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Although it may seem like belaboring the obvious, any reserve estimate begins with an assessment of the size and shape of the orebody. This step is self-evident, but gross errors in reserve estimation can often be traced to an erroneous view of the size or shape of the deposit in question.

The overall volume of an orebody is defined by the outer limits of economic mineralization—the contacts between ore and waste. As discussed by Ristorcelli and Prenn (1994), there are essentially three types of contact involved in resource and reserve estimation: geologic, mineralogic, and economic, all of which must be considered in the evaluation of any given deposit. Depending on the specific deposit, the three types may or may not coincide, and the nature and predictability of each may vary considerably.

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