The Good the Bad and the Ugly: Picking an Assay Lab

We try to use local small businesses as much as possible for our supplies and services. This is part of the core fundamentals that make up our thinking, we started out as a small local business and like to give back in the form of providing others with our business in turn. We support many local business from our accounting firm to the family owned sawmill where we buy our survey stakes. Using local providers has worked well for us, but how does it stack up when it comes to picking something as important as an assay lab?

There are only a fraction of mineral labs scattered throughout the Western United States compared to how many were in existence at the turn of the last century. Many of these labs are small and locally owned. Often times they provide fast, affordable, and accurate results, but sometimes they don’t. Knowing when to use a local lab and when to outsource to a large certified lab can be a tricky decision. This short article is aimed at helping you weigh the pros and cons and make a decision that will benefit you and the goals of your project.

Local Labs

The good:

  • Often provide quicker turnaround times.
  • Offer rates that are sometimes cheaper than the rates of the big labs.
  • Personalized service. You can shake hands with the person running the tests.
  • Greater flexibility. Local labs will usually work harder to get and maintain your business, this means they will often cater to your budget.

The bad:

  • Not all local labs are certified.
  • They don’t have as much name recognition.
  • They may lack consistency and quality control mechanisms.
  • Don’t always provide a wide variety of services.

The ugly:

  • Some local labs have a bad reputation. Some have been known to fake or modify results that weren’t subsequently repeatable by a third party.

National/Global Labs

The good:

  • Have name recognition.
  • Are certified to many national/international standards.
  • Offer consistency in results.
  • Provide a wide variety of services
  • Can handle very large volumes of tests.

The Bad:

  • Often slower on turnaround times.
  • Can cost more.
  • Don’t usually provide the same level of personal service.
  • Don’t offer as much flexibility to work with your budget.

The ugly:

  • While the big labs have provided great consistency and reliability to the industry, they have also driven dozens of smaller labs out of business over the years.


The size and scope of your project is a big determining factor in picking an assay lab. It may be preferable to utilize a smaller local lab when working on a little project or even during the first initial sampling phases of a larger project. But when it comes to a large scale sampling program or a project that is likely to be marketed to a bigger company you may want to consider using one of the globally recognized labs. When selecting a local lab make sure you research their reputation and reliability. Some local labs are fantastic and consistently provide great results, but others have been known to be less than reputable.  If you only need a few quick results, it’s likely best to go local. If you need many complex and highly specialized analyses completed for a third party, consider using a larger lab. Ultimately many projects end up using a variety of labs throughout their development, so make sure to pick a lab that fits the desired goals of the current phase of your project.

Burgex Inc. has experience completing sampling on many projects for a variety of different commodities and has utilized the services of many different labs. If you need mining consulting services or would like recommendations for labs suited to your application, contact us and we would be happy to speak with you. We can help you pick the lab that is right for you and your project. 

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