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Resources and Reserve Assurance Processes – a Framework for Improved Governance

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Author L J de Lange

Description

As a material asset for mining entities, the resources and reserves (RR) estimation processes are surprisingly underrepresented in the assurance landscape. When press reports expose them being inaccurately reported, or in merger and acquisitions processes, their importance becomes clear. The impact of erroneous RR numbers (both positive and negative) could have a material impact on an entity’s reputation and value.

The technical nature and ‘black magic’ connotations of the RR estimation processes are possibly reasons why audit committees are not actively involved with it. Internal auditors avoid the RR processes for similar reasons. Also the traditional approach to obtain assurance on RR is expensive and is therefore only performed when it is absolutely required.

However, stakeholders’ expectations of good governance are growing. Part of this increased focus is based on attaining a higher degree of certainty about the current and forecasted position of the entity. Stakeholders are also increasingly more interested in non-financial areas of entities, as the future success of an entity is more than a set of financial metrics.

Consequently, the RR estimation processes should be visible on the agendas of audit committees. Monitoring of key controls is required as part of the governance obligations for senior management and the audit committee. So once it is on the audit committee’s agenda, the question then becomes, how will that agenda be supported by an assurance process that is cost-effective?

The main objective of the paper is to describe a model of RR assurance that has been effectively applied in some mining companies. The paper discusses one particular approach that provides an audit committee with the required assurance regarding RR processes. The approach ties the assurance needs of the audit committee to the needs of the technical experts in the entity, therefore involving two important figures. It also offers assurance providers with a model to audit ‘through’ the RR processes rather than ‘around’ them. The paper then discusses top-down and bottom-up approaches that provide assurance at different levels of an entity.

A governance audit that focuses on the RR processes is suggested as a top-down approach. A bottom-up approach assesses the design adequacy of internal control processes. A hybrid model is described which meets the needs of diverse stakeholders including the audit committee and the RR community.

The hybrid model combines the expertise of professionals in both internal audit and RR. The right balance of these skills directed by a singular approach ensures that a credible result is achieved.

This approach is not as expensive as some verification approaches used in the industry and can, as a result, be performed on a more regular basis.

The last element of the paper looks at implementation of the reporting mechanism. An assurance process aimed at continuous improvement further enhances the robustness and reliability of RR reported by an entity.

CITATION:

de Lange, L J, 2016. Resources and reserve assurance processes – a framework for improved governance, in Proceedings International Mine Management Conference, pp 21-34 (The Australasian Institute of Mining and Metallurgy: Melbourne).