Dryblower takes gold's pulse

EXTREME “Gold Bugs”, of the sort gathering in the US at the annual Denver Gold Forum, like to believe they represent the world’s ultimate reserve currency whereas simpler observers of the mining industry, such as Dryblower, think that is a rather silly claim.
Dryblower takes gold's pulse Dryblower takes gold's pulse Dryblower takes gold's pulse Dryblower takes gold's pulse Dryblower takes gold's pulse

Dryblower has always struggled with extreme Gold Bugs, that fringe element that subscribes to conspiracy theories about global powers manipulating the gold price. He is quite happy to accept that gold plays a dual role as a metal and as an insurance policy against bad government.

As for gold reclaiming its glory days as the world's reserve currency well, that is not going to happen unless the global economy really does collapse and the survivors return to living in caves.

Rather than pray for a miracle to lift the gold price it would be better for the gold industry to address an issue closer to home, and easier to fix: production costs. While there is nothing the industry can do about the price of gold there is a lot that can be done about costs.

At the risk of sounding as arrogant as an extreme Gold Bug, there is a great truth descending on the gold industry because it really has allowed costs to get out of control.

Rather than gathering in Denver to hear talks about why the gold price should be higher and why the world will eventually turn to gold as its financial saviour, a far better theme would be how to lower costs.

The reason Dryblower feels quite strongly about some people in the gold industry looking the wrong way and praying for a return to the days of gold at $US1800 an ounce is that the first wave of full cost reporting has started to wash across the industry.

That wave is being driven by the World Gold Council in its set of recommended cost reporting known as All-In Sustaining Costs and All-In Costs.

Not widely understood, yet, the AISC and AIC reporting standards are starting to stir interest in the investment community as the nonsense of the old C1 cash cost system is blown away as the farce it has always been.

Try as hard as he might Dryblower cannot think of another industry that only reports some of its costs. This forces anyone who wants the true cost of an ounce of gold to dig into the annual accounts, or lift the blotter on the company accountant's desk.

How investors were ever supposed to make sense of an industry that told two-thirds of the truth is one of life's mysteries but two-thirds is roughly what C1 cash costs represent.

The best example of the new reporting standard is in the June quarterly of Gold Fields. The big South African miner listed its C1 cost at $US857 an ounce - reasonably attractive even if gold dipped in the quarter to $US1300/oz, and lower on some days.

However, when the AISC rules are applied and costs such as royalties, site remediation and non-cash remuneration are applied, the Gold Fields costs exploded to $US1416/oz.

Going up another notch and layering on costs not related to current operations and Gold Fields total cost, the AIC figure, was $US1572/oz.

There are arguments for and against the new cost reporting rules and the full AIC number does seem a step too far.

However, why the cost question is not top of the agenda at the Denver forum is a question only the organisers can answer.

Perhaps they believe praying for a high gold price rather than facing the costs reality is an easier way of addressing the problems of a lower-price environment.

Dryblower is a columnist for sister publication MiningNewsPremium.net


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