Garth Kirkham

Distinguished Lecturer 2013-14

In recognition of his excellence and expertise in the art and science of 3D modelling and mineral resource estimation, notably in the context of NI43-101.

PresentationTopic: NI43-101 Mineral Resource Estimation and CIM Best Practices

Mineral resource and reserve estimation has changed significantly in the past 30 years: use of primarily manual techniques is shifting to use of complex geostatistical techniques, which are becoming commonplace and continuing to evolve. Computational horsepower has revolutionized all facets of numerical modelling and has allowed for increasingly complex methods and techniques to be employed to solve geological and mining-related problems. With the introduction of NI 43-101 in the 90s, a prescribed format and detailed set of rules guide the reporting of resources. In addition, a set of basic principles or “best practices” has been developed and guides the practitioner in all aspects of mineral resource evaluation and estimation, from data management, data analysis, geological modelling and domaining, geostatistical analysis, estimation and classification, to mine design and material scheduling.

Q&A: Garth Kirkham clarifies NI 43-101 and CIM Definitions and Standards and Best Practices

By Dinah Zeldin

CIM: Why is it important to discuss NI 43-101 at this point in time?

Kirkham: NI 43-101 is recognized as a Canadian brand and respected the world over. Other codes have some guidance on how to do reports, but NI 43-101 is one that stands alone as a quality brand. It also carries the weight of law in Canada, which makes it an important piece of legislation because most mineral projects in the world are financed here in Canada.

NI 43-101 covers all permitted disclosure but also gives guidance on prohibited disclosure. It encompasses the precise, prescriptive form of what an NI 43-101 report must include. It guides you on what you can say about those reports in press releases and on websites and company AIFs (annual information forms), as well as on anything else that goes out to the public with respect to the mineral property, including geology, drilling information, quality control programs, validation and verification of the information, metallurgical studies, the estimation of mineral resources and reserves, and even the socio-economics of a mineral project. It also covers advanced studies which assess the economic viability of projects, such as preliminary economic assessments, and prefeasibility and feasibility studies.

I feel it is my duty to help educate the incoming cohort of geoscientists on NI 43-101 and on CIM Definitions and Standards, and Best Practices. Several universities have already invited me to speak to their third and fourth year students about this issue. It is not really taught in school but it will greatly impact students if they choose to work for a mineral exploration or mining company, or to consult.

CIM: What is the link between NI 43-101 and CIM Definitions and Standards, and Best Practices?

Kirkham: You are legally obliged to use CIM Standards and Definitions, and you should follow best practices like CIM Best Practices when you are authoring an NI 43-101 Technical Report.

Having CIM Definitions and Standards, and Best Practices referenced in NI 43-101 helps streamline the process of keeping NI 43-101 current. Making changes to NI 43-101 is very difficult and time-consuming and requires much public consultation, for good reason as it is the law of the land. While there is still a consultation process to make amendments to CIM Definitions and Standards, the process of making changes and updates is much more nimble.

I would like to note that due to NI 43-101, the CIM Definitions and Standards, and Best Practices are also recognized as a world standard in many circles. Yet, although CIM Standards and Definitions, and Best Practices are referenced in NI 43-101, many practitioners have not read them in detail, which I highly recommend.

CIM: When was NI 43-101 first developed? Was Bre-X the catalyst?

Kirkham: It is thought that the Bre-X scandal in 1997 was the catalyst for the development of the CIM definitions, standards and best practices.  Bre-X shares soared from penny stocks to over $250 apiece due to a massive gold discovery. It was soon found that there was widespread salting of samples – a practice that entails physically altering assays by adding gold. Now in the computer age, electronic salting (the manual changing of assays in a database) is much more of a concern as it is easier to do. Although Bre-X was the catalyst for sweeping changes and added regulation, CIM had already identified the need for standards and had a group of dedicated experts who had standards, definitions and best practices already in the works, and who accelerated their publication in order to complement NI 43-101.

So yes, Bre-X was a catalyst to develop regulations on how estimation of mineral resources and reserves is reported, and to make laws in this area more complete and detailed. Without the Bre-X scandal, it may not have happened yet. But, by virtue of Bre-X spurring the creation of NI 43-101, potential scandals have likely been averted.

CIM: What was the mining industry’s response to NI 43-101?

Kirkham: Initially, it was very painful and there was a lot of fear and anger. Any regulation can be expensive. NI 43-101 has certainly created significant costs for projects. For example, companies were obliged to perform additional drilling to validate data or were sometimes unable to use historical data.  Also, companies could no longer perform all work in-house and had to involve independent experts because they had to carry out extensive quality control on data and  to change methods and procedures. That created additional costs, but there “is” a cost to doing things right. Over time, the industry has started to take a certain amount of pride in NI 43-101. Even private and foreign companies that do not have to follow NI 43-101 are now following it because it is a good format and the end result is a highly respected document.

CIM: How have the CIM Definitions and Standards, and Best Practices evolved since their creation, and how will they continue to evolve?

Kirkham: Some of the suggested definitions, methods and techniques have evolved over time, but the initial definitions and best practices are still valid. I think most of the major changes have already been implemented, and now it is really about maintenance and continuous improvement, both for NI 43-101 and for CIM Standards.

The lynch-pin of the whole system is the concept of the Qualified Person (QP), which has not changed. The system relies on the QP – a professional who has the appropriate education, experience and professional affiliation to act as an author of the reports and to take responsibility for technical information. The system hinges on that person operating in an ethical and reasonable manner to make sure the appropriate methods and techniques are applied when studies to be used for reports that will be disclosed to the public are conducted. Examples of how these concepts may manifest in a study or a report would be: Were best practices used? Were bad practices avoided? Were geological constraints applied correctly? Have the high-grade outliers been adequately dealt with? Was there full database validation?

As I keep saying, the QP is guided by the CIM Standards, Definitions, and Best Practices. There is a troika, so to speak, composed of NI 43-101, CIM Standards and professional associations (e.g. APEGBC, APGO, OGQ, AusIMM, SME, et cetera), which acts to ensure that quality and integrity are upheld. At the end of the day, this is ALL about “the protection of the public,” which is a duty that we should all take very seriously.

We are currently looking at updating the best practices for the estimation of mineral resources in the short term. Most recently, we created best practices for mineral processors, potash and lithium brines. Now we are working on best practices for advanced studies including preliminary economic assessments, and pre-feasibility and feasibility studies.

Read the CIM Standards Definitions and Best Practices.


A passion for the geosciences led Garth Kirkham to study geophysics at the University of Alberta. He graduated in 1983 and started his career as a geophysicist in the oil patch. Kirkham earned a professional designation as a P.Geoph. while living in Calgary. During this time, he specialized in three dimensional (3D) seismic acquisition techniques, interpretation and modelling. His interest in the mineral exploration and mining industry and his desire to apply similar advances in computer technology and modelling expertise took him to Vancouver to work for Lynx Geosystems Ltd., a leading technology company in the mining industry. Lynx’s systems were the first to automate the process related to the estimation of resources but also included database management, statistical analysis, geostatistical analysis, open pit and underground mine design, pit optimization and scheduling. In 1997, he started a consulting business focused on providing 3D modelling services and resource estimations. An important event that coincided with this new direction was the adoption of NI 43-101, for which Kirkham is a strong advocate.

Kirkham was elected to the Association of Professional Engineers and Geoscientists of B.C. (APEGBC) Council in 2010, 2012 and 2013, and is currently co-chair of the Geoscience Committee and chair of the Geo-Modelling Experience Task Force. In addition, he is chair of the Geoscientists Canada Securities Committee that is tasked with responding to requests and issues related to NI 43-101 and other regulatory instruments. He is also chair of the CIM Best Practices Committee.

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