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Old 05-23-2013, 08:18 PM   #1
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The State of Platinum and Palladium Mining

http://www.sprottgroup.com/thoughts/...ladium-miners/

Some snippets:

Quote :
The Dire State of the Platinum-Palladium Miners

According to Johnson Matthey, the platinum market was in deficit by 375,000 ounces in 2012, close to their forecast made last November. The palladium market was also undersupplied but by a much larger margin of more than 1 million ounces.

For platinum and palladium, this was a reversal of the position a year earlier when both were in surplus. Gross demand for these metals continues to recover from the slump in 2008. Overall, gross demand for platinum fell by only 50,000 ounces year-over-year to 8.045 million ounces, a stronger performance than might have been expected.

According to Mitsui, in net terms Chinese jewelry demand was larger than gross automotive demand for platinum in Europe for only the second year ever. The launch of a platinum ETF in South Africa is also positive for demand this year. The ABSA fund has already purchased 283,000 ounces of platinum as of the 17th of May. Overall we view the demand statistics from 2012 as very bullish for platinum and palladium in 2013.

While demand is expected to remain solid for 2013, the bull case for the PGM story is on the supply side. As we analyze the state of the miners, their situation is getting progressively worse, even more so than we expected.

Investors in platinum stocks have dumped their shares in a panic over the last six weeks, fearing that the platinum sector is in terminal decline. Since April the sector has fallen by 20%, bringing the cumulative decline for the year to 30%. What has caused this exodus? The results coming in from the PGM miners have been awful. Take Impala Platinum, the world’s second-biggest producer of the metal, which said that more of its shafts are producing at a loss as prices decline and costs rise. “These units are being monitored on a continuous basis to determine their ongoing viability.”

According to ‘Implats’, average extraction costs increased 23% to 15,957 rand ($1,766) an ounce for the nine months through March from a year earlier.1 This implies that at today’s platinum price, Implats is losing close to $300 per ounce produced.

The glory days for platinum mining were between the years 1999 to 2002 and provided the first wave of extraordinary fortune for platinum miners. The real return on capital exceeded 20%, making it one of the most profitable industries in the world at that time (the average CFROI for global industrial and service companies is 6%).

The second wave of fortune occurred during the global commodities "super cycle" from 2006 to 2008. Again, platinum mining became one of the most profitable businesses in the world. The good times ended abruptly at the end of 2008, when platinum miners saw their real return on capital drop to 1% — much less than their cost of capital.

In 2012, the CFROI in the platinum sector of South Africa’s economy was a miserable -0.6%, the lowest return on capital since 1992. Suffice to say, platinum miners are not producing sufficient returns to satisfy shareholders, or to support their operations. This has resulted in unavoidable cost-cutting, lay-offs and scaling back of capital expenditure plans.

And what does the future hold? The authors took analysts’ expectations for this year and next and estimated the real return on capital at a value destructive level of 0% for this year and a depressed 3.4% until 2017. There is no hint of a return to superior profitability in the share prices of platinum miners. In a nutshell, South Africa’s platinum miners are destroying value and are expected to continue to do so. They are in a dire state.

Adding to this ‘perfect storm’ for platinum miners are the wage negotiations with the largest union of mineworkers. The South Africa National Union of Mineworkers in two weeks' time will present a demand for a wage increase of "no less than 10%" and up to 60% for its industry members to take effect from July, union spokesman Lesiba Seshoka said Monday. Given the financial state of the largest platinum miners these new demands will be difficult, if not impossible to meet. This aggressive stance has rattled mining investors after wildcat strikes last year at platinum and gold mines killed 50 people and cost billions in lost output.

Investors are not sticking around to find out what happens next with the miners and are taking positions in the metal itself, which we believe will be rewarding in the long term. As reported by Bloomberg, holdings of all platinum ETFs have increased by 30% since the beginning of this year and palladium holdings have increased by 16%. Both are healthy increases over a short period of time, highlighting investors’ preference for the metal over the miners. Given the data and opinions provided at Platinum Week, we continue to believe in a bright future for these two precious metals.
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Old 05-24-2013, 06:03 AM   #2
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Looks like I picked the wrong week to quit stacking Pt & Pd
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Old 05-24-2013, 08:17 AM   #3
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Being new to this I can imagine gold and silver operating as a parallel currency to fiat but I have a harder time visualizing platinum and palladium coins being as widely accepted. Not sure if having a stack of Pt and Pd would give you as many options for resale or exchange. What do you do with a bar of palladium?
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Old 05-24-2013, 12:08 PM   #4
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Originally Posted by Aubuy View Post:
Being new to this I can imagine gold and silver operating as a parallel currency to fiat but I have a harder time visualizing platinum and palladium coins being as widely accepted. Not sure if having a stack of Pt and Pd would give you as many options for resale or exchange.
They another form of diversification. If something happens in the palladium/platinum industry that causes them to skyrocket in price, even holding 5% in your portfolio would be fun for the ride.

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What do you do with a bar of palladium?
During non-SHTF times, you can readily buy it and sell it at Apmex, Provident, others.
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Old 05-24-2013, 12:32 PM   #5
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Originally Posted by Unobtanium View Post:
They another form of diversification. If something happens in the palladium/platinum industry that causes them to skyrocket in price, even holding 5% in your portfolio would be fun for the ride.



During non-SHTF times, you can readily buy it and sell it at Apmex, Provident, others.
It does seem reasonable for diversification and there are potential serious shortages looming which could have a nice upside so I wouldn't rule it out (thanks for the tip). The thing about gold is that it seems so much more aesthetically pleasing to look at. I feel like if the coin thing didn't work out you could still melt it down and make a nice piece of jewelry for someone.
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Old 05-24-2013, 12:35 PM   #6
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Originally Posted by Aubuy View Post:
It does seem reasonable for diversification and there are potential serious shortages looming which could have a nice upside so I wouldn't rule it out (thanks for the tip). The thing about gold is that it seems so much more aesthetically pleasing to look at. I feel like if the coin thing didn't work out you could still melt it down and make a nice piece of jewelry for someone.
I like gold much better too!
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Old 05-24-2013, 04:07 PM   #7
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More on platinum and palladium:

http://www.caseyresearch.com/article...damental-shift

Quote :
Platinum and Palladium: A Fundamental Shift
Jeff Clark, Senior Precious Metals Analyst
May 23, 2013 10:46am


Platinum is a precious metal, as is palladium, though to a lesser degree. However, like silver, both are also industrial metals. Unlike silver, it's their industrial use that is the primary price driver for both platinum and palladium – and that use is undergoing a fundamental shift.

The largest source of demand for platinum and palladium is the automotive industry, for use in autocatalysts. In turn, the fortunes of the auto industry are sensitive to the health of the world's major economies. We've been bearish on platinum-group metals for years, primarily because we weren't convinced a healthy – much less roaring – world economy could be sustained when so many governments continue spending beyond their means.

We reconsidered the market last year, when strikes in South Africa – home to 75% of global platinum production and 95% of known reserves – threatened supplies. But as we wrote last December, the strikes ended without great impact on long-term supply.

Since then, however, the fundamentals of this market have changed. Others may disagree with our economic outlook, which is still bearish, but it's due to supply issues – not demand – that our interest is now drawn to these metals, and particularly to palladium.

Here's a look at global supply against auto-industry demand for both metals.

Approximately 55% of platinum and the bulk of palladium supply was used in catalytic systems last year. The shrinking supply that's under way with both metals is obvious, and palladium is approaching a supply/demand crunch.

Here's what's going on…

Platinum

The fall in platinum supply has been so great that it moved from a surplus in 2011 to a deficit in 2012, with Johnson Matthey estimating that deficit to hit 400,000 ounces, the highest level since 2003.


Why the shift?

Labor strife and power outages.
The mining industry in South Africa is, frankly, a mess. Labor strikes continue to haunt the platinum mining companies. The largest mining union in South Africa, AMCU, recently refused to sign a collective bargaining agreement on worker compensation, and CNBC is predicting a massive strike. Amplats, the world's largest platinum producer, is threatening to cut 14,000 jobs and mothball two operating mines due to various issues. Meanwhile, power outages, a longstanding problem, continue unresolved; they have already forced the closure of some mines and are widely expected to cause further cuts in production. As a result, supply from mining is expected to decline another 10% this year.

Recycling. This important source of supply is falling in reaction to lower metals prices. It is estimated that recycling fell by 11% in 2012.

Emission systems. Demand for platinum in autocatalysts dropped by 1% in 2012, mostly due to lower vehicle production in Europe and lower market share of diesel engines. However, emission-system demand from Japan and India is expected to increase, and diesel-emission controls recently introduced in Beijing will also support industrial demand for both metals. Auto sales in China rose a whopping 19.5% in the first two months of the year and are 6.5% higher in the US than a year ago.

Jewelry. Worldwide demand for platinum jewelry rose last year, with strong demand coming from China and growth in India, and is mainly the consequence of lower prices. Jewelry accounts for 30% of total platinum demand.

Investment. Although it represents just 6% of total demand for the metal, investor demand nonetheless grew 6.5% last year, adding to pressure on supplies.

Given these factors – primarily the first one – a supply deficit stretching into 2014 seems almost certain. Until South Africa can resolve its labor and power issues, pressure on platinum supply will remain, producing a favorable environment for rising prices.


Palladium

Palladium, platinum's "little brother," also faces a market imbalance. In 2012, the deficit totaled 915,000 ounces, the highest level since 2001.

Supply. Russia is the second-largest producer of palladium, and some analysts report that rumors of its stockpile being close to depletion are true. Recycling is also falling, and production disruptions in South Africa – the largest producer of palladium – are the same as outlined for platinum. Overall supply of the metal is falling.

Demand. Autocatalytic demand rose by 7% in 2012, as palladium can be easily substituted for platinum in emission-control systems for gas-powered motors (but not diesel-powered ones), such as are favored in China and India. In fact, several experts we consulted were more bullish on palladium than platinum due to this "substitution factor" – and China just mandated catalytic systems for all cars in the country.

Palladium investment demand was positive last year, though palladium jewelry has yet to gain traction in China, one of the world's biggest jewelry markets. Total jewelry demand for palladium was 11% lower in 2012. However, we expect a greater shift to palladium in the expanding Asian automotive market, which in turn will boost palladium prices.

The fundamental drivers of the palladium market are similar to those for platinum, which makes the palladium market an equally attractive investment.

If this all weren't bad enough, most companies' production costs are now above current platinum and palladium prices. This can only be solved one way: higher metals prices.


Bottom Line

The supply disruptions in South Africa combined with secondary factors have led to deficits in both metals that won't be erased overnight. Such imbalances, together with mainstream expectations of global economic growth, create a favorable environment for PGM price appreciation.

This much seems like a safe bet. There is, however, a great deal of speculative upside in the not-inconceivable case of South Africa going off the rails in a major way. Massive – not marginal – supply disruptions in the world's main source of both metals would send their prices through the roof. You get this speculative potential "for free" when you bet on the more conservative projections that call for rising prices regardless.

While we wait for our gold positions to rebound, an investment in platinum and palladium could be very profitable. How to invest? You can learn which company is our #1 pick for this space with a risk-free trial subscription to BIG GOLD.

Note: our longer-term outlook remains in place: most G7 economies are not fundamentally sound and continue to print money. Gold is still our priority asset class, so we don't recommend that investors replace their gold holdings with platinum and palladium investment vehicles. This PGM trend is simply an addition to and diversification of our current investment strategy.
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Old 05-28-2013, 07:13 AM   #8
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You know market conditions are bad when the government is talking about rescue plans:
Quote :
South Africa may take unspecified "interventions" in the gold and platinum sectors as part of a state plan to maintain the viability of the industries, mines minister Susan Shabangu said on Tuesday.

"I have directed my officials to urgently explore all available avenues and develop a rescue plan," she said in a speech to parliament.

There would be a "particular focus on both supply and demand-side interventions," she said.
...
Shabangu gave no other details as to what the interventions might involve.

However, concerns about job cuts would likely prevent Pretoria from radically manipulating the platinum supply.

Anglo American Platinum, seeking to restore profits after falling into loss last year, had to back down from an initial target of 14,000 job cuts in the face of stiff resistance from unions, the government and the ruling African National Congress (ANC).
...
http://www.mineweb.com/mineweb/conte...1828&sn=Detail
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Old 05-29-2013, 05:05 AM   #9
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Surely got me re-thinking about my investing in platinum and palladium. This sector has had a major hit. But I’m wondering if the issues are known and tackled, then hopefully it would make a comeback.
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Old 05-29-2013, 11:08 AM   #10
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...

I see two reasons to consider investing into Pt or Pd:

1) Although I doubt that there would be any kind of PM confiscation, Pt and Pd would almost surely escape that...

2) Diversification is this Bearing's middle name! Because Pt and Pd sit in niches different that gold and silver, I own a bit of each metal.

Platinum and palladium are for optimists! If the world economy does very well over the next several years (kind-of against our consensus here), then so will these two metals.
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