An assayer is a scientific professional who analyzes various types of minerals and ores to identify the properties of those substances. As part of the process, some of the strategies involved in this analysis will allow the assayer to actually separate the different ores and alloys from one another, making it much easier to determine the exact composition of the sample. Some assayers focus on analyzing samples for the purpose of finding specific types of ores or metals, such as gold or silver. In other situations, the ore tester is hired to identify any type of mineral content, thus making it possible to determine which precious metals may or may not be found in a given area.
In order to accurately determine the ore and mineral content of a sample, an assayer will make use of several different methods. Chemical solutions that are employed under strict laboratory conditions make it possible to identify what is and is not found in the sample. The solutions can also be used to separate the various ores, making it easier to identify how much of each substance is present. There are also dry methods used in assaying, with one example being the use of heat on the sample. This strategy can cause certain ores to coalesce into slag, which also aids in determining what elements are and are not present in the sample.
Along with separating and identifying various ores in a sample, an assayer can also make use of various methods to refine any elements present. For example, a silver or gold assayer can take any amount of precious ore that is found and refine it so the sample becomes less brittle. Doing so makes it much easier to determine what is known as the assay balance, which is simply a process that helps to identify the gradations in the sample. The balance helps to serve as an indicator of how much gold or silver can be harvested from the general area where the sample was collected.
Mining companies often employ assayers as full-time employees or as independent consultants. This makes it possible to more accurately assess the viability of initiating a mining operation within a given area before taking steps to purchase land or invest a great deal of time and resources in performing what is sometimes known as a blind dig. By utilizing the skills of a qualified assayer, the company can reap the most benefit from the mining operation while also keeping costs as low as possible.