A Mining Engineer is a Liar Standing Beside a Hole in the Ground

Mark Twain held a low view of mining engineers apparently as a result of his own painful investing experience. Mining has a twin nature which makes it a high risk for both the developer and the investor. In the first place mining projects are always expensive and time consuming to develop. In the second place mining involves the extraction of metals such as gold, the mere mention of which, can cause investors to swoon. In the hands of an unscrupulous person, this combination can be a deadly bromide. But what Mark Twain was unwilling to acknowledge with his witty remark is that there is a difference between a mining engineer and a mining geologist/promoter.

The promoter is the one who raises the money to bring to fruition his dream of building a profitable mine and, given the amount of money involved, it is often easier to “mine” the public rather than the resource. Whenever this happens there is always a public scandal and a surge of new legislation designed to balance the temptation to defraud with the consequences of being caught at the fraud.

Two important things need to be stated here; In the first place, the fraudulent promoter is rarely a mining engineer but more often is a huckster or geologist skilled in nothing more than separating gullible people from their money (which in itself is no small thing) and in the second place, mining scams have never been as large as savings and loans scams, new technology scams or “everybody needs a house” scams. It is good to keep these things in proportion and remember that a fraud in the mining industry has never come close to bringing down the world financial system.

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