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Bre-X Scandal: A History Timeline

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Bre-X Scandal: A History Timeline

Bre-X Scandal: A History Timeline

Sponsored by: BDO and BDO Natural Resources LinkedIn Group

This infographic documents the rise and fall of Bre-X.

From initial private offerings at 30 cents a share, Bre-X stock climbed to more than $250 on the open market. Near the peak of Bre-X share prices, major banks and media were on board:

The Peak

  • It was touted by media and banks as the “richest gold deposit ever”
  • In December 1996, Lehman Brothers Inc. strongly recommended a buy on “the gold discovery of the century.”
  • Major mining companies such as Barrick Gold, Placer Dome, and Freeport-McMoRan Copper & Gold, among other top producers, fought an epic battle to get a piece of Bre-X’s Busang deposit.
  • Indonesia’s Suharto regime managed to grab 40% of the deposit for Indonesian interests.
  • Fidelity Investments, Invesco Funds Group, and other mutual-fund companies piled into the stock.
  • J.P. Morgan bankers talked up Busang in a conference call in which Bre-X’s top geologist predicted the deposit might contain a staggering 200 million oz of gold, worth over $240 billion in 2014 prices. Morgan declined to comment.
  • Egizio Bianchini, stock broker and one of Canada’s top gold analysts, said “What most people are now realizing is that Bre-X has made one of the great gold discoveries of our generation.”

The Timeline:

1989: David Walsh founded Bre-X Minerals Ltd. in 1989 as a subsidiary of Bresea Resources Ltd.

1993: Walsh followed the advice of geologist John Felderhof and bought a property in the middle of a jungle near the Busang River in Borneo, Indonesia.

1994: Initial drill results were encouraging, and the drill program was ramped up.

1994: However, it was the project manager, Michael de Guzman, who was filing gold from his wedding ring and mixing the flakes in with the crushed core samples.

De Guzman used realistic ratios of gold to rock to not set off alarm bells, and to keep project going forward.
Over the next 2.5 years, de Guzman would buy $61k of panned gold from locals to use in salting.

Independent auditors that were sent in by large institutional investors found that the panned gold had rounded edges, but de Guzman explained it was because of “volcanic pool” theory.

De Guzman, Felderhoff and Walsh sell off a small portion of their options for $100 million

1996: Bre-X hits a snag with the Indonesian government, who claimed that Bre-X was not playing by the “rules” of the country. Bre-X’s exploration permits are revoked.

1997: January fire at Busang destroys many of the sample records.

1997: After many major miners express interest in Bre-X, eventually a joint venture is reached that gives Indonesia 40% share, Bre-X 45%, and Freeport McMoRan a 15% share of interests.

1997: Freeport begins due diligence on deposit and starts to twin holes that were already drilled.

1997: Freeport reports “minor amounts of gold” in some holes, but not much else.

1997: On his way to meet the Freeport due diligence team, de Guzman mysteriously falls to his death 600 ft from a helicopter. Police rule it a suicide.

1997: Shares of Bre-X crash.

1997: Report confirms that there is no gold at Busang, and samples were tampered with.

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Gold

Animation: How Billionaires are Preparing for the Next Bear Market

No one likes to lose money, even if you have billions to spare. See how the world’s most elite investors – like Ray Dalio – are protecting themselves.

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How Billionaires are Preparing for the Next Bear Market

No one likes to lose money, even if you have billions to spare.

It’s why the prospect of a bear market – a prolonged downturn which sees stock prices fall by at least 20% over two months or more – is something that keeps even the world’s most elite investors awake at night.

To hedge against this concern, the world’s billionaires use a variety of strategies and tactics to protect their wealth, including setting up their portfolios with specific asset allocations that can help soften any blow caused by an extended market downturn.

Protecting Wealth

Today’s animation comes to us from Sprott Physical Bullion Trusts and it highlights a strategy being used by billionaires ranging from Ray Dalio to John Tudor Jones II.

Because market sentiment can change so quickly in the market, these elite investors protect themselves by having diverse portfolios that include uncorrelated assets.

Correlated vs. Uncorrelated

While this sounds complicated, uncorrelated assets are simply investments that don’t move up or down in the same direction as the other asset classes in the portfolio. A small allocation to these uncorrelated items can help protect the value of a portfolio when market sentiment changes.

The King of Uncorrelated Assets

What kind of asset classes can be used for this kind of purpose?

While options like real estate, commodities, and cash can contribute to a more diversified portfolio beyond traditional stocks and bonds, many experts say that gold is the undisputed king of uncorrelated assets.

The price of gold doesn’t usually doesn’t move with the wider stock market – and often, because of its history, the yellow metal can even increase in price during the course of a bear market.

Here are some of the reasons billionaires turn towards an allocation in gold:

  • Gold has acted as a store of value for thousands of years
  • Gold can lower the volatility of a portfolio
  • Gold can act as a hedge against inflation in some scenarios
  • Gold is a traditional safe haven asset that investors flock to when the market goes astray

Billionaire Actions

To kick off 2019, a new billionaire jumped onto the gold bandwagon – along with previous advocates such as Ray Dalio, David Einhorn, John Paulson, and John Tudor Jones II.

The newest entry to the club is Sam Zell, the pioneer behind real estate investment trusts (REITs). He bought gold for the first time in January, citing that it is “a good hedge” and that “supply is shrinking” as new mine discoveries dries up.

With market volatility back in the fray, it’ll be interesting to see how many more of the world’s elite investors also jump on the bandwagon.

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A Brief History of Jewelry Through the Ages

Jewelry has been coveted for centuries by many different cultures. Here’s a look at the history of jewelry, and how it’s evolved into a $348B industry.

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Jewelry has been an integral aspect of human civilization for centuries, but it was the discovery and subsequent spread of precious metals and gemstones which really changed the game.

In today’s infographic from Menē, we visualize how the uses and symbolism of jewelry have evolved across time and space to become the industry we’re familiar with today.

Antique, Yet Ageless

There isn’t a single corner of the world that’s untouched by the influence of jewelry.

  • Ancient Egypt
    Gold accompanied the affluent into the afterlife – the famous 1922 discovery of King Tutankhamun’s tomb was filled to the brim with gold jewelry.
  • Ancient Greece and Rome
    Jewelry was used practically, and as a protection against evil. The gold olive wreath design was highly popular during this time.
  • Mesopotamia
    Both men and women in the Sumer civilization wore intricate pieces of jewelry, incorporating bright gems like agate, jasper, or lapis lazuli.
  • Meso-America
    The aristocracy in Aztec culture wore gold jewelry with gemstones to demonstrate their rank. The jewelry also doubled up as godly sacrifices.
  • Ancient India
    The Mughal Empire introduced the combination of gemstones with gold and silver. Today, pure gold jewelry is often gifted to new brides for financial security.
  • Ancient China
    Both rich and poor wore jade jewelry for its durable and protective properties. Pure gold jewelry is making a fashion comeback, doubling as a form of investment.

Modern Jewelry: At a Crossroads

Today, jewelry is at once the very same and vastly different from what it used to be.

The industry is worth upwards of $348 billion per year, and it’s not hard to see why. As an alternative asset, jewelry has grown 138% in value over the last decade – only outperformed by classic cars, rare coins, and fine wine.

However, perceptions of jewelry vastly differ. It’s not a stretch to say that Western jewelry buyers are enamored with diamonds, given their enduring association with special occasions – but it’s interesting to note how that ideal was fabricated.

The Invention of Diamonds

The De Beers Group is well known for making diamonds great again. In the early 1900s, the company had already monopolized the diamond trade and stabilized the market, but they faced the challenge of marketing diamonds to consumers at all income levels.

The average American considered diamonds an extravagance, preferring to spend money on cars and appliances instead. The concept of engagement rings existed, but weren’t widely adopted. The #1 slogan of the century – “A Diamond is Forever” – transformed all that.

Even as more companies like Tiffany and Co and Cartier entered the playing field, De Beers had set a successful industry standard. But there’s a catch – diamonds are actually:

  • Not all that rare in nature
  • Intrinsically low in value
  • Easily replicated in a lab
  • Decreasing in sales

Despite these caveats, the popularity of diamonds illustrate how Western consumers do not approach jewelry in the same way as Eastern economies, where its function as a store of wealth persists.

The Eastern Gold Standard

In Eastern economies, jewelry often takes the form of pure gold. The reasons behind this difference are surprisingly pragmatic: gold is considered a secure and innate store of wealth that maintains its purchasing value over decades, allowing families to pass wealth from generation to generation.

The rich history of the precious metal has made it a sought-after commodity for centuries, and China and India drive more than half of global gold jewelry demand every year:

YearShare of Demand (India + China)Total Global Jewelry Demand (tonnes)
201457%2510 tonnes
201558%2426 tonnes
201655%2068 tonnes
201757%2201 tonnes
201858%2200 tonnes

Source: Gold Hub – Values have been rounded up to the nearest tonne.

Why are Eastern cultures so attracted to the properties of pure gold?

Part 2 of this series will show why gold is the world’s most incredible metal, and why it’s coveted by billions of people.

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