Reconciliation - Harder than it Looks!


Mr Michael O'Brien

The word 'reconciliation' can mean very different things to different people in the mineral industry. The views of an exploration geologist compared with the views of a process engineer, will be very different. The views off a mining economist will be very different from either of the previous persons. The processes constituting the mining value chain are an unholy amalgam of engineering, chemistry and geoscience. The philosophies of the disciplines contributing to mineral extraction are distinct and frequently not aligned. Little wonder that there are frequent disagreements on how to measure the effectiveness of the overall mineral exploitation process. In addition to discipline-specific bias, there is psychology. The attitude of people participating in a reconciliation exercise is greatly influenced by their relative positions in the organization and vested interests. 'Blame games' are a frequent result as different people attempt to deflect any potential criticism, even if it means pointing a finger at some other hapless member of the team. The phrase 'the search for the guilty and the punishment of the innocent' is a cynical but real outcome of a situation where senior management demand 'no surprises' while the nature of most deposits results almost inevitably in some form of unpleasant surprise, the more data becomes available. So how can the 'surprises' be minimized and reconciliation become a tool for process improvement rather than a blunt instrument to push the innocent and obscure the facts? An holistic approach must be harnessed to involve the key disciplines in an honest and fruitful dialogue to measure and improve the jobs that need to be done. Senior management need to commit to such a process and create secure environment where honesty trumps the search for scapegoats. This is easier said than done, but from an early stage, break the silos of geoscience, mineral processing and mining engineering and create dialogue.