typical grade, and other characteristics. This is usually done when considering a commercial mining operation in order to make an economic analysis or feasibility study to determine if it is economic to mine that deposit. It is important to recognize that most of the gravel in many placer mines is waste (the same is true for vein rock in most hard rock mines). When you are prospecting, you are searching for the valuable parts of those deposits, while in sampling, you are deciding the typical grade and size what is ore and what is not.

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