While there has been a great deal of attention given to the matter of keeping systematic mine accounts, both in the main offices and those at the works, there still is a lack of uniformity in practice. In the bookkeeping of manufacturing and mercantile institutions, uniform practices or systems have become a feature. But there have been good reasons for the absence of similar methods in mine offices.
There will be found to exist some uniformity in the accounting as practised by the mines of a particular district which are operating under similar conditions; but when one considers that the mines of various districts have quite dissimilar conditions throughout almost every phase of the business, it is not surprising that different methods must be employed in the keeping of their accounts. It is unavoidable. Mines extracting different metals or different kinds of coal will find it necessary to keep quite unlike records. Mines with their own mills will likewise require a different system of accounting from those that ship their products to custom works. Open and underground mines will need quite different styles of accounts.
So, it is not possible to recommend any one method of mine accounting. The best way to become posted upon this subject is to investigate the schemes, the blank forms and the books of some of the established, successful companies here and there about the world. In this way, ideas will be collected, and it will be possible for the investigator to evolve his own schemes for recording the accounts of his company.
It has come to be recognized as contributing to economy to maintain systems of accounts that will enter into minutiæ concerning every branch of the business. Just how far this can be carried without creating office expenses that will exceed the benefits to be derived from the detailed information remains a question to be decided by each manager. There are companies with accounts so perfected that it is possible to quickly ascertain, to a fraction of a cent, what the expenditures of any day have been for any particular part of the operations, as for instance, the haulage per ton underground, or the fuse employed in the blasting of a particular stope. Such details are highly useful since they prevent leaks in the costs; but it is a problem to decide to what extent it is economy to carry them. These data also furnish the superintendent information concerning the efficiency of his many laborers and the machinery. Labor-saving inventions, such as the printed blank form, and the loose leaf, are put to excellent use in mining offices.
There are strong companies operating great mining plants whose records are open to the perusal of any individual, be he stockholder or not. In the office of such a company, a person may turn to the accounts and see for himself how much it costs to maintain each and all of the operations and he can learn the size and the value of all shipments of products of any sort—ore, concentrates, coal, matte, or bullion. Again, there are those companies that are so secretive about everything connected with their work that even the Government is unable to learn any particulars, except at very great trouble.
The Portland Gold Mining Company, operating a great property at Victor, in the Cripple Creek District, is an instance of the first sort, while the United Verde mine, at Jerome, Arizona, may be taken to represent the second sort. Both of these mines have made splendid records. It cannot be seen wherein the second mine is required to maintain secrecy, for there is no danger of litigation from neighboring property holders, the one company controlling, practically, the mining in its neighborhood. The presumption is that the owners hold their business to be nobody's else and they have a right to keep their affairs secret if they desire. On the other hand, the Portland is surrounded by good mines which profit by knowing the details of operating costs and incomes of their neighbor; but it is found to cost no more to be open and above board than to keep things under guard. The Colorado Fuel and Iron Company will not divulge any particulars concerning its mining movements; but there are other just as great mining companies that will explain every detail.
The Clark copper companies, of Butte, Montana, did not permit much information to escape their offices, while the neighboring Amalgamated companies gave particulars freely.
The question of secrecy should be considered, and if there is no very good excuse for maintaining a privacy it should not be instituted. The trend of all modern thought is along the line of publicity in all our dealings. The only persons who have a reasonable right to be secretive are those who have something they do not care to share or divulge to their fellow-men. Law breakers, tax dodgers, and trespassers, could be put into one class; persons doing research work which it is premature to publish are a more respectable class; manufacturers with strong competition in the sales markets are in a measure excusable; even a mine which is producing some material in the sale of which it attempts to maintain a monopoly might be excusable. But it is hard to see what excuse or benefit there is for a coal or a copper mining company to prevent a knowledge of its affairs, if the business is being conducted along strictly legitimate lines.
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