David Hargreaves comments on Precious Metals

David Hargreaves

David Hargreaves

Gold increasing its lead over platinum this week was like telling someone he is less worse than the competition. The downward drivers are twofold: the agonising wait to see if a formula, even a temporary one, will be derived for the Euro crisis and how serious will be China’s appetite loss. Normally, these might propel prices up, but this market is in neutral and the motor is parked. That platinum and silver fell further than gold can be partly at least blamed on their industrial uses. Yet for the miners, the show must go on.

Anglo American Platinum (Amplats), the world’s largest producer of that metal says it is on target to hit 2.6Moz sales in 2011, up from 2.2Moz in 2010, but says its unit costs will be higher. No surprises there. If you will push out 10% wage increases, even as the metal price falls, arithmetic will not cushion a hard landing.

It must be catching. Eastern Platinum (ELRq.L 43p; Hi-Lo124.5-38p) says its production has been halved to 210oz/day as a result of an NUM-led strike. It seems the union demanded 20% wage increases but the mining contractor JIC only offered 13%. Only. China’s Gold Output rose 6% in August to 31.89t and was up 3.87% to 226.39t for the year-to-date. Thus a trend of 340t for 2011, compared with 341t in 2010, leaving the USA, 285t, trailing at No 2.

Russia’s Central Bank says it will keep buying gold to add to its foreign exchange reserves for the near future. At the last count it held 668.6t, in No 9 slot but that was only 5.5% of total reserves. Even Britain (16.6%) can do better, despite Gordon Brown’s best endeavours. The USA holds 8,134t or 72.8%.

One of the great mysteries of the market is just how much palladium Russia really has. It has always been assumed to be a lot. As late as last year, they sold 31 tonnes, almost one million ounces of which about 130,000 oz was probably from stockpile. Now they say they will sell two more tranches of 4.5 tonnes each then, finito. If they stick with that, it could harden the Pt/Pd ratio, currently 2.5 in favour of Pt.

About David Hargreaves

David Hargreaves is a mining engineer with over forty years of senior experience in the industry. After qualifying in coal mining he worked in the iron ore mines of Quebec and Northwest Ontario before diversifying into other bulk minerals including bauxite. He was Head of Research for stockbrokers James Capel in London from 1974 to 1977 and voted Mining Analyst of the year on three successive occasions.

Since forming his own metals broking and research company in 1977, he has successfully promoted and been a director of several public companies. He currently writes “The Week in Mining”, an incisive review of world mining events, for stockbrokers WH Ireland. David’s research pays particular attention to steel via the iron ore and coal supply industries. He is a Chartered Mining Engineer, Fellow of the Geological Society and the Institute of Mining, Minerals and Materials, and a Member of the Royal Institution. His textbook, “The World Index of Resources and Population” accurately predicted the exponential rise in demand for steel industry products.

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