by the Mineral Prospector
Prospecting for Minerals and Metals

How to Sample Minerals and Rocks

    Sampling is a very important part of the exploration process and the opportunities for abuse are legion. When one looks down at a bit of rock that looks exactly like a million other bits of rock and thinks, “Boy, if this has high grades of gold or other minerals in it, then my future is secure”, there is a tendency to want to nudge things a bit. Think of what must have gone through the mind of Mr. de Guzman as he sweat it out in a locked shack in the jungles of Indonesia. Sampling should always be organized such that another person is ready to check the work done to see if the results stay the same.

    Samples can be taken of almost anything and analyzed to see if there are minerals hiding nearby. Soil can be sampled, water can be sampled, plants can be sampled, rocks can be sampled, air can be sampled. And the samples are then analyzed using very complex and expensive machines to see if that new Mercedes SUV figures in your future. Usually it is advisable to collect the samples in some sort of pattern so that the assay results can be plotted and pretty colours applied to see if there are “hot spots”. That is why high values of what is being assayed are coloured red - this makes the hot spots look... well.. hot.

    Once the samples have been systematically collected along a stream bed, a rock wall or whatever, they are placed in bags appropriately called “sample bags” and given a name or code. Believe it or not this is the most difficult of tasks for most geologists. Imagine... an area of study that is primarily dedicated to the detailed classification of things and the practitioners cannot figure out a system of naming a couple of thousand samples of those things! It is breathtaking really. They usually come up with a name like IP-MMJ-041206-1a-iib. When questioned they will then tell you that this is sample number 1. So why not call it sample number 1 and collect all the other important information in some other fashion? I have had this fight a couple of times... sorry for the outburst.


    by Murray Lytle