World News

Good News for Gold

Take it if you ever go camping near an old gold or silver mine. I did years ago. Not only was it a great experience, but it also made me a better metal investor. Why? There’s nothing like seeing long-dead, abandoned mine works with your eyes. Viscerally, you realize that someone made a best-guess calculation on supply and demand decades ago – and guessed wrong.

Good News for Gold 1

That’s been the case recently, with gold prices decreasing since 2011.

But that’s about to change.

My camping trip was a spur-of-the-moment thing. I was in Reno for a conference. A buddy of mine had a topo map of some old mines in the high desert of the Santa Rosa Mountains, about four hours to the north. So we drove up, camped out amid the sagebrush, and hiked our way up a steep hillside to a small plateau the next morning. That’s where we found the mine entrance (dynamited shut), an old wooden hut, and other tumbled-down remnants of the operation. We also found the mine’s “power plant”: the long-rusted skeleton of a Model

T, sitting up on blocks. Instead of wheels, it had big conveyor-belt spindles bolted to its axles! In terms of time and technology, it’s a long distance from that old mine to the huge, industrial heap leachate gold mines that dot northern Nevada today. But the long multi-decade cycles of supply and demand, boom and bust, remain. And though few outside the industry are talking about it, the seeds for the next crash are already in the wind.

The reason has to do with global production.

Peak Gold?

According to industry insiders, top investment bankers, and others, 2015 will be the peak year in world gold output. If you believe the common-sense idea that lots of supply equals lower prices, then that’s the bad news. The good news? Those same sources say production is much lower in 2016 and beyond. Nevada’s gold mining statistics tell a small part of the story. Last month, the state’s minerals division totaled up its gold production stats for 2014: It fell to 4.9 million ounces, the lowest in 27 years.

But here’s the bigger trend: Nevada’s total production peaked in 1998 at almost 9 million ounces. Since then, gold production has declined 12 out of 17 years. What’s happening? The areas with the highest-grade ores have all been systematically dug out. And because Nevada contributes the lion’s share of America’s gold output, America’s production data tells a similar story. The stats from Australia and South Africa are much the same. Gold production in South Africa peaked in 1970. Australia topped out in 1997.

For a long time, production from China and Russia filled the gap.

But with gold prices way down, more mines closing, and gold-mining companies wisely avoiding new projects, the “production cliff” (as some analysts call it) is finally on our doorstep… Gina reported in March that Goldman Sachs has only “20 years of known mineable reserves of gold” left in the world. Moreover, the bank noted fewer and fewer discoveries of new gold deposits since 1995. Earlier this month, National Bank of Canada analysts told The Financial Post, “It’s not a matter of if or even when the production cliff will happen. It’s a matter of how companies respond.” According to the bank, world production of gold will drop sharply in the next few years. Likewise, an analyst at Grant Thornton told that “2015 will be the peak in world gold production.

A Hidden Gold Buffer

So if all that’s the case, you say, why haven’t we seen higher prices yet? One big reason is the influence of “scrap gold” on the world marketplace. All those melted-down earrings, bracelets, and tooth fillings constitute a major supply source – as much as 36% in 2011 and 2012. But that source is steadily drying up, too. In 2014, only 28% of the world’s gold supply came from recycled sources. The World Gold Council noted that the collection of recycled gold hit its lowest level since 2007. Those trends remained in 2015. The group says the supply of recycled gold dropped 3% and another 8% in the first two quarters of the year (on a year-over-year basis).

Supply Crunch Will Lead to Higher Prices

Here’s a final point: New information takes time to filter into any marketplace. The boom and bust of gold prices? That’s old news, fully discounted in the cost of the metal and its miners. But what is it that most people don’t realize yet (and would scarcely believe if you told them)? The gold “production cliff” fits the bill. As new data bears out the forecast, this will be a major new catalyst for gold prices in the coming quarters.

A veteran investor and longtime financial journalist, JL Yastine contributes to Sovereign Investor Daily. He also serves as editorial director, focusing on creating and developing new products and editorial resources to help the Society’s members “be Sovereign.” Read more at The Sovereign Investor Daily.

Roberto Brock
the authorRoberto Brock
Snowboarder, traveler, DJ, Swiss design-head and HTML & CSS lover. Doing at the nexus of art and purpose to develop visual solutions that inform and persuade. I'm a designer and this is my work. Introvert. Coffee evangelist. Web buff. Extreme twitter advocate. Avid reader. Troublemaker.