Extracting Several Resource Deposits of Unknown Size: Optimal Order

Oil companies often announce revised estimates of their reserves. This indicates that stock uncertainty is a prevalent feature of natural resource industries. In this paper we consider the multi-deposit case where resource extraction produces information about the size of reserves. We show that the optimal order of extracting resource deposits depends both on the informational characteristics of the extraction process and on the extraction costs. Differences in extraction costs, a key consideration highlighted in Solow and Wan (1976), must be balanced against the relative value of information generated by the extraction of various deposits. Our model supplies an explanation of why high cost deposits are sometimes extracted when lower cost deposits have not been exhausted.
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