Another matter of the first importance which the investor and speculator cannot disregard with impunity is the trustworthiness and the ability of the expert. These men have a great power placed in their hands, a power which they can wield for good and evil, a power which will enable them easily to make the fortunes of some people and to ruin others. It is upon such men that we have to rely in the first and the last instance, and in ratio to their integrity and skill so are the risks we run in our investments and speculations.

First of all, in considering a new prospectus, our opinions upon the mine the merits of which we are invited to consider must be guided by the reports of the engineers who have examined it, and upon the views which they themselves have formed of its potentialities and prospects. But it does not follow that those reports are in the least trustworthy. Unfortunately, they are in far too many cases quite untrustworthy, and therefore the guidance we shall receive from them will be guidance that may lead us far astray. No doubt many have heard the saying that there are three degrees of liars in the world - the ordinary liar, the d-----liar, and the mining expert. This may seem a most unkind reflection upon the mining engineer, yet it cannot be said to be altogether undeserved, especially as the unscrupulous lies of great numbers of them have brought dire misfortunes upon those guileless enough to believe in them. Mining engineers, like financial journalists, find themselves confronted by the most alluring temptations, against which the strongest will is helpless, but, unhappily, their falls bring with them the most disastrous and wide-spreading consequences. Hence the great importance of knowing the character of the men in whom we put our trust, for they are placed in positions of the greatest responsibility, and if they fail it will often be at our expense. Their fall may be the loss of their characters, but they will find compensation for that loss in the gain of a fortune, and most men will place a higher value upon the latter than upon the former: hence the innumerable risks we run.

A promoter knows, of course, that he will not succeed in floating his company unless he can attract and fascinate the public by glowing and enthusiastic reports from mining experts, and therefore to get such reports must be his first care. He finds it, however, anything but difficult, for he can find scores of men ready, for an ample consideration, to write precisely what they are instructed to write, whether they have seen the mine or not. These men may be found in London, or they may be found locally by the vendor, but no matter where they are found, they can be made use of, for the public will be unable to find out whether they live in Whitechapel or on the gold-field, nor will it trouble its head about their credentials so long as the reports are such as to excite its cupidity or gambling instincts.

This fact may surprise many who may not have had much to do with gold-mining, but it is as well known and familiar a fact as that lawyers are ready to prove that the most desperate of criminals are innocent and virtuous men. On every gold-field - especially on every new gold-field - are swarms of men of every trade and profession who are afflicted with the gold-fever, and who have migrated from their homes in remote countries to try and make their fortunes in the new field. They may never have seen a gold-mine, nor quartz, in their lives, and may even think the gold is picked up as one picks up pebbles in the streets; but these are the men who have written, times out of number, and will write again and again, reports upon mining properties, at the dictation of the vendors and promoters, not knowing the meaning even of the phrases they write. It was so in the early days of Western Australia and Klondyke, it is being done at the present time in the case of West Africa, it has always been done, and will for ever be done so long as it is countenanced by the guileless investor, and so long as he refuses to discriminate in the matter.

The majority of these men have the habit of putting M.E. or E.M. after their names, which is just as ridiculous as a local dustman putting L.D. after his name, or a journalist putting M.P. after his name, representing that he is a member of the press. It means, of course, mining engineer or engineer of mining, although the investor himself may know quite as much about mining as they, and yet, somehow or other, there must be something in these two letters that is decidedly attractive. Therefore I, for one, whenever I see such initials appended to any man's name, become more suspicious and cautious, and read his report or reports with greater care and more critically, and in so doing am merely profiting from the lesson which experience has taught me. In nine cases out of ten, therefore, I may throw the prospectus on one side as unworthy of consideration.

It isn't as if a promoter would find any difficulty in getting a mining engineer of repute to examine and report upon his mine, but that engineer might speak the truth about it and condemn it, and it would be madness for the promoter to run such a risk as that. Moreover, it might take some time to get him and fix up terms, and in the meantime the gold-field may become unpopular, and thus his opportunity might be lost. No! time is of the greatest importance to him; he must get his reports without delay, and therefore he or the vendor goes to the first unscrupulous man he knows and gets him to write the report, either from dictation or from data furnished him.