The U.S. Geological Survey is conducting a national assessment of coal resources. As part of that assessment, a geostatistical procedure has been developed to estimate the uncertainty of coal resources for the historical categories of geological assurance: measured, indicated, inferred, and hypothetical coal. Data consist of spatially clustered coal thickness measurements from coal beds and/or zones that cover, in some cases, several thousand square kilometers. Our procedure involved trend removal, an examination of spatial correlation, computation of a sample semivariogram, and fitting a semivariogram model. This model provided standard deviations for the uncertainty estimates. The number of sample points (drill holes) in each historical category also was estimated. Measurement error in the thickness of the coal bed/zone was obtained from the fitted model or supplied exogenously. From this information approximate estimates of uncertainty on the historical categories were computed. We illustrate the methodology using drill hole data from the Harmon coal bed located in southwestern North Dakota. The methodology will be applied to approximately 50 coal data sets.
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Uncertainty estimation for resource assessment-an application to coal