Mineral rights

One of the types of intangible excluded from IAS 38 is mineral rights. The issue here is that where a mining or exploration company conducts exploratory work towards identifying mineral resources, there is no specific expectation of future economic benefits arising from the work. There is a general expectation, but the purpose of the exploratory work is to establish whether or not there are benefits and in what quantity. The work done does not qualify as an asset in IAS 38 terms, and yet a mining company would probably be able to sell the information it has gained.

When the first wave of companies moved to IFRS in 2005, the IASB issued IFRS 6 Exploration for and Evaluation of Mineral Resources. The purpose of this standard was not to establish accounting rules for this, but rather to tell mining companies moving into IFRS that they should continue to use whatever accounting policy they had previously been using. Since then a number of National Standard-Setters (Australia, Norway, Canada and South Africa) have been working with the IASB to develop an IFRS that addresses this particular problem. They issued a discussion paper, Extractive Industries, which was published in 2010. The next stage will be a decision whether to take the project onto the IASB’s active agenda. That should be taken in 2011, but it would likely be 2014 at the earliest before a final standard emerged.

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