A number of market analysts and gold-industry insiders are warning about a possible shortage of gold supply. Barrick CEO Jamie Sokalsky recently stated that since gold production is inelastic (i.e., insensitive to price changes) there will be a very limited increase in supply from gold producers, even during sharp increases in the gold price. Rick Rule, a billionaire and avid gold investor, pointed out that while we're seeing spectacular demand, a number of issues will make supply very tight in the future, especially among retailers.
The issues facing gold miners are well known: depletion of existing mines, lower grades, and fewer new discoveries – especially big and rich ones. Further, miners face increased calls for nationalization, demands from workers for higher pay or from local communities for better infrastructure, and – of course – environmental concerns. Many mining company representatives say it's getting harder to not only find large deposits but to get those deposits into production. Some estimate it now takes twice as long as to go from discovery to production vs. a decade ago.
These warnings aren't always taken seriously, especially by those who see that mine production has been growing. At first glance, they're correct – but only if you look at the short-term picture. The following chart shows that global mine production has indeed been rising since 2008. From 2009 through 2011, output rose an average of 3.9% per year. However, we know that a good chunk of this increase is due to China, and upon excluding its output, you can see how it alters the global picture. Continue reading "Is a Global Gold Supply Crunch Forming?"