Wednesday, November 9, 2011

More Industrial uses for Silver (photovoltaics, rfid), Gold Reserves Increase with Price

    Higher gold prices mean higher resources because lower cutoff grades become economically viable (producers can absorb higher production costs without sacrificing margins). Osisko Mining on November 7 raised its inferred resource estimate solely due to the higher market price of gold. Osisko said that @ $1,000/oz production was economically viable at an average grade of 0.72 g/t but @ $1,800/oz the lower cutoff grade results in a 103% increase for inferred resource (from 5.32M to 10.79M ounces grading 0.51g/t or 29% smaller than at $1,000). Osisko's 3Q production was up 172% for gold (to 73,814 oz) and 147% for silver (to over 40,000 oz) between quarters. At Centerra Gold the higher price of gold led to a five-fold increase in third quarter earnings per share (35c vs 7c) while its revenue was up 132% to $278.4 million. The 500% change in earnings came mostlly due to the change in gold price (avg realized up 37.8% to $1705/oz) since sales increased 68.5% to 163,283 ounces (3q).

As for silver, production has risen in response to higher prices. From 1990 to 2007 demand for silver exceeded mine production by more than 1.5 billion ounces (The Silver Institute) but since then, production has met demand (recycling also helps balance demand - about 250M ounces of silver is recycled every year with all silver used in photography contributing back to supply this way). About 15% of silver production comes as a by-product of gold mining so higher gold prices, even if silver doesn't follow suit, will automatically increase silver production. Over history 45 and 40 billion ounces of silver has been produced (42.62B up to 2004) compared to about 6 billion ounces of gold. (goldeagle.com:The World's Cumulative Gold and Silver Production)

According to the US Geological Survey in 2009 silver mine production totalled 697.6M ounces a 23.86% ten year growth (annual basis) at the same time the average price rose by a factor of 2.2 while total supplies amounted to 922.2m ounces. Between 2010 and 2020 it is estimated that production will increase by 100-150M ounces while industrial demand alone increases by more than 250M ounces so supply deficits could become a factor again in the near future even though higher prices are causing more companies to build new mines/initiate exploration even in areas that have high production costs. Most of the increase in demand for silver is coming from industry (in 2000 it accounted for 35% of total demand but by 2009 it was over 50%). In 2010 silver supplies increased 14.60% to 1.0568b ounces but mine production was only 2.45% higher (contributed 70% of supplies in 2010 compared to 77.9% the year before). Net government sales of silver was nearly tripled to 44.8m ounces. On the demand side, industrial applications demanded 20.7% more in 2010 than in 2009 (difference of 83.6m ounces).

Silver Uses
Silver is a highly conductive metal (without much oxidation) and that makes it popular for use in electronics.
- RFID technology used in id tags. The antenna portion of it that is scanned and read is where the silver is used. The antenna can be scanned up to 15 meters away. Each tag uses over 1% of a gram of silver however billions of the tags are produced every year so it adds up).
- Jewelry remains the second largest source of demand at 167m ounces (2010) which represents a 5% increase on the year.
- Photography including x-ray film (however demand is falling due to digital replacements). Demand fell by 8.3% in 2010 to 72.7m ounces accounting for only 6.885 of total demand.
- Silver Coins : 8-10% of demand and increasing with people looking to invest in precious metals and gold perhaps becoming too expensive for some (bars aren't included, there are about 700M ounces of silver in bar form (large bars) that's up from just over 200M ounces in 2009).
- Medical Equipment & products such as pacemakers. Coins and medals increased 22.3m ounces in 2010 to 101.3m ounces (up 28.23% on the year).
- Photovoltaics/Solar Panels : The mirrors are coated with silver (specifically the energy conducting silicon cells). With solar energy use growing both in Europe/America & China greater demand from this sector is a sure thing.

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