The Environment of Exploration: Economic, Organizational, and Social Constraints
Exploration has a positive value to society. For example, about $60 million of new wealth or economic surplus results from the discovery of an economic base metal deposit in the Canadian Shield. To make its contribution to society, the exploration organization operates in an environment comprising the public, governments, the mining organization, geology, and the mineral endowment of the earth.
Exploration is the first and most strategic phase of the mineral supply process. Corporate exploration decisions affect profit, growth, and survival considerations of the mining company. Mineral exploration is a sequential information-gathering process, punctuated by a succession of tests which provide perceptions of costs, risks, and returns of alternatives. The balance between the competing factors of depletion and technological evolution and fluctuating metal prices are variables in the assessment of risks and returns.
A study of Canadian Shield exploration from 1951 to 1974 shows that about 2,100 mineral occurrences were discovered, at an average cost of $450,000 each. Of these, 40 were economic. In this context, about one economic mineral deposit was found for every 50 mineral occurrences discovered.
A well-directed exploration program considers short- and long-term investment criteria. The long term is evaluated using various measures of Expected Value, the average value exploration will yield in the long term. The risks associated with the variability of commodity price, the variability of lifetime, and the profitability of a discovery, and the low probability of success should be considered in exploration planning.
Because the future of the exploration industry and of society is inextricably bound, the industry must demonstrate to governments the positive potential value of exploration. Governments should respond so as to optimize the contribution from the mineral endowment of the land by enlightened tax and land use policies.
Mineral exploration will increasingly contribute to the needs of society. There may never have been a better time to be an economic geologist.
Figures & Tables
The first notions of a new journal came to J. E. Spurr during the closing days of 1904. When he shared his thoughts with friends in Washington, D. C., they were so enthusiastic about the suggestion that they formed themselves into an ad-hoc committee to seek ways to implement the idea. The ad-hoc group met informally for several months and by May of the following year was ready to announce the birth of an unusual new publishing company and the journal the company would produce. The first formal meeting of the Economic Geology Publishing Company took place on May 16, 1905. The first issue of the new journal appeared in October of the same year, and the first volume was completed in December 1906. The birthing was not easy, but it was successful because the founders provided much of the financing as well as the first papers. The story of those earliest days and the many struggles of the fledgling journal is engagingly recounted by Alan M. Bateman in an article published in the Fiftieth Anniversary volume.
From inception, management of the journal has differed from the management of most scientific journals. There was no sponsoring society, so the founders raised capital by incorporating and selling shares in the venture. The journal has been owned and published by the Economic Geology Publishing Company ever since. There is no record that the founders experienced difficulties in selling shares in the Company, but they must have had some because the Publishing Company had a goal that other corporations(and presumably many of the investors) would have found difficulty in understanding: the new corporation was committed to keeping the books balanced but not to making a profit.
Initially incorporated in the District of Columbia, the Publishing Company was reincorporated in 1970 as a nonprofit membership corporation in Delaware. The modification in corporate status came in response to a suggestion made by the Internal Revenue Service.
The affairs of the Publishing Company are controlled by a Board of Directors, and the journal is sold to the public by direct subscription. Day-to-day operations of paper selection, review, and printing are in the hands of the Editor, while business matters, such as subscriptions and advertising, are in the hands of the Business Editor.
The one tie the Publishing Company has with a society was instituted many years after the journal. was founded—with the Society of Economic Geologists. When the Society was founded in 1920 it first considered publishing its own bulletin. Because the venture seemed financially questionable, and the coffers of the new society were bare, an arrangement was reached whereby members of the Society first received offPrints of papers written by its members and eventually Economic Geology as