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Monthly Archives: October 2011

Zirconium and tantalum under the spotlight

Zirconium is a chemical element with the symbol Zr and atomic number 40.

Rare Industrial Metal - Zirconium

I was a guest speaker at an international conference on the zirconium-tantalum family of metals. The conference, ZrTa 2011, took place at a beautiful venue in Magaliesburg, about 100 km from Pretoria. There were also speakers from countries such as Canada, France, Japan and the UK. The crowd at the conference exhibited a great spirit of enthusiasm, and they ranged in age from the seniors to young graduates entering the field.

This family of metals is important in a number of high-tech applications, including the nuclear field. I am trained not only in the nuclear field, but also in materials science and metallurgy.

Even though I know the science of metal alloys, it is still amazing to me how small additions of one metal to another can change the resulting properties so dramatically.

Most members of the public probably do not realise this dynamic in the high-tech alloys business. Most people still retain the old image that you make an alloy by throwing in a bucket of this and a bucket of that and then cook and stir it all up together. Modern high-tech alloy making is much more like bricklaying with atoms.

One can imagine a metal internal structure at the atomic level being like a bucket full of tennis balls. If you want to make the metal perform differently, you can add golf balls. The golf balls then fall into the spaces between the tennis balls. To go further, one could add marbles; they fall in between the golf balls and the tennis balls.

In the metal atomic lattice, these spaces between the atoms are known as interstitial sites, and different metals have different size atoms, which, just as in my golf ball analogy, fit in between the other larger atoms.

This is a reasonably simple explanation; it gets much more complicated than that. The people at ZrTa 2011 were not only interested in making alloys – they also wanted to do high- precision metal coating, and they wanted to know what happens in situations of potential corrosion. The list goes on. This business, really, is bricklaying with atoms. These folks have to figure out which atoms to place where so that the result provides characteristics that some industrial operator wants.

Dr Hiroaki Muto, of Japan, even reported that some corrosion-resistance properties showed improvement when subjected to nuclear radiation. So the nuclear radiation energy seems to be doing something to the atoms that results in improved performance. Very interesting.

Rare Earth Metal - Tantalum

Dr Zeb Vilakazi had already pointed out that the science of metalworking has been at the forefront of mankind’s development since the Bronze Age and the Iron Age. Now we are in the age of looking at the atom arrangements of exotic metals like zirconium, niobium and tantalum. Tantalum is used to grow single-crystal metal turbine blades, which are used in the jet engines of large passenger aircraft. So, when you fly in an aeroplane, look out at the engine at a height of 30 000 ft and say: “Thank heavens, some scientists know how to work with tantalum.”

If you want to impress the person sitting next to you, just say in an authoritative tone: “I wonder what the spot market price for tantalum is today.”

Richard Burt, of Canada, told us that, in Asia, they are digging up roads that were paved a century ago. Why? Back then, in the production of tin, they used the waste slag to make road surfaces. Now they have found that there are significant amounts of tantalum contained in this waste slag. A century ago, nobody realised that tantalum would be worth anything. In fact, the miner of the day would not have known what tantalum was.

Tantalum is also used to manufacture the special glass used to make the camera lenses in cellphones. So next time you take a photo with your cellphone, say: “Thank heavens that some scientists know how to work with tantalum.” Well, anyway, you get the picture. Tantalum is also used in computer flash drives. These fancy metals end up in strange places.

The South African Department of Science and Technology has launched a special programme, the Advanced Metals Initiative, to examine these metals so that South African innovation can be brought to bear on applications to make money for the country.

Dr Johann Nel, the ZrTa 2011 conference chairperson, is part of this advanced metals initiative. He invested a great deal of effort in getting the meeting-of-the-minds conference on the go. At such events, people do not just learn during the formal sessions but also while chatting over a drink as the South African sun sets. A French visitor told me that it was his fist time in Africa and he was excited to be here. Hopefully, he and the others will be back.

By: Kelvin Kemm

Semiconductor material gallium nitride is non-toxic and is compatible with human cells

(Nanowerk News) Researchers from North Carolina State University and Purdue University have shown that the semiconductor material gallium nitride (GaN) is non-toxic and is compatible with human cells – opening the door to the material’s use in a variety of biomedical implant technologies.

GaN is currently used in a host of technologies, from LED lighting to optic sensors, but it is not in widespread use in biomedical implants. However, the new findings from NC State and Purdue mean that GaN holds promise for an array of implantable technologies – from electrodes used in neurostimulation therapies for Alzheimer’s to transistors used to monitor blood chemistry.

Scanning electron microscope image of cell growth on GaN that has been coated with peptides.

“The first finding is that GaN, unlike other semiconductor materials that have been considered for biomedical implants, is not toxic. That minimizes risk to both the environment and to patients,” says Dr. Albena Ivanisevic, who co-authored a paper describing the research (“Gallium Nitride is Biocompatible and Non-Toxic Before and After Functionalization with Peptides”). Ivanisevic is an associate professor of materials science and engineering at NC State and associate professor of the joint biomedical engineering program at NC State and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Researchers used a mass spectrometry technique to see how much gallium is released from GaN when the material is exposed to various environments that mimic conditions in the human body. This is important because gallium oxides are toxic. But the researchers found that GaN is very stable in these environments – releasing such a tiny amount of gallium that it is non-toxic.

The researchers also wanted to determine GaN’s potential biocompatibility. To do this they bonded peptides – the building blocks that make up proteins – to the GaN material. Researchers then placed peptide-coated GaN and uncoated GaN into cell cultures to see how the material and the cells interacted.

Researchers found that the peptide-coated GaN bonded more effectively with the cells. Specifically, more cells bonded to the material and those cells spread over a larger area.

“This matters because we want materials that give us some control over cell behavior,” Ivanisevic says. “For example, being able to make cells adhere to a material or to avoid it.

“One problem facing many biomedical implants, such as sensors, is that they can become coated with biological material in the body. We’ve shown that we can coat GaN with peptides that attract and bond with cells. That suggests that we may also be able to coat GaN with peptides that would help prevent cell growth – and keep the implant ‘clean.’ Our next step will be to explore the use of such ‘anti-fouling’ peptides with GaN.”

Source: By Matt Shipman, North Carolina State University

Are Molybdenum Prices On Their Way Down And Out?

China, as the world’s largest steel producer, is the world’s largest consumer of molybdenum. China is also the world’s largest moly-producing country (although North America is the largest producing region). According to the International Molybdenum Association, use of molybdenum in transportation, power generation, building and construction will likely increase by 6 percent each year through 2019. This view was shared by Roskill last year, who saw under-investment in molybdenum projects in 2009 and 2010 having consequences for supply as far ahead as 2015. So if demand is strong and supply is constrained, why have prices fallen this year, and could the predicted long-term price / demand trend be at risk?

One-year look at molybdenum stocks. Source: LME

Iron ore demand and steel production in the world’s largest steel market, China, have remained strong this year, yet molybdenum imports have not kept pace. As an article in the Tex Report states, the Chinese Iron and Steel Association (CISA) released data showing that steel production in September was up 3.1 percent from August.

The total annualized run rate of production is over 700 million tons, compared year-over-year with 2010, when China produced just over 550 million tons. The global steel production growth rate stands at 9.8 percent, although recent numbers suggest a distinct softening everywhere except Asia. China, however, has been pushing 13.8 percent this year. The continued strength of steel production in China would suggest that molybdenum, an essential in high-strength steel production, would also be equally well supported. But as the table below shows, China has swung to becoming a net exporter of moly oxide.

Source: The TEX Report

Although June and July saw imports exceed exports as domestic mines in China are brought on-stream, it is expected that China will increasingly seek to rely on domestic molybdenum concentrate supply rather than imports, resulting in ongoing pressure on prices. Molybdenum has fallen to below $14/lb, and unless Chinese merchants decide to step back into the market to opportunistically import, global demand is likely to remain bereft of Chinese buying.

While domestic prices have followed the global trend in broad terms, this graph of ferro-moly prices in China taken from the MetalMiner IndX shows they have not been as volatile:

Domestic China Ferro Moly Price

With slowing demand in China inevitably feeding through into slowing steel growth, the chances of China resuming imports on a consistent basis looks unlikely. Good news for moly consumers in the West, who were harboring concerns earlier that supply constraints would prompt a return to higher prices next year.

by Stuart Burns

Recent sell-off sets up next gold rally

Small Gold Bar

The following is a guest post by Lawrence Carrel, author of “ETFs for the Long Run” and “Dividend Stocks for Dummies.” The opinions expressed are his own.  Full disclosure: The author has had 7 percent of his personal retirement account in a gold ETF for the past four years.

When the price of gold plunged 20 percent last month, many market watchers declared the gold boom over. Stalled, yes; ended, no, according to many gold analysts, who believe the precious metal may instead be near a new sustained rally.

“I can tell investors don’t sell off your gold,” says Martin Murenbeeld, the chief economist at DundeeWealth. “We’re at a crossroads here.”

During the summer, gold surged 29 percent to a record high of $1,920 a troy ounce. This jump caused the price to drastically detach from its 200-day moving average, an important trend line in technical analysis that the gold price had closely hugged for much of the last decade. Technical analysts considered this jump unsustainable and in September gold gave back most of these gains.

Gold fell to a low of $1,534.49, much to the technicians delight, and it bounced off the 200-day moving average’s support level of $1,527. While most gold watchers expect the metal to experience turbulence during the next few months, the world hasn’t changed much, and gold prices may climb higher because of its status as a safe-haven during turbulent times.

“Have the countries around the world solved the debt crisis?” asks Nick Barisheff, president of Bullion Management Group, a precious metals investment company based in Toronto. “Have the bailouts ended? Have their currencies stopped tanking?“ With the world already worried about Greece’s fiscal problems, gold summer’s rally was sparked by fears that the U.S. might default on its debt.

After Standard & Poor’s downgraded the U.S. debt, investors flocked to gold as one of the few safe havens left. This raised the specter of recession, which is never good for gold. The combination of increased collateral requirements for trading with falling commodity and stock markets, gold tumbled as investors sold it for liquidity amidst a flurry of margin calls.

Still many analysts think the gold market isn’t in a bubble and that the run-up is far from over. Analysts say a bubble is when an asset goes up exponentially 15 to 20 times.

Gold is up seven times during the last decade. Since its low on Sept.26, 2011, gold has jumped 9 percent. Most analysts expect the price to retest September’s low during the next few months. If it bounces again that would be the buy signal.

Ed Carlson, Chief Market Technician at Seattle Technical says gold could fall as far at $1,460. But even Carlson predicts a new sustained advance will begin after Thanksgiving.

The fundamental factors for being bullish are also compelling. Low interest rates are very good for gold. In August, the Federal Reserve promised to keep rates low for the next two years. Additionally, most analysts expect the European Central Bank (ECB) to stem the European debt crisis with a flood of new money.

“The relationship between gold and world liquidity is very direct,” says Murenbeeld. “If countries print money gold goes up.” Murenbeeld says there is a high probability that the ECB and the European System of Financial Supervisors (ESFS) will insert a significant amount of money into the system, anywhere from 1 trillion euros to 2 trillion euros.

“This liquidity will stabilize the banking sector so that it can withstand a default from Greece and speculation of default from other countries. All that plays into the hands of gold.” Murenbeeld recommends investors use a dollar cost averaging strategy here. “When they do the bailout that will dilute the currency, “ says Barisheff.

“The governments will be forced to print more money because politically that’s the least painful thing to do. And as they do the price of gold goes up.”

However, Barisheff warns that it’s easy for governments to lose control of their currency, which can send a country into hyperinflation. He says gold will stop rising when governments institute sustainable economic policies, but if inflation isn’t controlled, gold could rise as high as $10,000 in five years. “And there is no appetite to do anything sustainable.”

Chromium, are Nations Hoarding Natural Resources?

Chromium Crystals

Chromium is a topic that you rarely hear about, but in today´s environment of uncertainty and the, ¨Great Worldwide Resource Grab¨, chromium gets more attention. Recently we have the EU and USA going into Libya (oil, lithium), Iraq (oil), Afghanistan (oil pipeline, rare earths), West Africa (cobalt, tungsten, oil, gold, timber and many more). Let us not forget China and the contracts that they are signing all over the world for their natural resource needs. This all makes for some very interesting times for nations and investors alike. Rare industrial metals are no different. Chromium has been in the news so it is time to explain its uses and background.

Chromium was discovered by Louis Vauqelin in 1797. Chromium is a blue-white metal with great corrosion resistance. It has the symbol Cr with an atomic number of 24. Chromium can be polished to form a very shiny surface and is used to plate other metals to form a protective layer.

The main use of chromium is in the production of steel where it is used as a hardener, corrosion resister and helps fight decolorization. Iron and chromium form Stainless Steel which is strong and has a high resistance to heat and decomposition. The two form one of the most versatile and durable metals known in the world. Stainless steel contains approximately 10% chromium. Chromium is also used in paints, coloring in glass, and as a plating agent.

According to the USGS the top producers are South Africa, Kazakhstan and India. South Africa produces almost 50% of all chrome ore. The three countries account for 80% of all chrome ore mined. Approximately 95% of all known reserves are located in Kazakhstan and the southern tip of Africa to include Zimbabwe and South Africa.

The background of chromium is interesting, but today we have a hot topic. India is thinking about a ban on exportation of chrome ore. This is after news out of South Africa that the, ¨National Union of Mineworkers¨, called for restrictions of chrome ore exports to China. It has been speculated that China has been stockpiling chrome ore in order to control future prices. Does this sound familiar? We currently have to deal with the manipulation of the rare earths and rare industrial metals by China. As of October 2011 India and South Africa have not followed through with the plans. The next few weeks and months will be quite interesting, we are seeing an increase in the need for chromium, with a possible decrease in available supply.

Today our world is full of uncertainty. Every day brings us news of something amazing. Governments are under pressure, people are suffering, companies are folding, wonderful inventions, worldwide internet connectivity, and resources are becoming scarce. I have learned that in times like this you can either complain or build a grand future. Many fortunes were made during the US Great Depression. We are living through a worldwide recession, when we come out on the other side natural resources will be needed like never before. Where are you putting your money and future?

By: Randy Hilarski – The Rare Metals Guy

LED Applications Growing, Will Only Lead to More REE Demand


An end product’s supply chain can be far reaching, with parts or all of the upstream and downstream producers sometimes getting hit at different times by economic forces.

This appears to be happening in China’s domestic LED market, which has seen a marked fall-off in demand, according to the China Strategic Monitor. That’s hit pricing during the second half of this year.

“Investment plans are being curtailed both in the upstream and downstream compared to those presented last year,” according to the report. “Despite this there are many companies still attracted to the market and many pharmaceutical companies and even wineries in South China are moving into LED lighting products. Based on this trend the industry is likely to realize large-scale production capacity over the next 2 or 3 years and pricing for products should fall a further 20-30%.”

Industry watchers reckon 10% of LED-driven businesses in China could go bankrupt this year. And one chief executive, speaking at the recent China Industrial Development Forum for the Low Carbon Economy, said 90% of all China’s LED businesses are running at a loss.

Interesting. The country’s Guangdong province said earlier this month that it had exported US$3.81 billion worth of lighting products between January and August – that’s a 21% increase over the same time period last year.

“Customs authorities indicated that the main export market is still Europe and America with the two taking up 63.2% of the total,” a report said. “Though exports to Hong Kong, Japan and other ASEAN countries are up 60% on last year.”

The massive rise in LED exports is ascribed to the increasing trend of upgrading to energy-efficient lighting combined with the higher production values and quality in China, according to the report.

Still, various companies producing LED products complain that the industry is hit with high selling, raw material and R&D costs. So, while a company reports a 32% jump in LED sales in the third quarter of 2011when compared to 2Q10, the senior executives also talk about the need to implement structural changes, improve execution, reduce overhead costs and initiate job cuts.

Now, the LED industry uses a wide range of phosphor materials to convert light emission from LED chips into a different wavelength. So, combining a blue LED with one or more phosphors can create a white LED. Many of the phosphors used in LEDs contain rare-earth elements, the most common one being the yttrium aluminum garnet, which is doped with cerium.  Another phosphor, called TAG, contains terbium, while silicate and nitride phosphors are commonly doped with cerium or europium.

 Here’s a small example of how LED products are being used: Kingsun Optoelectronic Co has just installed more than 10,000 street lights containing one million high-efficiency white LEDs along 75 miles of roads in Shenzhen. Kingsun anticipates a 60-percent reduction in energy consumption compared to the high-pressure sodium fixtures that have been replaced in the upgrade.

And while LEDs are now widely recognized as emerging light sources for general illumination, it turns out that LED lighting can also be used in a broad range of life-science applications such as skin-related therapies, blood irradiation, pain management, hypertension reduction and photodynamic therapy, which, when combined with drugs, is finding its way into cancer research.

In other words, the LED industry is only now just starting to be exploited, meaning demand will grow across all sectors. Translation – more rare earths will be needed in producing these products as research advances are made and commercial producers become more lean and efficient.

By: Brian Truscott

Hafnium the Little Known Element with Huge Potential

Hafnium is a chemical element with the symbol Hf and atomic number 72.

Rare Industrial Metal - Hafnium

The metal that is starting to get a great deal of attention from the military industrial complex was already well known in the nuclear industry and in the semiconductor industry. This metal is hafnium. Hafnium was discovered in 1923 by a Danish chemist named Dirk Coster and Georg Karl von Hevesey in Copenhagen. Its symbol on the periodic table is Hf and its atomic number is 72. Hafnium is considered a transition metal and is found as an impurity in Zircon ore deposits. The percentage in Zircon ore deposits is about 15%. The producers of Hafnium are Australia 42%, South Africa 32%, China 11% and a few other nations with smaller amounts.

Hafnium in semiconductors is an emerging use. A few years ago Hafnium replaced some uses of silicon in the semiconductor industry. Hafnium has increased the speed of the microprocessors, decreased the size, and made them more efficient. These chips have lowered energy leakage by 20%. ¨Silicon valley¨ has now become ¨Hafnium Valley¨.

In aviation, hafnium is used in super alloys. Due to it being an excellent refractory metal hafnium has applications where heat resistance is needed. It is used in the, ¨exhaust end¨, of jet engines. The melting point is 2233° C or 4,051° F.

The one area that may see a large increase of use is in the nuclear industry. The control rods which capture the neutrons released from nuclear fission are made of hafnium. The future for nuclear still looks bright even after the accidents in Japan. According to the, ¨Nuclear Engineering Handbook¨ there are 439 plants in operation with over 320 more proposed for the future. To be fair there are some substitutes like the silver, cadmium and indium control rods now available.

In the news recently we have heard about the military industrial complex and their interests in hafnium. One gram of hafnium contains as much energy as 700 pounds of TNT. According to the, ¨New Scientist¨ magazine the US military is developing technologies to use hafnium in its future bombs. The technology is said to produce bombs capable of releasing energy thousands of times greater than conventional weapons. Dr. Bill Herrmannsfeldt of Stanford University is not convinced. The Dr. does not believe that the military should be investing money in technologies that have no scientific basis. As a precaution the Dr. is asking for an independent review of the technology to see if it is scientifically possible.

Worldwide production of hafnium according to the USGS is unknown but we can make a good estimation because we know that hafnium is a byproduct of zirconium mining. Hafnium is a 15% impurity in Zircon ore. The USGS states that 1200t of zirconium are mined per year this would give us approximately 180t of hafnium. Official production is said to be 70t annually. This is a very small amount compared to many other elements and because there is very little information about the amounts of production it makes it difficult to have exact figures.

Unlike many rare industrial metals hafnium is not primarily controlled by China. Australia is the world´s largest producer. The production of hafnium is expected to increase approximately 4-4.5% annually. Hafnium has increased in value tremendously over the years. For over 30 years it consistently could be purchased in the vicinity of $200,000 per ton, now we have prices approaching $1,000,000 a ton. That is quite an increase. Inflation or demand, either way hafnium is performing very well for the producers and investors of the metal.

By: Randy Hilarski – The Rare Metals Guy

Asset protection with special metals – not just rare earths are in demand!

The trend toward physical assets such as special metals will be long term and sustainable," Gunther Maassen

Translated from the original German Article that can be found here:

Due to the distrust of paper money system escape investors more and more into real assets. Besides real estate , precious metals and commodity exchanges traded commodities , however, there are other commodities which are increasing the interest of investors. Namely Special Metals Exchange Express spoke with the manager of the venerable German metal dealer Haines Maassen ( Mr. Gunther Maassen.

BE: Mr. Maassen, you will see an increased interest from investors, including you offer specialty metals investing?

For about four years recorded Haines and Maassen an increasing demand from investors for specialty metals such as indium, gallium and hafnium.

BE: Why do you advertise on a site for commodity investors? Should this be expanded in a targeted area?

Haines & Maassen has over 60 years and active trading in the metal during this period was continuously expanded the offering plate. This particular segment is not promoted specifically, but we have adapted to the needs of this industry and adapted our offerings accordingly. We see our role as a family but in the metal trade, and not as a financial investment advisor.

BE: Is it worth an investment at all in special metals? If an investor wants to sell the purchased metals again, how great the loss is due to the trading range?

Since we are not investment advisors, we want to leave the decision up to our customers. The fundamentals of supply and demand shall, however, seems to indicate that the sustained demand for many of these elements exceed the bid. When individual elements are signs of a significant shortage. Leading research institutions around the world, for example, predict a significant shortage of indium in the next 10-20 years. Include items such as tantalum, hafnium, and tellurium show depletion trends. The trading range in the metal trade the usual manner 10 to 20% higher.

BE: Is it for your company at all interesting to supply retail customers or are you collaborating with distributors for small deliveries to private homes?

Even as larger trading company, we look forward to every customer and ensure a competent, based on years of service experience. Each customer, whether he now buys 1 kg or 100 kg of indium, tantalum is just treated as an industrial consumer. For several years we have worked successfully with companies that have created the special baskets for consumers. Leading role in this market is the Schweizerische Metallhandels AG / Switzerland, which brought the first company to a sustainable system for investors in the market. This trained and experienced intermediaries has developed standardized solutions to investors to provide with smaller sums, the opportunity to participate in the development of strategic special metals.

BE: Is there or are you planning it, the metals are VAT-free to keep investors in a bonded warehouse ?

No, this service leaves Haines & Maassen companies like the Swiss metal trading SMH AG, which take on a pioneering role in this field. We see our task in the expert advice and supplies to customers. This has meant that our company has occupied in the commercial sector is not more than 70% of jobs with academics. Chemists, economists, certified interpreter and aspiring metallurgist to join our team. . This allows us a targeted advice at a high level.

BE: Which of you offer metals were the highest price increases in recent years?

There are a number of metals such as rare earths (neodymium, cerium, lanthanum, …) and tellurium, tantalum, indium, gallium, hafnium, and that have experienced including price developments of more than 100%. Appears much more important to us, however, that the price developments of several of these elements in the long term exceed the inflation rate and thus suitable as a value assurance.

BE: Which you can see because of the supply situation and the future demand (particularly by new technologies), the highest price appreciation potential?

This would I got the book “Strategic Metals for investors,” by Michael and me Vaupel point, which is launched in early November. Here it is precisely this question at the center. Of promising innovations will be closed to the required raw materials, which then permits a conclusion on price trends. We specifically do not want to move a single metal in the foreground, but on the contrary believe that a healthy mixture of different metals, the better alternative. BE: Which metals has China as the rare-earth quasi-supply monopoly , China has some metals offer a market share exceeding 50%. about 90% antimony, bismuth, germanium, about 67% about 67%, 60% indium, about 67% silicon and tungsten over 80%. These are just the elements in which China holds more than 50%. There is also a long list of substances for which the People’s Republic plays a significant role.

BE: Some metals are toxic or dangerous now. Is not that problematic when investors rush to such materials and store them at home? Or. even allowed all metals to be delivered?

Yes, clearly this is problematic and it is forbidden even in a single well. The delivery of some metals to individuals such as arsenic, selenium and tellurium are not only forbidden, but also jeopardize the customer. The transport is subject to restrictions. Here it is important that it is made ​​clear in the consultation, where the boundaries of a private storage are located.

BE: What are the traded you metals for investors at all in question and which are ruled out?

This question is very complex and I would again like to the book “Special Metal for Strategic Investors” link. There are plenty of metals that can store private (indium, tantalum, etc.), and there are metals that can be stored without problems by specialist companies (gallium, tellurium, etc.). When no sense can be considered elements that can fail either due to technical reasons (explosive, very toxic ..) or claim due to a relatively low price, very substantial storage space would be (lithium, manganese …).

BE: Why are entirely at your rare earths?

Excluded from the program they are not, if a customer wants to purchase rare earths we can offer him.

BE: Which of the traded you metals are traded on commodity exchanges?

To reach Western markets, these are only molybdenum and cobalt in the form of oxides. In China, there are over 200 raw evil, but they are for the West not accessible or meaningful.

BE: Do you think the interest in physical metal investment for temporary or if the stay a permanent plant-fixed point?

I am personally of the opinion that the trend towards be physical forms of investment is long term and sustainable. Haines & Maassen has set himself definitely on this development and the capacity significantly. For about six months, we have another large warehouse, which predominantly serves the industry as a reloading and packaging facility.

BE: How serious is the market for metals from the perspective of potential investors?

Romp around many charlatans of the matter actually have no idea (push-columns, rushing into this, what’s currently on the market)? Unfortunately, there are black sheep in every industry. It certainly makes sense to find out exactly and above all, the costs can be expected for an investment of over 10 years. It is often cheaper to pay a few percent at the beginning to press for more and ongoing costs. Especially when storage costs are frightening models that cause within 5 years, considerable cost.

BE: Mr. Maassen, thank you for your time!


Largest Rare Earths producer halts output

Rare Earth Elements

China’s largest rare earths producer, Baotou, has suspended production for one month in an effort to prop up falling prices, in the clearest signal yet that Chinese producers are intent on supporting prices at high levels.

China is the world’s biggest producer of rare earths, but tightening government controls and stockpiling has sent rare earths prices rocketing this year, with prices for some minerals increasing more than eight times during the first half of the year.

Rare earths prices have been sliding since their peak in July, but the slide has accelerated during the past week. Neodymium, which is used in magnets, has fallen 9 per cent, while Lanthanum, which is used in fuel catalytic converters, has fallen 12 per cent, according to prices from Shanghai Metals Market.

Baotou’s move suggests that Chinese efforts to control rare earths prices could be greater than previously thought. Traders have complained since last year that Chinese customs officials were forcing contracts to be rewritten to conform with a “secret list” of acceptably high rare earths prices, but that had less influence on the market during a time when prices were uniformly going up.

Rare earths are 17 metals critical to everyday life, with uses that range from fluorescent lightbulbs to BlackBerry vibrators and military radar systems. Although rare earths are not technically rare, China produces more than 95 per cent of the world’s rare earths, after cheap Chinese mines sent other rare-earths miners out of business during the 1980s.

After cutting export quotas last year, Beijing has this year focused on cleaning up the rare earths industry at the source, closing illegal mines and processing centres that were previously sources of pollution. Those in the industry believe that the rare earths reforms have also been aimed at increasing state control over the previously fragmented sector. In May, the government announced that three state-owned groups would take the lead in reshaping the industry in the fragmented southern sector.

Baotou, which controls about 40 per cent of China’s rare earths production through mines in Inner Mongolia, said on Tuesday that it was suspending operations at all of its rare earths processing facilities in a bid to “stabilise the market and balance supply and demand”.

It is the second time in recent weeks that Baotou has tried to prop up prices, after very publicly purchasing neodymium at above-market prices last month. Baotou said the suspension, which begins on Wednesday, would also cut supplies of unprocessed rare earths to processing plants that buy from Baotou.

Shanghai share prices for Baotou fell 5.8 per cent on Tuesday, against a broader market decline of 2.4 per cent.

October 18, 2011
By Leslie Hook in Beijing

Alternatives to truly ‘rare earth’

Rare Earth Elements critical to 80% of Modern Industry.

Rare Earth Elements critical to 80% of Modern Industry

Science…tells us that nothing in nature, not even the tiniest particle, can disappear without a trace. Nature does not know extinction. All it knows is transformation…and everything science has taught me … strengthens my belief in the continuity of our spiritual existence after death. Nothing disappears without a trace.

Werner Von Braun

Yttrium, promethium, europium, and luterium may sound like mythological characters, but they’re rare-earth elements that comprise the backbone of new technologies for the 21st century.

Their discovery in recent years has advanced the electronics industry. Yttrium, when alloyed with other elements, forms part of aircraft engines; promethium is an essential component of long-lived nuclear batteries; europium powers images in flat-screen televisions; and luterium detects radiation in PET scanners used for medical research. Many new technologies owe their success to rare-earth elements.

The Prius, for example, contains rare-earth elements for its LCD screens, electric motor and generator, headlight glass, catalytic converter, UV windows, and mirrors; other cars require similar components to provide competitive features for buyers. Magnets under the hood of a Prius are some of the most powerful on the planet. Different from older technologies, they use rare-earth elements to charge the battery and turn the wheels.

As the world’s technologies become increasingly dependent on rare-earth metals, their reserves become more valuable. Half the world’s rare-earth deposits are in China, which currently mines almost 100 percent of global supply. Because China recognizes her own increasing needs for new technologies, it reduced rare-earth element export quotas by almost 40 percent in 2010.

What will other countries do to remain competitive in the high-tech market? Develop new technologies. Hubs like Research Triangle Park and Raleigh’s new Nature Research Center are ideal incubators for the next generation of scientists and engineers. Currently, researchers are working around the clock to design products that do not require rare-earth elements.

The most economical solution is to reduce our reliance on rare-earth elements altogether. Toyota is scrambling to develop technologies that do not require magnets utilizing rare-earth elements in hybrid cars; the television industry hopes to someday eliminate the need for europium and terbium in its screen imagery.

Training the next generation of scientists and engineers to inspire creative solutions is critical; otherwise, iPods, PET scans, and plasma televisions may become increasingly limited in their production. After all, where will America be without scandium, a rare-earth element alloyed with aluminum in baseball bats?

By Meg Lowman

U.S. Preparing for the Coming Shortages in Metals and Minerals

Rare Earth Elements critical to 80% of Modern Industry.

Rare Earth Elements critical to 80% of Modern Industry

Many if not most metals, rare earth minerals and other elements used to make everything from photovoltaic panels and cellphone displays to the permanent magnets in cutting edge new wind generators and motors will become limited in availability. Geologists are warning of shortages and bottlenecks of some metals due to an insatiable demand for consumer products.

 2010 saw China restrict the export of neodymium, which is used in wind generators and motors. The move was said to direct the supplies toward a massive wind generation project within China. What happened was a two-tiered price for neodymium formed, one inside China and another, higher price, for the rest of the world.

Dr. Gawen Jenkin, of the Department of Geology, University of Leicester, and the lead convenor of the Fermor Meeting of the Geological Society of London that met to discuss this issue is reported in the journal Nature Geoscience, highlighting the dangers in the inexorable surge in demand for metals.

Dr Jenkin said: “Mobile phones contain copper, nickel, silver and zinc, aluminum, gold, lead, manganese, palladium, platinum and tin. More than a billion people will buy a mobile in a year — so that’s quite a lot of metal. And then there’s the neodymium in your laptop, the iron in your car, the aluminum in that soft drinks can — the list goes on…”

Jenkin continues, “With ever-greater use of these metals, are we running out? That was one of the questions we addressed at our meeting. It is reassuring that there’s no immediate danger of ‘peak metal’ as there’s quite a lot in the ground, still — but there will be shortages and bottlenecks of some metals like indium due to increased demand. That means that exploration for metal commodities is now a key skill. It’s never been a better time to become an economic geologist, working with a mining company. It’s one of the better-kept secrets of employment in a recession-hit world.”

There’s a “can’t be missed” clue on education and employment prospects. “And a key factor in turning young people away from the large mining companies — their reputation for environmental unfriendliness — is being turned around as they make ever-greater efforts to integrate with local communities for their mutual benefit,” said Jenkin.

Among the basics that need to be grasped to understand the current state of affairs are how rare many metals, minerals and elements really are. Some are plentiful, but only found in rare places or are difficult to extract. Indium, for instance, is a byproduct of zinc mining and extraction.

Economics professor Roderick Eggert of the Colorado School of Mines explains at the U.S. Geological Survey meeting indium is not economically viable to extract unless zinc is being sought in the same ore. Others are just plain scarce, like rhenium and tellurium, which only exist in very small amounts in Earth’s crust.

There are two fundamental responses to this kind of situation: use less of these minerals or improve the extraction of them from other ores in other parts of the world. The improved extraction methods seem to be where most people are heading.

Kathleen Benedetto of the Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources, Committee on Natural Resources, U.S. House of Representatives explains the Congress’ position for now by saying in a report abstract, “China’s efforts to restrict exports of mineral commodities garnered the attention of Congress and highlighted the need for the United States to assess the state of the Nation’s mineral policies and examine opportunities to produce rare earths and other strategic and critical minerals domestically. Nine bills have been introduced in the House and Senate to address supply disruptions of rare earths and other important mineral commodities.”

Another prominent session presenter Marcia McNutt, director of the U.S. Geological Survey adds in her report abstract, “Deposits of rare earth elements and other critical minerals occur throughout the Nation.” That information puts the current events in the larger historical perspective of mineral resource management, which has been the U.S. Geological Survey’s job for more than 130 years. McNutt points out something interested citizens should be aware of, “The definition of ‘a critical mineral or material’ is extremely time dependent, as advances in materials science yield new products and the adoption of new technologies result in shifts in both supply and demand.”

The geopolitical implications of critical minerals have started bringing together scientists, economists and policy makers. Monday Oct 10th saw the professors presenting their research alongside high-level representatives from the U.S. Congress and Senate, the Office of the President of the U.S., the U.S. Geological Survey, in a session at the meeting of the Geological Society of America in Minneapolis.

Those metals, rare earth minerals and elements are basic building materials for much of what makes energy efficiency, a growing economy, lots of employment and affordable technology possible. Its good to see some action, if it’s only talking for now. At least the people who should be keeping the system working are sensing the forthcoming problem.


Solar cell breakthrough could hit 40 percent efficiency

Ultraviolet light spurs nanocrystals to change size and emit different, more colorful light, researchers say.

Researchers using novel materials to build photovoltaic cells say their efforts could nearly double the efficiency of silicon-based solar cells.

The cells being developed by teams from the University of Arkansas and Arkansas State University have the potential to achieve a light-to-energy conversion rate, or solar efficiency, of 40 percent or better, according to the researchers.

The photovoltaic cells are intended for use in satellites and space instruments. Currently, the silicon-based solar cells that NASA uses in its satellites and instruments have efficiencies of only up to 23 percent, according to NASA statistics.

And today it was announced that the research teams are getting more money–a total of $1 million in new funding–to further their work. Of that, about $735,000 will come from NASA, $237,000 from the University of Arkansas, and $86,000 from Arkansas State.

Omar Manasreh, professor of electrical engineering at the Optoelectronics Research Lab at the University of Arkansas, has been developing the technology so far with a $1.3 million grant from the U.S. Air Force Office of Scientific Research. He leads the research team along with Liangmin Zhang, assistant professor at Arkansas State.

“It [the grant] will create new opportunities for further development in the field of novel photovoltaic materials and devices,” Manasreh said in a statement.

Manasreh has been testing two separate methods for growing metallic nanoparticles using a novel combination of materials as the semiconductor. While CIGS (copper, indium, gallium and selenium) solar cells are not uncommon, Manasreh is using a variation of CIGS-based cells–CuInSe2 and CuInGaSe2–to generate molecules that bind to a central atom and that are known as volatile ligands. The nanocrystals can then be converted into thin-film solar cells, or incorporated into nanotubes, by combining the material with either titanium dioxide or zinc oxide. His second approach uses indium arsenide (InAs) a material commonly used in infrared detectors.

“The second approach uses molecular beam epitaxy, a method of depositing nanocrystals, to create quantum dots made of indium arsenide (InAs). Quantum dots are nano-sized particles of semiconductor material,” according to the University of Arkansas.

When exposed to ultraviolet light, the nanocrystals grown in liquid emit brighter light enhancing the response of the nanocrystals. The phenomenon shows the potential to increase the energy conversion efficiency of the materials (see photo).

This research team isn’t the first to experiment with growing nanoparticles using liquid. In 2007, Calif-based company Innovalight developed a “silicon ink” for creating crystalline silicon solar cells that works by inserting nanoparticles into a solvent, pouring the liquid on a substrate, and then removing the liquid to be left with a silicon crystalline structure. At the time, the solar cells made from the method had a 22 percent efficiency. Innovalight was acquired by Dupont earlier this year.

by Candace Lombardi

How to Invest in Rare Earths

Lithium Extraction from Salt Flats in Bolvia

Exchange-traded funds are jumping on the bandwagon to invest in rare earths and other strategic metals, mainly by investing in companies that mine and use the materials. There are risks for ETF investors to weigh.

Oil, Gold…Rare Earths?
As ETFs focus on some less-known materials, there are risks to weigh

The raw-materials rally that has driven investors to load up on gold, crude and wheat is also sparking interest in funds tied to relatively obscure commodities such as lithium, uranium and rare earths.

Investors have poured hundreds of millions of dollars into a handful of exchange-traded funds linked to those materials over the past year or so. But betting on these kinds of industrial building blocks presents some unusual challenges and risks.

Trying to replicate the price swings in underlying materials through an ETF is challenging because there are typically no futures markets for these substances, as there are for more commonplace materials. Holding the physical goods is often impractical as well. As a result, many funds instead concentrate rare-earth and other exotic-metals plays on related stocks, which can rise or fall independently of the commodities.

The fortunes of some of these materials—and the companies that work with them—can change suddenly. After Japan’s nuclear disaster in March, two ETFs that hold uranium-related stocks plunged amid a clouded outlook for nuclear energy and haven’t recovered to date. In addition, uncertainty about the global economy has caused prices of some rare earths to fall by double-digits in percentage terms in recent months, according to market participants.

Investors who accept the risks are generally buying into a thesis that’s been applied to a broad range of commodities in recent years—that rapid economic growth in emerging markets is pushing up demand and suppliers are struggling to keep up. Indeed, some basic commodities have leaped in price, but some of the biggest increases are related to lesser-known materials.

While oil costs a little more than twice what it did at the low point in 2009, for instance, the price of neodymium—one of a group of rare-earth elements used in high-tech products and advanced weaponry—was recently up 23-fold over a similar period, according to American Elements, a Los Angeles manufacturer that uses rare earths.

A Step Removed

Van Eck Global last year launched Market Vectors Rare Earth/Strategic Metals. What qualifies as a “strategic” metal is “a little subjective,” says marketing director Edward Lopez. But instead of buying the metals, the fund buys shares in companies that get at least half their revenues—or have that potential—from rare earths or materials such as titanium and tungsten.

Despite their name, rare earths are common in the Earth’s crust. But about 90% of rare-earth supplies currently comes from China, which has started to limit exports, saying it needs the materials at home. Likewise, foreign investors face restrictions on holding shares of major Chinese rare-earth producers, Mr. Lopez says.

Mining companies in the U.S. and elsewhere are trying to ramp up production to replace lost supplies. Investing in such companies carries distinct risks, Mr. Lopez says, including the hurdles of moving from planning to production and the possibility that the market for the materials may shift in the meantime. But the Van Eck fund includes among its top holdings Molycorp Inc., in Greenwood Village, Colo., and Australia-based Lynas Corp., companies that are developing rare-earth mines in the U.S. and Australia, respectively.

Shares of the Van Eck fund are down 21% since it was launched last October, and down 36% this year through Sept. 30. The fund at the end of August had $346 million in assets, according to National Stock Exchange, a data provider and stock exchange.

Liking Lithium

Lithium is another metal that has attracted widespread interest, because of the vital role it plays in powering a proliferating array of consumer electronics, including cellphones and laptops. But, as with other such elements, it’s impractical to invest in lithium directly. It’s an often volatile material and insuring a large stock could “take so much away from the return that it wouldn’t be practical,” says Bruno del Ama, chief executive of Global X, an ETF provider.

The company’s Global X Lithium, launched in July 2010, invests in shares of companies that mine lithium and in makers of products that use lithium, such as lithium-ion batteries.

The fund’s largest single holding is Sociedad Quimica & Minera de Chile SA, a Chilean company that produces plant nutrients and iodine as well as lithium. Shares in the company made up 23% of the fund’s holdings as of Sept. 30.

The fund had $128 million in assets at the end of August, including inflows this year of $24 million, according to National Stock Exchange.

Mr. del Ama says buying stocks can give investors a boost because miners can make money even if prices for the material stay flat. “If on top of that, the price of the commodity goes up…you get a leveraged impact on the return,” he says.

Shares in the lithium fund have fallen 16.2% since the 2010 launch, and are down 41% this year through Sept. 30. Average lithium prices in 2011 through July were 2% below average prices last year, according to TRU Group Inc., a consultancy that specializes in lithium.

Uranium Plays

The recent fate of two uranium-linked funds—Global X Uranium and Market Vectors Uranium+Nuclear Energy—shows that the “leveraged play works both ways,” as Mr. del Ama puts it.

After the March 11 earthquake and tsunami in Japan crippled the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, uranium prices plunged amid concern the incident would undercut support for nuclear power. In early September, weekly prices for the thinly traded fuel were 23% lower than they were on March 7, before the disaster, according to Ux Consulting Co. LLC.

But shares in Global X’s uranium fund, which focuses on uranium mining, have fallen even harder, losing more than half their value since March 10, the day before the Japanese disaster. The Market Vectors fund, which invests in both miners and other firms that work on nuclear energy, has fared somewhat better over that same period, falling 33% through Sept. 30.

Mr. Pleven is a reporter for The Wall Street Journal in New York. Email him at

Bismuth, Stepping Out of Leads Shadow

Rare Industrial Metal - Bismuth

Today we hear much about the demise of lead and its uses because of its toxicity.  This will have a huge impact on the value of the rare industrial metal we will discuss today.  Enter bismuth, the brittle white metal an element symbol of Bi and atomic number 83.  Bismuth was discovered in 1783 by Claude Geoffroy the Younger.  This rare industrial metal is mined as a by-product of lead, silver, copper, molybdenum, tin and gold.  The element is 86% as dense as lead.  Bismuth is the most naturally diamagnetic metal meaning it is the most resistant to being magnetized.  Mercury is the only metal that has a lower thermal conductivity.  It also has a high electrical resistance.  Bismuth has been classified as the heaviest naturally occurring element.

One of the most interesting aspects of bismuth is its crystalline structure that forms a spiral stair step structure.  It is caused by a higher growth rate around the outside edges than on the inside edges of cooling bismuth.  The beautiful colorations of the crystals are caused by variations in the thickness of the oxide layer that forms on the crystal surface which causes wavelengths of light to interfere upon reflection.  When bismuth burns with oxygen present it burns with a blue flame.

Bismuths uses are growing all the time.  Some of its largest uses are in cosmetics, pharmaceuticals, catalysts, metallurgical additives, galvanizing, solders, ammunition and fusible alloys.  The one most people associate with bismuth is, Pepto Bismol.  Lead-Bismuth Coolant is also used as a coolant for nuclear reactors.

There are a few issues that are causing alarm within the industries that use bismuth.  The first is that China is implementing export controls over all rare earth elements and rare industrial metals.  China produces about 80% of all the world´s refined bismuth.  The second issue is lead acid batteries will soon be replaced by nickel-cadmium and lithium-ion.  Lead mining is the main source of bismuth mining worldwide.  Crude lead bullion contains approximately 10% bismuth which is taken out when lead is refined further using the Kroll-Betterton or the Betts process.  This leaves us with 99% pure bismuth.  The long-term sustainability is in jeopardy because of the lead storage battery.  There is a distinct possibility that we will soon see this battery replaced.  Overnight 80-90% of the lead market would be gone.  This will be catastrophic for bismuth industries.  The mining of bismuth would then have to rely on its other sources which provide much less metal.  Recycling would have to be a major source of bismuth in the future.  The problem with recycling bismuth is that many of its uses, almost 60% in pharmaceutical and cosmetic uses, would make it very difficult to meet the demand.

Once again we have the story about a rare industrial metal that is used in so many products that we use every day.  How will this affect the end prices of these products?  History tells us not much initially, but in the future the story could be much different.  Bismuth with its many uses may be worth enough that mines open exclusively for this metal.  Recently the British Geological Survey 2011 put bismuth on its list of at risk metals.  Countries like Bolivia, Canada, Peru, Mexico and China will no doubt profit greatly if we have a significant rise in the value of bismuth.  How will you profit?

By: Randy Hilarski – The Rare Metals Guy

Why isn’t the Gold price going through $2,000 now?

Precious Metal Gold in Bars
Precious Metal Gold

The gold price went over $1,900 and looked as though it was going to mount $2,000, but since then has fallen back to $1,600 and is in the process of consolidating around the lower $1,600 area. It was expected that it would have moved a lot higher faster, but that hasn’t happened, yet.

In the face of Italy’s downgrade to A2 by the ratings Agency, Moody’s summary that, “There has been a profound loss of confidence in certain European sovereign debt markets, and Moody’s considers that this extremely weak market sentiment will likely persist. It is no longer a temporary problem that might be addressed through liquidity support, and several euro-area governments are increasingly affected by the loss of confidence.” The downgrading was expected, as are further downgrades for the different Eurozone members, shouldn’t the gold price be on its way through $2,000 to much higher levels?

The ‘downturn’

The news over the last few weeks has sent global financial markets down very heavily as a slow recovery morphed into a downturn and at best a flat economic future in the developed world. These falls have been accompanied by tremendous worries that there could be a major banking crisis that will cripple the Eurozone economy as a whole, not just the debt-distressed nations. In France growth is now at zero, in Greece it is somewhere south of a 5% dip in growth well into recession. Greater austerity simply adds to the fall in government revenues defeating their purpose of reducing their deficit. All of this implies an ongoing shrinkage of the Eurozone economy. This hurts investor capacities in all financial markets and wealth throughout the Eurozone. Cash becomes ‘king’ as investors flees markets to a holding position waiting for much cheaper prices before re-entering markets at lower levels.

The path to deflation is then made. Deflation in its early stages causes tremendous de-leveraging. That is the selling of positions to pay off loans taken to increase positions. It may come about because of investor prudence, banks calling in loans, stop-loss triggers and margin calls [where the level of debt against positions becomes too high and forces sales]. This often and particularly in the case of precious metals has nothing to do with the fundamentals of the market. It is simply the position of investors. This happened in the precious metal markets as well. This is why gold and silver prices fell.


As was the case in 2008 and often through history, the process of de-leveraging is a short-lived one, even when it is savage. Once and investor has sold the positions he feels he needs to that downward pressure on prices disappears. Leveraged positions are the most vulnerable of investor held positions and can make up the froth or ‘surf’ in the markets, which cause the volatility levels to increase when dramas strike. In 2008 these positions were huge because there had been two and a half decades of burgeoning markets that encouraged greater risk taking. Since then, while leveraging has taken place it has been less and rapidly removed when dramas hit.

In 2008 we saw a similar drop in prices from $1,200 to $1,000 [20%], which equates to the fall from $1,910 to $1,590 [16.9%]. In 2008 the precious metal prices then slowly rose as buyers started to come in from all over the world. It took over a year for prices to recover back to $1,200.

Change in market structure

Today the shape of the precious metal markets is quite different, particularly that of gold. In 2008 central banks were sellers, today they are buyers. In 2008 the Chinese gold markets were small. Since then they have grown to such an extent that they are soon to overtake India. These are two dynamic features that give demand a totally different shape to 2008. More than that, the impact of the developed world long-term has diminished quite considerably. It now represents less than 21% of jewelry, bar and coin demand. The emerging world as a whole represents over 70% of such demand now.

The bulk of the world’s physical gold that comes to the market is dealt at the London twice daily Fixings. The balance that is traded outside the Fixings is the most short-term price influential amounts, producing the swings that resemble the waves on the seashore. It is these traders and speculators that often persuade long-term buyers to stand back and wait for the prices to swing to the point that persuades them to enter the market. The drop from $1,900 had this effect on investors. Now that the fall has happened we see a surge in demand from the emerging world to pick up the slack in the market. We have no doubt that central banks are buying the dips as well.

So once the selling from the developed world has stopped [emerging market demand waits for this before buying, allowing the fall to extend further] in come the buyers happy that they are entering the market at a good time. Because of this change in market shape we fully expect the market to take far less time to find its balance and allow demand to dominate.

2012 recession and the battle against it

The I.M.F. has just warned that the developed world will enter a recession in 2012. Will that be a negative for the gold market? We do not believe that it will. The world has seen the recovery peter out, has seen the sovereign debt crisis arrive and now sees the I.M.F. recommend that the Eurozone banks be recapitalized. What does this mean for precious metals?

Cast you minds back to the recapitalization of U.S. banks under the TARP measures whereby the Fed bought the ‘toxic’ debt investments of the banks against fresh money. When we say fresh we mean just that, newly created money in the trillions. This did lower the perceived value of the dollar inside and outside the U.S. The effect on gold was palpable as it rose back through $1,200 and onto new highs.

Already we are hearing rumors of an E.U. government minister’s plan to walk the same or similar road. With the recent past in mind, we are certain that that will lower the perceived value of the euro and see euro investors seek places to cling onto the value the euro still has. This time round we fully expect markets to discount these actions in the same way. The downturn will therefore be fought with new money creation in the same way the U.S. did it from 2008 on.

Second time round

There is a significant difference between 2008 and now. In 2008 the credit crunch was new to investors and shocked the markets into overreactions. In 2011 we are not shock but expectant of what lies ahead. In 2008 the developed world economy had considerably more resilience than it does now, so the situation is more serious and less likely to be believed as the panacea for the developed world’s economic crisis. Because the gold and silver prices rose so strongly after that time and in the face of those ‘solutions’ the same will be expected now. In 2008 confidence in the financial system as well as in the monetary system appeared unassailable, not this time. While the developed world, outside of the gold ETF’s in the U.S., has not been the main driver of rising gold prices, this time we would not be surprised to see their resilient confidence in their world snap and a frantic search for safe-havens follow.

Yes, if we see a repeat of the 2008 breakdowns in the near future they will slaughter remaining confidence in the monetary system and the ability of its governments to set matters straight. What then for gold and silver?

By Julian Phillips