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Journal of the Southern African Institute of Mining and Metallurgy

On-line version ISSN 2411-9717
Print version ISSN 0038-223X


MINNITT, R.C.A.. Sampling in the South African minerals industry. J. S. Afr. Inst. Min. Metall. [online]. 2014, vol.114, n.1, pp.63-81. ISSN 2411-9717.

Although not fully accepted in South Africa, the Theory of Sampling originally proposed by Pierre Gy is fast becoming the cornerstone of sampling practice throughout the world. The growing acceptance of Gy's Theory of Sampling in South Africa can be attributed to a number of factors, chief amongst them being the development of a tradable mineral asset market, the promulgation of the Mineral and Petroleum Resources Development Act (MPRDA), the growing number of commercial and academic courses that are offered on sampling, and the regulation of the industry through internationally acceptable guidelines and rules for reporting and trading in mineral assets. The size of the South African minerals industry and the dependence of our economy on mineral production have also meant that correct sampling is of key importance to mineral trade. ISO standards have been the principal guides for producers of mineral bulk commodities who produce to customers' specifications, whereas Gy's insights have been most readily accepted by precious and base metals producers whose product is sold into metal markets. Understanding of small-scale variability is essential in the precious and base-metal industries, but detailed studies of the effects of heterogeneity have not been as productive in the bulk commodities. Sampling practices at different stages of mineral development from exploration, face sampling and grade control, ore processing and handling, metallurgical sub-sampling, point of sale sampling, and sampling in the laboratory are considered in the gold, platinum, ferrous metal, and coal industries. A summary of the impact of poor sampling in these industries is presented. Generally it appears that poor sampling practice is most likely to erode mineral asset value at the early stages of mineral development. The benefits of good sampling are considered, especially with regard to the financial implications of bias and error on large and consistent consignments of bulk commodities.

Keywords : theory of sampling; sampling errors; ISO standards.

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