The United Nations Framework Classification for Resources (UNFC) originated from work done initially by the UNECE’s working group on coal in the early 1990s which led to the publication of the first version of the UNFC in 1997 (referred to at that time as “United Nations Framework Classification for Reserves and Resources of Solid Fuels and Mineral Commodities”). In November 1999, agreement was reached between the UNECE Task Force on the UNFC and an Expert Group of the Council of Mining and Metallurgical Institutions (CMMI – the precursor to CRIRSCO) to integrate their respective definitions into a single, universally applicable set of definitions and these were included in the 1999 version of the UNFC (referred to at that time as “United Nations Framework Classification for Fossil Energy and Mineral Resources”), but removed in the 2004 version of the UNFC.

The 2009 version of the UNFC showed a shift in thinking away from the volume-focused classification approach which is common in the minerals sector, to a more project-focused approach and the minerals sector aligned definitions were dropped. From then onwards, the content of the UNFC is much more similar in terms of terminology and approach to the approaches used in the Petroleum Resource Management System (PRMS). Subsequently the 2019 version of the UNFC was entitled “United Nations Framework Classification for Resources” to allow its application in a much wider range of sectors including renewable energy, injection projects for geological storage and anthropogenic resources as well as solid minerals and petroleum. To support the continued application of the UNFC in the minerals sector the UNECE published the “Supplementary Specifications for the Application of the United Nations Framework Classification for Resources to Minerals” in 2021.

With the publication of the first version of the CRIRSCO Template in 2006, the use of the CRIRSCO definitions was consolidated and subsequently, the CRIRSCO Template was recognised by the UNECE as an aligned system. In 2015 the first version of the CRIRSCO-UNFC Bridging Document was issued in order to provide a mapping between the terminology used in the CRIRSCO Template and the UNFC Classes and numeric codes. With the publication of updates of both the CRIRSCO Template and the UNFC in 2019, certain aspects of this Bridging Document are now out of date. In April 2023, a joint task group was established by CRIRSCO and the UNECE in order to update the Bridging Document. 

A final draft version of the CRIRSCO-UNFC Bridging Document 2023, plus an accompanying guidance note on is use, are currently (mid-Nov. 2023) going through the final approval process and it is anticipated that these documents will be released before the end of 2023.

It is important to recognise that the CRIRSCO and UNFC systems have been designed for different purposes, namely:

  • The CRIRSCO-aligned reporting codes and standards have been developed in order to provide rules and common terminology for use in public disclosure by minerals companies, in particular with respect to stock exchange disclosure by listed companies. The main objective of these systems is to promote high standards of reporting of mineral deposit estimates (Exploration Targets, Mineral Resources and Mineral Reserves) and of exploration progress (Exploration Results) so as to provide investors, potential investors, their professional advisors and other stakeholders with reliable information on which to base their investment decisions.  Under the CRIRSCO reporting rules, disclosures of estimates of non-economic or sub-economic mineralisation are not allowed as it is considered that such estimates are potentially misleading for investors.
  • On the other hand, the UNFC was originally developed as a system to be used to support strategic planning by governments by providing information suitable for incorporation into national and regional inventories.  It facilitates the ranking and monitoring of resource projects in terms of their environmental-socio-economic viability and technical feasibility.  As such, the UNFC allows for the inclusion of projects which are currently non-viable as well as projects which are potentially viable and viable.

In cases where the UNFC is being used by governments as the basis for national mineral inventory databases, it is often found that the most reliable data is available for projects which have been reported under a CRIRSCO-aligned code or standard.  Such information is readily mapped to the UNFC using the CRIRSCO-UNFC Bridging Document without imposing any additional reporting burden on mineral exploration or mining companies.  Hence, CRIRSCO considers that the use of both systems by governments and companies to support strategic planning and the maintenance of mineral inventories is best done by using them in a complementary fashion.

In conjunction with the publication of the CRIRSCO-UNFC Bridging Document 2023, CRIRSCO is working with the UNECE’s Minerals Working Group on the development of joint training materials so as to assist users in applying the two systems in a complementary manner.