Monday 28th September 2020

Resource Clips


Posts tagged ‘european union’

Saville Resources, Commerce Resources find more fluorspar in re-assayed core from Quebec niobium-tantalum project

September 10th, 2020

by Greg Klein | September 10, 2020

Saville Resources, Commerce Resources find increased fluorspar mineralization in re-assayed core from Quebec niobium-tantalum project

A map approximates the fluorspar mineralized
trend found within the property’s wider niobium trend.

 

By focusing on some critical minerals another was neglected, these companies realized. Already aware of niobium, tantalum and phosphate, Saville Resources TSXV:SRE re-assayed core extracted last year and in 2008 on northern Quebec’s Niobium Claim Group project. The area in focus was the property’s Mallard prospect.

Located two kilometres from Commerce Resources’ (TSXV:CCE) advanced-stage Ashram rare earths-fluorspar deposit, Saville operates the earlier-stage, 1,223-hectare Niobium Claim Group on a 75% earn-in from Commerce.

Originally, only the highest-grade intervals were assayed for fluorine. But a review of two programs of historic drilling and Saville’s own 2019 Phase I campaign outlined a previously under-rated fluorspar trend within the project’s niobium trend. 

Saville Resources, Commerce Resources find increased fluorspar mineralization in re-assayed core from Quebec niobium-tantalum project

Fluorspar shows its true colours in this 2008 core.

A second look at selected intervals supports that analysis. The re-assayed intervals confirm “a broad and extensive fluorspar mineralized trend at Mallard, which extends for at least 600 metres along strike and is open to the northwest, southeast, down-dip, and is interpreted to continue to surface,” the companies stated. “The trend remains to be delineated significantly outside of the core Mallard area.”

One 2008 intercept originally graded 30.7% CaF2 over 22.3 metres. New assays show that interval to be part of a wider zone grading 21.5% over 38.6 metres. Additionally, the intercept shows niobium, tantalum and phosphate at moderate grades of 0.36% Nb2O5, 103 ppm Ta2O5 and 5.3% P2O5.

Another 2008 hole hadn’t previously been assayed for fluorspar. It now shows 8% CaF2 over 47.2 metres, including 23.6% over five metres.

A 2019 hole reached 8.4% CaF2, 0.36% Nb2O5, 122 ppm Ta2O5 and 5.4% P2O5 over 22.5 metres, including 11.9% CaF2 over six metres. This interval extends at depth a 2010 hole that assayed 14.8% CaF2 over 6.2 metres. These results suggest continuation northwest along strike.

Another 2019 hole now shows 8.5% CaF2 over six metres.

True widths were unavailable.

Saville plans a 3D model of the trend to locate targets where high-grade fluorspar-bearing carbonatite might overlap with high-grade niobium-bearing carbonatite.

Fluorspar, niobium, tantalum and rare earths all appear on the U.S. list of 35 critical minerals. Along with phosphate rock, they also make the recently released EU list of 30 critical raw materials. In June Canada and the U.S. reaffirmed their commitment to the Joint Action Plan on Critical Minerals Collaboration announced in January, which would encourage investment and development for North American mining projects and supply chains.

As part of the EU plan to secure critical materials, this week the European Commission stated that “pilot partnerships with Canada, interested countries in Africa and the EU’s neighbourhood will start as of 2021.”

European Union looks to Canada and others for critical minerals supply

September 4th, 2020

by Greg Klein | September 4, 2020

The EU’s newly released 10-point critical raw materials action plan calls for development of European supplies and supply chains, as well as further re-use and recycling. But for those materials not found on the continent, the European Commission says, “pilot partnerships with Canada, interested countries in Africa and the EU’s neighbourhood will start as of 2021. In these and other fora of international co-operation, the commission will promote sustainable and responsible mining practices and transparency.”

European Union looks to Canada and others for critical minerals supply

The commission made the proclamation September 3 as part of its Green Deal, a program to achieve a climate-neutral, digital economy and “stronger Europe.” As has been the case in the U.S. over the last four years, the continent has been expressing increasing concern about security of supply for necessary resources. The EU also released an updated list of critical raw materials, the first since 2017.

Using the same methodology that emphasizes economic importance and supply challenges, the new list numbers 30, compared with 27 in 2017. Added for the first time are lithium, bauxite, titanium and strontium. Helium was dropped due to a decline in economic importance.

Heavy rare earths, light rare earths and scandium rate three separate categories. Also included are critical standbys like niobium, tantalum, fluorspar, cobalt and platinum group metals. Not exclusive to minerals, the list includes natural rubber.

Coking coal, phosphorus and silicon metal ranked among EU choices that didn’t make the most recent (from 2018) U.S. list of 35 critical minerals. Some other American exclusives not listed by the EU are helium, manganese, potash and chromium.

The commission referenced World Bank data showing “demand for metals and minerals increases rapidly with climate ambition. The most significant example of this is electric storage batteries, where the rise in demand for relevant metals aluminium, cobalt, iron, lead, lithium, manganese and nickel would grow by more than 1,000% by 2050 under a 2°C scenario, compared to a business-as-usual scenario.”

The commission’s Maroš Šefčovič added, “For e-car batteries and energy storage alone, Europe will for instance need up to 18 times more lithium by 2030 and up to 60 times more by 2050.”

Supply security can be jeopardized by reliance on a single country or company, the commission warned. “China provides 98% of the EU’s supply of rare earth elements, Turkey provides 98% of the EU’s supply of borate, and South Africa provides 71% of the EU’s needs for platinum and an even higher share of the platinum group metals iridium, rhodium and ruthenium. The EU relies on single EU companies for its supply of hafnium and strontium.”

The commission’s specific mention of Canada as a preferred supply source follows the Joint Action Plan on Critical Minerals Collaboration that the U.S. and Canada announced in January and reaffirmed last June.

Li-ion under the pandemic

April 20th, 2020

COVID-19 cuts energy minerals demand but heightens future shortages: Benchmark

by Greg Klein | April 20, 2020

The pandemic will shrink lithium-ion battery demand by at least 25% this year even prior to further economic setbacks. But electric vehicles hold greater likelihood than many other industries not only for recovery but growth. Current reductions in lithium, cobalt, graphite and nickel supply will only mean greater need later this decade, according to Benchmark Mineral Intelligence.

COVID-19 cuts energy minerals demand but heightens future supply shortages

In an April 16 webinar presented by managing director Simon Moores and head of price assessments Caspar Rawles, the two warned that pandemic conditions and responses will worsen an already critical supply scenario later this decade.

That “lost quarter” of a 25% reduction in demand will likely be just the beginning, Moores said. “If there’s going to be a longer economic impact, which is most likely going to happen, a severe economic impact globally, then of course we lose more than a quarter.”

Yet exponential growth should continue for Li-ion battery megafactories. Five years ago just three such plants were in production or planned, with capacity totalling 57 gigawatt hours. By 2018 the number of plants climbed to 52, for 1,147 GWh. This year the figures jumped to 130 plants totalling 2,300 GWh now in production or slated for completion by 2030. That’s enough for 43 million EVs averaging 55 kWh each.

That future seems distant, compared with the current production limitations brought on by health-related mine suspensions, along with delayed expansions and development of new mines. Transportation challenges also loom large, such as the South Africa lockdown that restricts cobalt transshipment from the Democratic Republic of Congo.

As the pandemic cuts supply, it curtails demand as well. Chinese automakers, the main producers of EVs, have largely shut down.

Lithium faced over-supply well before the pandemic, prompting cutbacks among majors like SQM, Albemarle, Ganfeng and Tianqi. “Also we saw that the majority of Tier 2 or 3 converters in China were already planning on going offline due to the low pricing we’ve seen in the market,” Rawles said.

So what that means down the road is those expansions which really need to be happening now to meet the future demand are not happening.—Caspar Rawles,
Benchmark Mineral Intelligence

“The key thing is that downturn in conversion capacity in China will mean that the backlog of spodumene feedstock material that’s sitting in China will take longer to work through, so we’re looking at a longer-term potential low-price environment,” he explained. “That threatens the economics of new projects of course and an increased risk of price volatility going forward…. So what that means down the road is those expansions which really need to be happening now to meet the future demand are not happening.”

What does a typical (35 GWh) NCM Li-ion battery plant consume in a year? Benchmark estimates 25,000 tonnes of lithium hydroxide or carbonate, 6,000 tonnes of cobalt hydroxide, 19,000 tonnes of nickel sulphate and 33,000 tonnes of graphite.

“The supply chain won’t be able to build quick enough to meet this electric vehicle demand,” emphasized Moores. Even if estimates of EV growth were cut by 25% to 30%, “you’re still not going to have enough mining capacity, chemical capacity in the supply chain to make these. The lithium-ion supply chain has to grow by eight to 10 times in a seven-year period, and now that might be pushed to a 10-year period.”

You’ve got a big lithium problem on the horizon, [supplying] only 19 million EVs, compared to the 34 million we think we’re going to need.—Simon Moores,
Benchmark Mineral Intelligence

Production from current mines and those likely to enter operation suggest about 900,000 tonnes of annual lithium supply by 2030, enough to power about 19 million EVs. That constitutes “a big, big problem,” Moores said. “You’ve got a big lithium problem on the horizon, [supplying] only 19 million EVs, compared to the 34 million we think we’re going to need.”

Showing “a similar trajectory,” cobalt supply estimates come to 228,000 tonnes by 2030, enough for only about 17.9 million EVs.

“The mining companies are being super-cautious or even beyond super-cautious, considering we’re going to need 34 million EVs-worth. And even if that goes down to 25 million, you’re still way off,” he added.

Future demand will continue to be dominated by China, Benchmark maintains. Of the 130 battery plants currently expected by 2030, China would host 93. The country’s capacity would equal about 1,683 GWh, enough for 31 million EVs averaging 55 kWh. A dismal second, Europe follows with 16 plants totalling 413 GWh for 7.4 million EVs. The U.S. would have just seven plants for 205 GWh and 3.7 million EVs.

Currently producing about 73% of Li-ion batteries, China’s forecast to maintain that proportion with about 70% of global production in 2029.

For all that, Moores said European megafactories and Tesla’s U.S.-based Gigafactories set an example for supply chains in other industries.

“What the coronavirus has shown is that truly global supply chains in the 21st century don’t work. They’re too fragile, there’s too many question marks out there. Even pre-coronavirus that was the case…. The battery industry was well ahead of the curve on localizing the supply chain as much as possible…. That will continue, I think it’s a blueprint for other industries to follow. The battery supply chain is ahead of the curve on that.”

But, he cautioned, “the U.S. has to take on the same scale as China.”

Crisis response

April 3rd, 2020

A look at mining, exploration, infrastructure and supply chains under the pandemic

by Greg Klein | April 3, 2020

A look at mining, exploration, infrastructure and supply chains

 

Idled explorers: Can you help?

“Essential supplies and personnel are needed to create and operate temporary facilities for testing, triage, housing and isolation areas for vulnerable populations,” states the Association for Mineral Exploration. “As mineral explorers, we have access to the supplies needed and are in a unique position to help.”

AME calls on the industry to contribute excess capacity of the following:

  • Insulated structures (both hard and soft wall)

  • Camp gear such as furniture, lighting and kitchen appliances

  • Medical equipment

  • Camp support personnel such as caterers, housekeepers, janitors, etc.

  • Available medical staff including such qualifications as OFA3s, paramedics, RNs, etc.

  • Other supplies or skills

If you can help, please fill out this form and AME will be in touch. 

For further information contact Savannah Nadeau.

Preparing for a wider emergency

Given the danger of one crisis triggering others, essential infrastructure remains at risk. One plan to safeguard Ontario’s electricity service would require Toronto workers to bunk down in employer-supplied accommodation under lockdown conditions better known to isolated locations.

A look at mining, exploration, infrastructure and supply chains

Quarantines might require essential
services to provide job-site bed and board.
(Photo: Independent Electricity System Operator)

It hasn’t happened yet, but the province’s Independent Electricity System Operator stands ready for the possibility, according to a Canadian Press story published by the Globe and Mail. A not-for-profit agency established by the province, the IESO co-ordinates Ontario electricity supply to meet demand.

About 90% of its staff now work at home but another 48 employees must still come into work, CEO Peter Gregg said. Eight six-person teams now undergo 12-hour shifts in two Toronto-area control rooms.

“Should it become necessary, he said, bed, food and other on-site arrangements have been made to allow the operators to stay at their workplaces as a similar agency in New York has done,” CP reported.

Similar plans may well be underway not only for essential infrastructure but also for essential production, processing, manufacturing, communications, transportation and trade. One sign of the times to come could be locked-down camps in supermarket parking lots for our under-appreciated retail-sector heroes.

Meanwhile, retaining and protecting care-home staff already constitute a crisis within a crisis.

Australia guards against predatory foreign takeovers

With China prominently in mind, Australia has taken extra measures to protect companies and projects shattered by the COVID-19 economy. Canberra has temporarily granted its Foreign Investment Review Board extra powers to guard distressed companies and assets against acquisitions by opportunistic foreigners. Although previous foreign acquisitions came under review only when the price passed certain thresholds, now all such transactions get FIRB scrutiny.

The changes follow concerns raised by MPs on Australia’s intelligence and security committee. The Sydney Morning Herald quoted committee chairperson Andrew Hastie warning of “foreign state-owned enterprises working contrary to our national interest. More than ever, we need to protect ourselves from geo-strategic moves masquerading as legitimate business.”

Committee member Tim Wilson added, “We can’t allow foreign state-owned enterprises and their business fronts to use COVID-19’s economic carnage as a gateway to swoop distressed businesses and assets.”

Among protected assets are exploration and mining projects, utilities, infrastructure and an interest of 20% or more in a company or business.

Critical minerals become ever more critical

As Lynas Corp extended the suspension of its rare earths processing facility in line with Malaysian government pandemic orders, the company noted the importance of its products “in permanent magnets used in medical devices including ventilators, and in lanthanum products used in oil refineries for petroleum production.”

A look at mining, exploration, infrastructure and supply chains

The suspension of its Malaysian plant prompted
Lynas to emphasize REs’ criticality to virus treatment.
(Photo: Lynas Corp)

Originally set to expire on March 31, the government order currently stays in force until April 14. RE extraction continues at Lynas’ Mount Weld mine in Western Australia.

In late February Malaysia granted the company a three-year licence renewal for the processing facility, which had been threatened with closure due to controversy about its low-level radioactive tailings. Among conditions for the renewal are development of a permanent disposal facility for existing waste and putting a cracking and leaching plant in operation outside Malaysia by July 2023 to end the practice of transporting radioactive material to the country.

Committed to maintaining a non-Chinese supply chain, the company plans to locate the C&L plant in Kalgoorlie, Western Australia.

Sharing the disease, hoarding the treatment

A problem recognized in American defence procurement has hit health care—the need to build non-Chinese supply chains. Most of the world’s ventilators and about half the masks are manufactured in China, points out a recent column by Terry Glavin.

The West is learning, finally and the hard way, “that thriving liberal democracies cannot co-exist for long within a model of neo-liberal globalization that admits into its embrace such a tyrannical state-capitalist monstrosity as the People’s Republic of China.”

The U.S., for example, relies heavily on China for antibiotics, painkillers, surgical gowns, equipment that measures blood oxygen levels and magnetic resonance imaging scanners. China effectively banned medical equipment exports as soon as Wuhan went on lockdown, Glavin adds.

“It probably didn’t help that Ottawa sent 16,000 tonnes of gear to China back in February. That was a lot of gear—1,101 masks, 50,118 face shields, 36,425 medical coveralls, 200,000 pairs of gloves and so on—but a drop in Beijing’s bucket. A New York Times investigation last month found that China had imported 56 million respirators and masks, just in the first week of the Wuhan shutdown.

“It is not known how much of that cargo came from the massive bulk-buying campaign organized and carried out across Canada by affiliates of the United Front Work Department, the overseas propaganda and influence-peddling arm of the Chinese Communist Party.”

A look at mining, exploration, infrastructure and supply chains

Desperate need for health care supplies
pits country against country. (Photo: 3M)

Nor does the non-Chinese world display altruism. In response to the crisis, the EU and more than 50 countries have either banned or restricted exports of medical equipment, Glavin states.

By April 3 global health care products supplier 3M revealed that Washington asked the company to stop exporting U.S.-manufactured N95 respirators to Canada and Latin America. 3M noted “significant humanitarian implications” but also the possibility of trade retaliation. “If that were to occur, the net number of respirators being made available to the United States would actually decrease.”

The company did win China’s permission to import 10 million of its own Chinese-manufactured N95s into the U.S.

Meanwhile the Canadian government comes under increasing criticism for discouraging the public from wearing masks.

Chinese supply chains also jeopardized by Chinese disease

As the world’s main exporter of manufactured goods, China’s the main importer of raw materials, especially metals. But, as the world’s main exporter of disease, China managed to threaten its own supplies.

Reuters columnist Andy Home outlined lockdown-imposed cutbacks of copper, zinc and lead from Chile and Peru, and chrome from South Africa; reductions in cobalt from the Democratic Republic of Congo, in tin from already depleting Myanmar, and in nickel from the Philippines, the latter a hoped-for replacement after Indonesia banned unprocessed exports.

The longer the lockdowns, “the greater the potential for supply chain disruption,” Home comments. “As the biggest buyer of metallic raw materials, this is a ticking time-bomb for China’s metals producers.”

Miners’ providence unevenly distributed

Probably no other foreign shutdowns have affected as many Canadian miners and explorers as that of Mexico. Considered non-essential, their work will be suspended until April 30, with extensions more than likely. Mexico’s announcement must have sounded familiar to Pan American Silver TSX:PAAS, which had already pressed the pause button to comply with national quarantines in Peru, Argentina and Bolivia. That currently limits the company’s mining to Timmins, where production has been reduced by about 10% to 20% to allow physical distancing.

A look at mining, exploration, infrastructure and supply chains

Mauritania exempted Kinross Gold’s Tasiast mine
from domestic travel restrictions. (Photo: Kinross Gold)

One company more favourably located, so far, is Kinross Gold TSX:K. As of April 1, operations continued at its seven mines in Nevada, Alaska, Brazil, Mauritania, Russia and Ghana, while work went on at its four non-producing projects in Alaska, Mauritania, Russia and Chile.

Expanded shutdowns ordered by Ontario on April 3 include many construction and industrial projects but exempt mining. Earlier that day New Gold TSX:NGD announced Rainy River’s restart after a two-week suspension to allow self-isolation among employees. Many of the mine’s workers live locally and made short trips into Minnesota before the border closed.

Quebec border restrictions have hindered the Ontario operations of Kirkland Lake Gold TSX:KL, cutting off a source of employees and contractors. As a result the company reduced production at its Macassa mine and suspended work at its Holt complex, comprising three gold mines and a mill. Kirkland reduced operations at its Detour Lake mine effective March 23, after a worker showed COVID-19 symptoms and self-isolated on March 14. He tested positive on March 26. Production continues at the company’s Fosterville mine in Australia.

Some explorers have been idled by government restrictions, others by market conditions. Still, some companies have money and jurisdictions in which to spend it. Liberty Gold TSX:LGD, for example, resumed drilling its Black Pine gold project in Idaho on March 31.

Some jurisdictions, like B.C. and New Brunswick, have extended work requirement deadlines to help companies keep exploration claims active.

“China needs to be held responsible”

A few Canadian journalists are saying what we might never hear from our politicians. Here, for example, is Toronto Sun columnist Lorrie Goldstein:

“China needs to be held responsible. The problem is, because of its political power— and you see it in the World Health Organization announcements, in Canadian announcements—they’ve been praising what China did. There would have been a virus anyway. China made it worse. More people are dying, more people are being infected, and its dictators need to be held to account.”

EU competition policy commissioner Margrethe Vestager announces up to €3.2 billion in subsidies for battery R&D

January 27th, 2020

…Read more

European Union pledges €3.2 billion for lithium-ion R&D

December 10th, 2019

by Greg Klein | December 10, 2019

Seven EU states will subsidize 17 companies working towards greater self-reliance in clean energy resources and technology. Announced this week, the project will provide up to €3.2 billion for research and innovation in European battery production.

The money will back R&D into liquid electrolyte and solid state Li-ion batteries “that last longer, have shorter charging times, and are safer and more environmentally friendly than those currently available,” the commission stated.

European Union pledges €3.2 billion for lithium-ion battery supply chain

Four areas of interest include sourcing raw materials; developing innovations for stationary energy storage, power tools and other applications as well as vehicles; creating battery management software and algorithms as well as innovative test methods; and recycling and re-using battery materials.

“Battery production in Europe is of strategic interest for our economy and society because of its potential in terms of clean mobility and energy, job creation, sustainability and competitiveness,” said Margrethe Vestager, EU commissioner in charge of competition policy. She added the program will deliver “positive spill-over effects across industrial sectors and regions. The approved aid will ensure that this important project can go ahead without unduly distorting competition.”

A claw-back provision requires companies to return part of their subsidies if project revenues exceed forecasts.

The seven funders comprise Belgium, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, Poland and Sweden. The 17 direct participants, including small and medium-sized enterprises, will co-operate with each other and over 70 other European partners. Different sub-projects will have different deadlines but the overall program has 2031 scheduled for completion.

Despite lithium’s price drop, an October forecast from Benchmark Mineral Intelligence saw demand reaching 2.2 million tonnes by 2030, compared with current supply projections of 1.67 million tonnes. Benchmark attributed increasing demand to an EV penetration rate rising from 4.3% in 2020 to 30.7% in 2030.

In September Benchmark reported 99 battery megafactories in the pipeline globally, with over 2,000 GWh of capacity expected by 2028.

 

European Union pledges €3.2 billion for lithium-ion battery supply chain

A chart shows the project’s four areas of interest, the participants
and their supporting countries. (Image: European Union)

Infographic: The world’s most powerful reserve currencies

October 8th, 2019

by Jeff Desjardins | posted with permission of Visual Capitalist | October 8, 2019

Visual Capitalist The world’s most powerful reserve currencies

 

When we think of network effects, we’re usually thinking of them in the context of technology and Metcalfe’s Law.

Metcalfe’s Law states that the more users a network has, the more valuable it is to those users. It’s a powerful idea that is exploited by companies like LinkedIn, Airbnb or Uber—all companies that provide a more beneficial service as their networks gain more nodes.

But network effects don’t apply just to technology and related fields.

In the financial sector, for example, stock exchanges grow in utility when they have more buyers, sellers and volume. Likewise, in international finance, a currency can become increasingly entrenched when it’s accepted, used and trusted all over the world.

What’s a reserve currency?

This visualization comes to us from HowMuch.net, and it breaks down foreign reserves held by countries—but what is a reserve currency, anyway?

In essence, reserve currencies (i.e. U.S. dollar, pound sterling, euro, etc.) are held by central banks for the following major reasons:

  • To maintain a stable exchange rate for the domestic currency

  • To ensure liquidity in the case of an economic or political crisis

  • To provide confidence to international buyers and foreign investors

  • To fulfill international obligations, such as paying down debt

  • To diversify central bank portfolios, reducing overall risk

Not surprisingly, central banks benefit the most from stockpiling widely held reserve currencies such as the U.S. dollar or the euro.

Because these currencies are accepted almost everywhere, they provide third parties with extra confidence and perceived liquidity. This is a network effect that snowballs from the growing use of a particular reserve currency over others.

Reserve currencies over time

Here is how the usage of reserve currencies has evolved over the last 15 years:

Currency composition of official foreign exchange reserves (2004-2019)
U.S. dollar Euro Japanese yen Pound sterling Other
2004 65.5% 24.7% 4.3% 3.5% 2.0%
2009 62.1% 27.7% 2.9% 4.3% 3.0%
2014 65.1% 21.2% 3.5% 3.7% 6.5%
2019 61.8% 20.2% 5.3% 4.5% 8.2%

Over this timeframe, there have been small ups and downs in most reserve currencies.

Today, the U.S. dollar is the world’s most powerful reserve currency, making up over 61% of foreign reserves. The dollar gets an extensive network effect from its use abroad, and this translates into several advantages for the multi-trillion-dollar U.S. economy.

The euro, yen and pound sterling are the other mainstay reserve currencies, adding up to roughly 30% of foreign reserves.

Finally, the most peculiar data series above is “Other,” which grew from 2% to 8.4% of worldwide foreign reserves over the last 15 years. This bucket includes the Canadian dollar, the Australian dollar, the Swiss franc and the Chinese renminbi.

Accepted everywhere?

There have been rumblings in the media for decades now about the rise of the Chinese renminbi as a potential new challenger on the reserve currency front.

While there are still big structural problems that will prevent this from happening as fast as some may expect, the currency is still on the rise internationally.

What will the composition of global foreign reserves look like in another 15 years?

Posted with permission of Visual Capitalist.

Rate cuts, bubble-like stock valuations and possible QE with “new non-traditional” interventions look good for gold: WGC

July 11th, 2019

by Greg Klein | July 11, 2019

Some recent dips below $1,400 notwithstanding, yellow metal’s forecast looks positive for the next six to 12 months, according to the World Gold Council. While long-term performance depends on jewelry, technology and savings, shorter-term prices respond to other factors that the WGC considers positive for its favourite element.

Chief among them are interest rates, reflecting an about-face in global monetary policy. Less than a year ago the U.S. Federal Reserve and investors alike expected continued rate increases, the council stated. “Now, the market expects the Fed to cut rates two or three times before the end of the year. And while statements by board members, including Chairman Powell, are signaling a wait-and-see approach, the market has barely changed its forecast. The Fed may not do what the market asks, but it generally doesn’t like to surprise it either.”

The WGC expects Europe’s and Japan’s central banks to follow suit in a global environment of competing tariffs, U.S.-Iran conflict and the ever-looming Brexit. But, the WGC emphasizes, low rates have “the perverse effect of fueling a decade-long stock market rally with only temporary pullbacks. This has pushed stock valuations to levels not seen since the dot-com bubble.”

Should recession strike, central banks might respond with strategies almost guaranteed to bolster goldbugs’ hoarding instincts: “quantitative easing and, possibly, new non-traditional measures to reinvigorate the global economy.”

With over $13 trillion of global debt now offering nominal negative yields, “our analysis shows that 70% of all developed market debt is trading with negative real yields, with the remaining 30% close to or below 1%.”

As for central bank purchases, they came to about $10 billion during the year’s first five months, with continued buying expected. But a 10-year average shows central banks responsible for only 10% of gold demand. Jewelry commands the lead with 51%, followed by 27% for bars and coins, 9% for technology, and 3% for ETFs and similar products.

Positive economic performance, especially in China and India, would likely enhance the top category.

With a mandate to “stimulate and sustain demand for gold,” the WGC represents some of the world’s biggest gold miners.

Download the WGC’s Mid-Year Gold Outlook 2019.

‘The money-conjurers’

July 3rd, 2019

Only a radical reset can solve the central bank problem, says Nomi Prins

by Greg Klein

Only a radical reset can solve the central bank problem, says Nomi Prins

 

Imagine the power—unchecked power, at that—to create money. Then imagine the disaster such power could unleash. While that scenario looms in the foreseeable future, Nomi Prins argues, its precursors have made themselves obvious since 2008. They’re the result of central bank policies and the system that sustains them, institutions absolutely bereft of a Plan B. A mess so manifestly dangerous calls for radical solutions, she maintains.

That’s the perspective of an insider, or at least an ex-insider. A veteran of Lehman Brothers, Bear Stearns and Goldman Sachs, Prins dedicated herself “to exposing the intersections of money and power and deciphering the impact of the relationships between governments and central and private bankers on the citizens of the world.” Six books later came Collusion: How Central Bankers Rigged the World, recently released in paperback.

This is a work of extensive detail, recounting who did what to interest rates, inflation rates, currency valuations and other economic interventions, focusing on quantitative easing and the other euphemisms for her preferred term: “money conjuring.” Collusion also answers a key question: Cui bono?

Only a radical reset can solve the central bank problem, says Nomi Prins

The U.S. responded to the sub-prime crisis by “subsidizing private banks (in particular, the Big Six US banks that were key toxic asset creators). The Fed fashioned an historic bailout program that invoked zero interest rate policy (ZIRP), initiated a strategy of quantitative easing by which the central bank fabricated money to purchase government bonds and other securities, and created massive lending programs for banks with relaxed collateral rules. The Fed coerced central banks worldwide to adopt similar strategies.”

With little or no trickle-down effect, she emphasizes. If the too-big-to-fail rationale claimed to protect the wider economy, the wider economy didn’t notice. Through share buy-backs and other strategies, banks used the largesse to enrich themselves instead of providing loans or investments that would put more people to work. G7 banks also used conjured money to “speculate globally, especially in developing countries, in markets rather than in direct economic investment that benefited populations.”

Only in isolated incidents were malefactors called to account. That happened in late 2016, for example, when the U.S. Justice Department hit European Central Bank beneficiary Deutsche Bank with $7.2 billion in fines “for crimes committed during the financial crisis—a sign of all that conjured-money policy had plastered over…. All the cheap-money subterfuge had not addressed the prevailing and alarming codependencies among too-big-to-fail banks the world over. That meant systemic risk had not been extinguished, it had only been camouflaged. The fine was just that, a fine, not a shift to prevent any of the looming hazards the financial system could still unleash.”

Facing even less scrutiny than private banks are central banks, rarely required to explain their machinations. “They vacillate between taking credit for what they deem are positive results in the world economy and remaining silent in the wake of catastrophic failures that result from their policies.”

While G7 central banks collaborated with the Fed, some of their G20 counterparts resisted. Regardless, globalization globalized America’s crisis. But despite U.S. efforts to reinforce world influence, the country inadvertently helped China rise to second-greatest economy status with a currency that challenges dollar supremacy. Contributing to the Middle Kingdom’s stature were some emerging economies, distrustful not only of America’s ambitions but its economic stability.

The Fed has allowed the biggest banks on Wall Street to essentially double the risk that devastated the system in 2008.—Nomi Prins

Current and future stability, more than past misconduct, remains Prins’ greatest concern. “The Fed has allowed the biggest banks on Wall Street to essentially double the risk that devastated the system in 2008.”

She attributes to manufactured money a global debt equal to three times global GDP, a peril that could itself crash the economy or seriously aggravate a crisis of geopolitical origin. As for solutions, she insists that desperate times call for very desperate measures:

“We could write off all the public debt incurred since 2008 that hasn’t been redirected to the real economy—that is, take a deep breath and cancel it out globally.”

Prins also advocates oversight of the money-conjurers, as well as forcing them to channel their money into constructive investments. She wants the big banks dismantled “so that they can’t hold people’s deposits hostage during the next crisis.”

But, assuming her proposals are sound, where’s the will to carry them out? She depicts G7 countries and central banks as stuck in conventional attitudes and clinging to privilege with no impetus for reform. Emerging economies, meanwhile, might be watching with cautious detachment. China, quite likely, looks on expectantly.

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