Thomas Pascoe: Revealed -- Why Gordon Brown sold Britain's gold at a knock-down price

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Of course all this was "revealed" by GATA and particularly gold price suppression litigator Reginald H. Howe not long after it happened a decade ago, and GATA has been repeatedly thrusting it at the Telegraph ever since then, but it's thrilling to see a mainstream news organization getting around to it even this late.

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Revealed: Why Gordon Brown Sold Britain's Gold at a Knock-Down Price

By Thomas Pascoe
The Telegraph, London
Thursday, July 5, 2012

http://blogs.telegraph.co.uk/finance/thomaspascoe/100018367/revealed-why...

A great deal of Gordon Brown's economic strategy would strike a sane man as troubling. Not a great deal was mysterious. The orgy of consumption spending, frequent extensions of the cycle over which he would "borrow to invest," proclamations of the "end of boom and bust": These are part of the armoury of modern politicians of all political hues.

One decision stands out as downright bizarre, however: the sale of the majority of Britain's gold reserves for prices between $256 and $296 an ounce, only to watch it soar so far as $1,615 per ounce today.

When Brown decided to dispose of almost 400 tonnes of gold between 1999 and 2002, he did two distinctly odd things.

First, he broke with convention and announced the sale well in advance, giving the market notice that it was shortly to be flooded and forcing down the spot price. This was apparently done in the interests of "open government" but had the effect of sending the spot price of gold to a 20-year low, as implied by basic supply and demand theory.

... Dispatch continues below ...


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Prophecy Platinum Announces Wellgreen Preliminary Economic Assessment:
38% Pre-Tax IRR, $3.0 Billion NPV, and a 37-Year Mine Life

Company Press Release

VANCOUVER, British Columbia, Canada -- Prophecy Platinum Corp. (TSX-V: NKL, OTC-QX: PNIKF, Frankfurt: P94P) reports the results of an independent NI 43-101-compliant preliminary economic assessment for its fully owned Wellgreen nickel-copper-platinum group metals project in the Yukon Territory.

The independent assessment, prepared by Tetra Tech, evaluated a base case of an open-pit mine (with a mining rate of 111,500 tonnes per day), an on-site concentrator (with a milling rate of 32,000 tonnes per day), and an initial capital cost of $863 million. The project is expected to produce (in concentrate) 1.959 billion pounds of nickel, 2.058 billion pounds of copper, and 7.119 million ounces of platinum, palladium, and gold during a mine life of 37 years with an average strip ratio of 2.57.

The financial highlights of the preliminary economic assessment, shown in U.S. dollars, are as follows:

Payback period: 3.55 years
Initial capital investment: $863 million
IRR pre-tax (100% equity): 38 percent
NPV pre-tax (8% discount): $3 billion
Mine life: 37 years
Total mill feed: 405.3 million tonnes
Mill throughput: 32,000 tonnes per day

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Second, the Treasury elected to sell its gold via auction. Again, this broke with the standard model. The price of gold was usually determined at a morning and afternoon "fix" between representatives of big banks whose network of smaller bank clients and private orders allowed them to determine the exact price at which demand met with supply.

The auction system again frequently achieved a lower price than the equivalent fix price. The first auction saw an auction price of $10 less per ounce than was achieved at the morning fix. It also acted to depress the price of the afternoon fix which fell by nearly $4.

It seemed almost as if the Treasury was trying to achieve the lowest price possible for the public's gold. It was.

One of the most popular trading plays of the late 1990s was the carry trade, particularly the gold carry trade.

In this a bank would borrow gold from another financial institution for a set period, and pay a token sum relative to the overall value of that gold for the privilege.

Once control of the gold had been passed over, the bank would then immediately sell it for its full market value. The proceeds would be invested in an alternative product which was predicted to generate a better return over the period than gold which was enduring a spell of relative price stability, even decline.

At the end of the allotted period, the bank would sell its investment and use the proceeds to buy back the amount of gold it had originally borrowed. This gold would be returned to the lender. The borrowing bank would trouser the difference between the two prices.

This plan worked brilliantly when gold fell and the other asset -- for the bank at the heart of this case, yen-backed securities -- rose. When the prices moved the other way, the banks were in trouble.

This is what had happened on an enormous scale by early 1999. One globally significant US bank in particular is understood to have been heavily short on two tonnes of gold, enough to call into question its solvency if redemption occurred at the prevailing price.

Goldman Sachs, which is not understood to have been significantly short on gold itself, is rumoured to have approached the Treasury to explain the situation through its then head of commodities Gavyn Davies, later chairman of the BBC and married to Sue Nye, who ran Brown's private office.

Faced with the prospect of a global collapse in the banking system, the Chancellor took the decision to bail out the banks by dumping Britain's gold, forcing the price down and allowing the banks to buy back gold at a profit, thus meeting their borrowing obligations.

I spoke with Peter Hambro, chairman of Petroplavosk and a leading figure in the London gold market, late last year and asked him about the rumours above.

"I think that Mr Brown found himself in a terrible position," Hambro said.

"He was facing a problem that was a world-scale problem where a number of financial institutions had become voluntarily short of gold to the extent that it was threatening the stability of the financial system and it was obvious that something had to be done."

While the market manipulation that occurred when the gold reserves were sold was not illegal as the abuse at Barclays may have been, the moral atmosphere in which it took place was identical.

The crash which began in 2007 and endures still was the result of an abdication of responsibility across the financial sector. This abdication ranged from the consumer whose thirst for goods pushed him beyond into grave debt to a government whose lust for popularity encouraged it to do the same.

Responsibility is evaded by all bar those on whose shoulders it ought to rest. The gold panic of 1999 was expensively paid for by the British public. The one thing politicians ought to have bought with that money was a lesson in the structural restraints that needed to be placed on banks now that the principle that they were ultimately public liabilities had been established.

It was a lesson that could have acted to restrain all players in the credit market boom of the 2000s. It was a lesson nobody learnt.

-----

Thomas Pascoe worked in both the Lloyd's of London insurance market and in corporate finance before joining the Telegraph. He writes about the financial markets.

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Sona Discovers Potential High-Grade Gold Mineralization
at Blackdome in British Columbia -- 13.6g over 1.5 Meters

From a Company Press Release
November 22, 2011

VANCOUVER, British Columbia -- With its latest surface diamond drilling program at its 100-percent-owned, formerly producing Blackdome gold mine in southern British Columbia, Sona Resources Corp. has discovered a potentially high-grade gold-mineralized area, with one hole intersecting 13.6 grams of gold in 1.5 meters of core drilling.

"We intersected a promising new mineralized zone, and we feel optimistic about the assay results," says Sona's president and CEO, John P. Thompson. "We have undertaken an aggressive exploration program that has tested a number of target zones. Our discovery of this new gold-bearing structure is significant, and it represents a positive development for the company."

Sona aims to bring its permitted Blackdome mill back into production over the next year and a half, at a rate of 200 tonnes per day, with feed from the formerly producing Blackdome mine and the nearby Elizabeth gold deposit property. A positive preliminary economic assessment by Micon International Ltd., based on a gold price of $950 per ounce over eight years, has estimated a cash cost of $208 per tonne milled, or $686 per gold ounce recovered.

For the company's complete press release, please visit:

http://www.sonaresources.com/_resources/news/SONA_NR18_2011-opt.pdf