How India's government might adapt to its people's trust in gold


Managing Gold: A Policy Challenge

The Reserve Bank of India can learn a trick or two from Turkey in order to absorb gold into the financial system, thereby turning it into a productive asset.

By K. Kanagasabapathy
The Hindu, Chennai, India
Thursday, July 5, 2012

The lure of gold in India is an age-old phenomenon. Stringent legal or physical measures to curtail the appetite for gold did not succeed in the 40 years after Independence; they only encouraged smuggled imports at a very high cost.

Ultimately, gold policy was liberalised in the reforms period, starting in the 1990s.

A spate of measures was introduced to wean away households from putting their financial savings into gold, so as to conserve foreign exchange and increase the use of paper-based financial products. But these have not led to the goal of curtailing gold consumption and imports.

In the recent past, measures such as hiking import duty, dissuading banks from dealing in gold, and discouraging non-bank financial companies from extending their gold loan portfolio have been tried. But if experience is to offer any lessons, such efforts will be in vain. The annual import of gold in 2011-12 is reported to have crossed 900 tonnes.

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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:

Arguments against high consumption of gold are well known: It is an unproductive asset, it weans away financial savings, and it is a drain on foreign exchange. But there are several qualities of gold that make it an attractive investment option.

Apart from the fact that gold is embedded in the Indian psyche and cultural ethos, it is almost a perfect inflation hedge. During periods of high inflation, as in the recent past, gold demand remains high.

Except that its storage is risk-prone, the ability of gold to insure against any kind of instability and crisis is well established. It can be easily converted into cash and provides almost instant liquidity. It is also a part of international liquidity and has universal acceptance.

According to a study sponsored by the World Gold Council, the demand for gold since the twin global crises has increased substantially globally.

The trend is likely to continue in the coming few years, partly due to uncertainty and weakness of the US dollar as the reserve currency. Many central banks, including India's, have augmented their gold reserves.

The policy focus since the period of liberalisation has been on curtailing the physical demand for gold, or by deferring the demand for gold by encouraging varied financial products. While there is nothing wrong in this approach, the problem is that it has not made a visible dent.

Instead, it would be worth trying how far the existing supplies in the country can be diverted to the financial system so that the unproductive nature of the gold asset is turned into a financially-productive stream. A few of these approaches are considered here.

Augment gold reserves: Gold imports are viewed as a drain on foreign currency. But gold is equivalent to foreign currency, since it forms part of international reserves. As part of augmenting its reserves, the Reserve Bank of India can purchase gold from the domestic market to augment its reserves base in the face of dwindling foreign currency reserves.

A suggestion has been made earlier that the central bank can deal in gold as part of its market operations. In a way, augmenting gold reserves will help the central bank sell dollars in the domestic market to preserve the value of the rupee, without losing its reserves base.

Encourage gold deposit schemes: Commercial banks, in particular, State Bank of India, offer gold deposit schemes at low rates of interest. Gold savings deposits and term deposits can be encouraged. Here is a "good" Turkish example. Turkey, like India, is a large consumer of gold.

Gold, handed down through families over generations, is hoarded as savings. But in recent months commercial banks have entered the fray to mobilise gold deposits, encouraged by the central bank policies, according to a Reuters report.

Such deposits have increased four-fold in the past year. The country's commercial banks are pouring their technical expertise and marketing resources into offering their customers gold deposit accounts. Customers give their gold to a bank and can make withdrawals from their accounts in gold bars or the lira currency; the accounts offer interest rates that are substantially lower than those on normal time deposits.

Allow banks to hold cash reserve ratio in gold: Turkey pursued this goal by adjusting reserve requirements, the proportion of deposits that commercial banks must hold at the central bank.

In September 2011 the central bank increased the ratio of lira reserves that could be held in the form of gold from zero to 10 per cent, raising it further to 20 per cent in March 2012 and 25 per cent last month. This had the effect of drastically increasing banks' appetite for gold.

Allow banks to issue gold bonds to augment capital: In the context of banks facing constraints in augmenting their capital base due to the more stringent Basel III, a possible solution is to allow them to issue long-term gold bonds on a preferential basis to augment their Tier II capital as part of a host of other innovative products already introduced. In fact, this should provide banks an avenue for mobilising capital at a lower cost.

To handle any of these, no major legal amendments would be required. The Reserve Bank of India ACt of 1934 permits the Reserve Bank to purchase and sell gold. It does not apparently permit allowing banks to hold cash reserve ratio balances in terms of gold.

However, the Banking Regulation Act of 1949 permits banks to maintain statutory liquidity ratio in gold. One way out is to amend the RBI Act to permit cash reserve ratio balances in gold. But, given the flexibility at the disposal of RBI, it can prescribe a liquidity ratio -- combining both cash reserve ratio and statutory liquidity ratio -- that will bring gold under the ambit, along with cash balances and investments in government securities.


(The author is director of the EPW Research Foundation. The views expressed here are personal.

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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

Prophecy Chairman John Lee says: "We are pleased with the preliminary economic assessment results. The numbers indicate that Wellgreen is one of most exciting mineral projects in the Yukon. The company is drilling to upgrade and expand the resource base. The infrastructure is excellent as the project is only 1,400 meters in altitude and 14 kilometers from the paved Alaska Highway, which leads to the Haines deep seaport. Discussions are under way with support from local stakeholders regarding permitting and logistics."

For the complete press release, please visit: