The Ethics Column: Professionalism Cannot be Turned On and Off

Australian Institute of Geoscientists > Best Practice > The Ethics Column: Professionalism Cannot be Turned On and Off

Professionalism cannot be turned on and off according to audience or subject matter.

Recent controversy over articles published in AIG News concerning phases of water and water divining is healthy and to be encouraged (Refs 1, 2, 3). But, the AIG with the ASX, ASIC and AusIMM have recently instituted JORC 2012 (Ref. 4). JORC 2012 is a clear set of Professional Requirements phrased as Transparency, Materiality and Competence. It is a prescriptive strait-jacket with the requirement for the Competent Person to accept a life-long legal liability for material in Exploration, Resource and Reserve reports and removes the defense of “just doing what the boss requested”.  I have heard past and present members of the JORC committee suggest that JORC applies only to grade and tonnes. But can Professionalism be turned on and off according to audience or subject matter?  I think not, and clearly the AIG (and AusIMM) need to debate the reach of Professional Requirements.

One unintended consequence of JORC 2012 is that articles in the AIG News are viewed by members with a sharpened perspective (Ref. 3).  Would the AIG publish articles on “hidden” gold not found by recognised analytical methods?  No, the AIG is extremely concerned about claims of this nature.  So the argument that the AIG News is an easy to read magazine that may encourage controversial articles is little different to putting material on when that content is ineligible for an ASX release.

Professionalism applies to all aspects of Earth Sciences with a financial and/or societal implication.  This includes, but is not limited to, Climate Change, Economic Demonstrated Resources (EDR), Fracking, Water Resources and Water Exploration.  Technical articles (as distinct from opinion like this) should be accompanied by full references to demonstrate Transparency and a statement of the authors’ qualifications to show Competency.  A recent AIG News article (Ref. 5) “What Reporting Portable XRF Data to 2012 JORC Code Guidelines Means” was itself not JORC-compliant lacking both references for Transparency and the qualifications of the authors for Competence. (I happen to know the authors are competent, and having talked to them I understand references were omitted for simplicity and qualifications to avoid accusations of marketing their business).  AIG members should be treated equally, all subject to the same Transparency, Materiality and Competence requirements.  If one group are required to accept a life-long legal commitment then so should all others when publishing and providing advice to Government and Non-Government Organisations. This is especially important when data and advice involves orders of magnitude more dollars than the issues policed by ASIC and the ASX as is the case with Climate Change, Water Policy and Fracking.

The unintended consequence of the prescriptive JORC 2012 code is that all AIG and AusIMM members and the Institute will be scrutinized for Professionalism beyond the limits of grade and tonnes.

Good for the Goose is good for the Gander.

Julian Vearncombe FAIG
SJS Resource Management


  1. Hissink, L. 2013. The Fourth Phase of Water – An EZ Phase to Add? AIG News No 114, p. 1-5.
  2. Hissink, L., 2014, From The Editor, AIG News No 115, p18.
  3. Letter to the Editor AIG News from Martin Hughes, AIG News 116.
  4. The JORC Code 2012 Edition. Australasian Code for Reporting of Exploration Results, Mineral resources and Ore Reserves. 5 Arne, D., Jeffress, G., Sergeev, N and Margereson, A. 2014.
  5. What reporting Portable XRF Data to 2012 JORC Code Guidelines Means. AIG News No. 115, p1 to 6.