We are now used to China sourcing huge volumes of metals from external sources to drive its industrial machine forwards, but the latest announcement from Coeur d'Alene Mines (ASX: CXC) on its deal to have its gold concentrates purchased and processed by China's largest gold producer suggests that precious metals are on China's vast shopping list too.
China is already the world's largest gold miner, and many analysts now assume - following the country's announcement last year that it had been building up its gold reserves for six years unknown to the West - that it is still expanding its gold holdings in a way that does not necessarily show the gold going into official reserves. And now it appears to be looking elsewhere to purchase supplies of the yellow metal without overtly impacting the market.
What is significant, perhaps, is that this suggests that China's commitment to gold is both ongoing - and likely to increase. The country, through its financial institutions and state television advertising, has been persuading its ever growing middle classes to purchase gold (and silver) as a good investment. There seems little doubt that the state is doing the same thing itself as a means of diversifying its huge reserves.
Coming back to the Coeur deal, gold concentrates produced at Kensington will be processed by China's largest gold producer China National Gold through an agreement that is the first of its kind between a state-owned corporation of the People's Republic of China and a U.S. precious metals mine.........China Gold will be paying upfront, which means that in terms of timing, Coeur will get paid seven days after shipping vs. the typical two-three months that most concentrate producers must wait, while the metal is being processed at the smelter/refinery.
This is obviously a very attractive deal for Coeur, speeding up its cashflow, although it covers a relatively small amount of gold for the Chinese - but the very fact that this has been put into place suggests that other similar deals are likely to be negotiated with other new producers going forwards. It also means that China's appetite for gold just cannot be satisfied by its still growing domestic gold mine output - as we noted above already the world's largest.
If indeed it is China's plan to increase its gold holdings, but while maintaining an orderly market in the yellow metal, it is a smart move. The main reason, almost certainly, that China did not buy the IMF gold on offer - or even a large hunk of it - would be that to do so would have sent a very overt signal to the market and that the gold price would have skyrocketed as a result. Such a movement in the price might have been seen on global markets as a vote of no confidence in the dollar - and with China's huge dollar-related foreign exchange holdings this would not suit its long term economic policy either.
To buy newly-mined gold production at source is thus a clever ploy. It is not interfering with the gold market directly by being seen to buy, but picking up gold which is actually never reaching the market. It can then move the gold into some interim holding capacity which does not have it showing up in its official reserves until, and unless, it wishes to make this statement to the markets. The fact that, as a result, less gold is actually reaching the market has a substantially smaller impact on it than the overt purchasing of bullion itself.
The move has to be seen as long term bullish for the gold price and is yet another way of limiting downside risk for gold investors. GATA has for a long time been railing against what it sees as gold price suppression by the gold banks and governments, but probably none of this has the potential impact for control of the gold market which can be, and probably is being, exerted by the Chinese, although they are doing their best to keep a low profile - but because this is broadly positive for gold it may not be in that organisation's interests to comment yet it would seem to be an equally manipulative policy, but in support of the goldprice rather than in suppressing it..