silver productionIn his latest interview, silver guru David Morgan discusses why the current price of silver (sub $20) is not sustainable for primary silver mines as we are UNDER the cost of PRODUCTION!

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  1. Given the high costs of complying with a confusing myriad of environmental regulations here in the US, I can see how American miners & processors are no longer making any profit on PM’s, while their overseas competitors are still able to make a profit.

    • Right you are, Woolly… and you can extend that to practically every industry in this country.  We have reached the decision point where we must decide whether we will grow our economy or our government… and we have chosen poorly!

  2. There is no question that the financial scene has turned ominous in the past two months. I’d like to follow-up on an article I wrote two months ago, “A Shock To The System?
    In that article, I wrote how the unprecedented collapse in the price of base metals, to levels below the cost of production, would bring about a significant reduction in mine production. The decline in base metal production would then result in a major decline in silver mine production. Almost 70% of silver production derives as a byproduct from the mining of other metals. A falloff in zinc mining means less silver produced. I wrote how this was the first time that this development had occurred, and how it could be the perfect storm for the price of silver.
    In the past two months, the data concerning inventories and price seems to confirm that the storm is firmly in place. In spite of cutbacks in base metal mining, there has been a large increase in base metal inventories and a further fall in price. That should accelerate additional base metal mine closings. For example, London Metal Exchange (LME) inventories, measured from the low points of the past six months, have increased in copper by 165%, in zinc by 65%, nickel 70%, and aluminum by 100%. These are important economic indicators of industrial demand. In addition, COMEX copper inventories have also tripled in the past few months. LME lead inventories are still down for the year, but have grown in the past month by 10%.
    Low prices have already resulted in a reduction in base metal production. However, if base metal inventories are growing significantly, this is proof of a continuing surplus. It means the world is still producing too much of these metals and must further reduce production. Industrial demand is falling faster than production is falling, causing the increase in inventories.
    The prices of base metals have continued to decline sharply in the past two months. Copper has fallen in price by an additional 37%, lead by 45%, nickel by 25%, and aluminum by 33%. These are the price declines from only the end of October. Zinc prices have remained flat in this time span, but are still far below the cost of production for most miners. The new down leg in price over the past two months, coupled with generally sharply higher inventories dictates almost certain additional production cuts ahead. These base metal mine reductions mean less silver production.
    How has silver fared in terms of inventory and price over the past few months compared to the base metals? That’s the point of this article – silver has moved in the opposite direction for both inventory and price. COMEX silver warehouse stocks, the accepted commercial inventory depository, have declined to the lowest level of the year, down around 10%. ETF inventories have grown slightly, but that’s due to investor demand, not because of surplus metal. Likewise, the price of silver has not declined since the end of October, and is up 10% or so.
    I’m not suggesting that there has been a big inventory decline in silver, nor a big price increase. What is evident, however, is that the inventory and price patterns in silver are in stark contrast to what has occurred in the base metals over the past two months. Will this pattern continue? No one knows. But clearly, while base metal inventories climbed and prices fell, it was just the opposite with silver. What does this mean?
    It means that we are not seeing a surplus develop in silver like base metals despite the world economic slowdown impacting each. Either silver industrial consumption is not falling as fast as consumption for base metals, or silver mine and refining production is falling faster than base metal production. It’s possible that silver’s wide range of use in varied applications is keeping its overall consumption stronger than base metals. On the production side, mine closings could already be causing a decline in silver production. It’s also possible that scrap silver production has declined sharply in response to the low prices.
    Whatever the reasons behind the sharp contrast in the inventory and price patterns between the base metals and silver, the important issue is whether the contrast is a temporary fluke or a clear signal of a solid trend. Time will tell, but if this trend continues, the impact on the price of silver will be profound. Should commercial silver inventories continue to stagnate or decline, as base metals inventories grow, the price of silver will explode at some point in the near future.
    The law of supply and demand is the constant process of balancing consumption and production by price. The invisible hand of the market works to eliminate any surplus or deficit. The continuing build up of base metals inventories and declining prices indicates a clear current surplus of those metals. In time, the law of supply and demand, through the price mechanism, will reduce production and increase consumption so that the base metals surplus is eliminated. Because consumption is under pressure due to reasons unrelated to price (credit contraction and broad world financial concerns), it will take further production cutbacks to balance the base metals supply/demand equation. It’s just a question of how long this will take. But what about silver?
    If that silver is not in an industrial surplus, while copper, zinc and other base metals are in a current surplus, additional production cutbacks will impact each differently. Future production cutbacks will eliminate the current surplus in base metals. Any further loss of byproduct supply from base metal production cuts will push silver into a clear shortage. If and when that silver shortage hits in full and prices explode, don’t look to the base metal miners to quickly respond with increased production. Even though they account for the majority of silver mine supply, copper and zinc and lead producers will not increase, or even maintain silver production at an operational loss.
    This is heart of the matter. For decades, silver mine production has grown, largely as a result of the increase in byproduct supply coming from increased base metal production. Silver prices were low (because of a manipulation) during this time, but silver mine production increased anyway, due to growing copper and lead and zinc production. Silver mine production increased automatically, regardless of the price of silver. The base metals producers even came to consider their silver byproduct output as an afterthought in their marketing and accounting calculations. Some even sold their future silver production in advance.
    There are two sides to the silver byproduct sword. In and of itself, a byproduct profile is neither bullish nor bearish. That depends on the price of the primary metals produced. Just as silver mine production increased for decades with no regard to the low price of silver, the byproduct profile can easily result in silver mine production decreasing even if silver prices are high. Copper and lead and zinc prices matter more to the ultimate level of byproduct silver output than does the price of silver. For many years, the byproduct nature of silver mining was a bearish influence because base metal production grew. Now, for the first time ever, we are suddenly confronted with the flip side of the byproduct profile causing reduced silver mine production at a time of silver shortage and potentially high silver prices. None of us have ever witnessed that and few are prepared for such an outcome.
    This creates the potential for a double or triple bullish whammy for the price of silver. It means reduced mine supply precisely as total demand, led by investment demand, surges. The worse economic conditions become, the more industrial consumption for base metals deteriorates, necessitating additional base metal production cuts and with it, less silver mine production. The bad economic conditions push more investors to buy flight to quality type assets, like gold and silver. This creates a powerfully bullish self-reinforcing circle for silver.
    While this bullish phenomenon doesn’t need any additional accelerator, it has one anyway. That’s the long-term silver manipulation. Artificial price schemes can’t last forever. All manipulations must end suddenly, not gradually. All manipulations are resolved with a big move opposite the direction of the manipulation. Since the silver manipulation of the past two decades has been to the downside, it must be resolved with a sudden and dramatic move to the upside.
    I understand that many can’t accept that a long-term manipulation exists in silver. On the other hand, many more have come to understand that silver is manipulated. This is a one-way conversion process. In other words, once someone has come to understand the silver manipulation, there is no going back to believing that no manipulation exists. You either come to see it, or you don’t. I don’t know if it’s a curse or a moment of supreme enlightenment, but once you get it, it’s with you forever. Looking at silver through that perspective makes everything understandable. It won’t enable you to predict short-term movements, but it will explain them. It gives you comfort and assurance on silver as a long-term holding. It makes it close to a sure thing.
    I raise the issue of manipulation again because I believe it will soon come to a head. We are now witnessing the third investigation by the CFTC, into allegations of a silver manipulation. While I don’t have much faith that the CFTC will do the right thing and bring an end to the manipulation, their action isn’t necessary to break the manipulation. The physical market will resolve it. The fact that they have been forced to reconsider the issue over and over is enough. They haven’t had to do that with any other commodity. The investigations have come from a grass-roots effort, not from an industry insider request, as is usually the case. The investigations have only occurred because of credible public allegations. The investigations have and will generate more conversions, regardless of any denials by the CFTC. Any denial will dance around the real questions and won’t convince anyone. That’s why the Commission is delaying. But delay will only postpone the sudden demise of the silver manipulation and ensures it will end even more dramatically to the upside.
    This decline in base metals and silver byproduct output, as well as the deteriorating world economic conditions have afforded you the opportunity to take advantage of a truly exceptional situation. The circumstances have converged to make silver a better buy than ever before, thanks to the sharp sell-off since summer. It’s one thing to say silver is a better buy than ever before, and another to back that statement up. Here’s the backup – It’s in tighter supply than ever and that supply threatens to get tighter. It’s the cheapest it has been in years. World economic conditions favor it more than ever. It has more one-way converts and strong long-term holders daily. The manipulation is closer to ending than ever before. The only thing you must avoid is waiting too long to buy it.

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