Connect with us

Mining

Why Gold is Money: A Periodic Perspective

Published

on

Why Gold is Money: A Periodic Perspective

Why Gold is Money

The economist John Maynard Keynes famously called gold a “barbarous relic”, suggesting that its usefulness as money is an artifact of the past. In an era filled with cashless transactions and hundreds of cryptocurrencies, this statement seems truer today than in Keynes’ time.

However, gold also possesses elemental properties that has made it an ideal metal for money throughout history.

Sanat Kumar, a chemical engineer from Columbia University, broke down the periodic table to show why gold has been used as a monetary metal for thousands of years.

The Periodic Table

The periodic table organizes 118 elements in rows by increasing atomic number (periods) and columns (groups) with similar electron configurations.

Just as in today’s animation, let’s apply the process of elimination to the periodic table to see why gold is money:

  • Gases and Liquids
    Noble gases (such as argon and helium), as well as elements such as hydrogen, nitrogen, oxygen, fluorine and chlorine are gaseous at room temperature and standard pressure. Meanwhile, mercury and bromine are liquids. As a form of money, these are implausible and impractical.
  • Lanthanides and Actinides
    Next, lanthanides and actinides are both generally elements that can decay and become radioactive. If you were to carry these around in your pocket they could irradiate or poison you.
  • Alkali and Alkaline-Earth Metals
    Alkali and alkaline earth metals are located on the left-hand side of the periodic table, and are highly reactive at standard pressure and room temperature. Some can even burst into flames.
  • Transition, Post Transition Metals, and Metalloids
    There are about 30 elements that are solid, nonflammable, and nontoxic. For an element to be used as money it needs to be rare, but not too rare. Nickel and copper, for example, are found throughout the Earth’s crust in relative abundance.
  • Super Rare and Synthetic Elements
    Osmium only exists in the Earth’s crust from meteorites. Meanwhile, synthetic elements such as rutherfordium and nihonium must be created in a laboratory.

Once the above elements are eliminated, there are only five precious metals left: platinum, palladium, rhodium, silver and gold. People have used silver as money, but it tarnishes over time. Rhodium and palladium are more recent discoveries, with limited historical uses.

Platinum and gold are the remaining elements. Platinum’s extremely high melting point would require a furnace of the Gods to melt back in ancient times, making it impractical. This leaves us with gold. It melts at a lower temperature and is malleable, making it easy to work with.

Gold as Money

Gold does not dissipate into the atmosphere, it does not burst into flames, and it does not poison or irradiate the holder. It is rare enough to make it difficult to overproduce and malleable to mint into coins, bars, and bricks. Civilizations have consistently used gold as a material of value.

Perhaps modern societies would be well-served by looking at the properties of gold, to see why it has served as money for millennia, especially when someone’s wealth could disappear in a click.

Subscribe to Visual Capitalist

Thank you!
Given email address is already subscribed, thank you!
Please provide a valid email address.
Please complete the CAPTCHA.
Oops. Something went wrong. Please try again later.

Comments

Mining

How to Avoid Common Mistakes With Mining Stocks (Part 3: Jurisdiction)

Published

on

Mining Jurisdictions

“Location, location, location…”

This famous real estate adage also matters in mining. After all, it’s an industry that is all about the geology—but beyond the physical aspects and the location of a mineral deposit, there are also social and environmental factors that create a mining jurisdiction.

Common Mistakes With Jurisdiction

We’ve partnered with Eclipse Gold Mining on an infographic series to show you how to avoid common mistakes when evaluating and investing in mining exploration stocks.

Part 3 of the series focuses on six signals investors can use to gauge a company’s preparedness for the jurisdictions they operate in.

jurisdictions

View the two other parts of this series so far, covering mistakes made in choosing the team as well as those made with a company’s business plan.

#1: Geological Potential: Methodical Prospecting or Wild Goose Chase?

It all starts with a great drill result, but even these can be “one-off” anomalies.

Mineral exploration is a methodical process of drawing a subsurface picture with the tip of a drill bit. A mineral discovery is the cumulative effort of years of research and drilling.

The key to reducing this geological risk is to find a setting that has shown previous potential and committing to it. Typically, a region is known to have hosted other great discoveries or shares a geology similar to other mining districts.

Signs of Methodical Prospecting:

  • Lots of geological indicators
  • Potential for further discovery
  • Sound science

#2: Legal Environment: Well-Paved Path or Minotaur’s Maze?

Now that you have identified a region with the prospective geology you think could host a discovery, a company will have to secure the permits to explore and operate any further.

However, a management team that cannot navigate a country’s bureaucracy will face delays and obstacles, costing investors both time and money.

Without clear laws and competent management, a mining company’s best laid plans become lost in a maze with legal monsters around every legal corner.

Signs of a Well-Paved Highway:

  • Existing laws encourage mining investment
  • Relatively low bureaucracy
  • Well-established permitting process
  • Legacy of mining contributing to economy

#3: Politics: Professional Politics or Banana Republics?

A good legal framework is often the outcome of politics and stable governance—however so is a difficult legal framework.

The political stability of a nation can turn on one election and so can the prospects for developing a mine. An anti-mining leader can halt a mining project, or a pro-mining leader can usher forward one.

A positive national viewpoint on mining may be enough to lure investment dollars, but local politics may determine the success of a mining company.

Signs of Professional Politics:

  • Positive history with mining companies
  • Politically stable jurisdiction
  • Rule of law respected
  • Changes in government have little effect on the mining industry

#4: Infrastructure & Labor: Modern or Medieval

Sometimes it is the discovery of valuable minerals that spurs national development, but this can also happen the other way around, in which development can encourage mineral discovery.

A mining company looking to build a new mine in a country with a tradition of mining will have an easier time. Access or lack thereof to modern machinery and trained employees will determine how much money will be needed.

That said, if a company is looking to develop a mining project in a new mining region, they must be ready to help create the skills and infrastructure it needs to mine.

Signs of a Modern Jurisdiction:

  • Developed roads to access and support operations
  • Trained labor for staffing and development
  • Well-established grid lines and back-up power systems

#5: Community: Fostering Friendship or Sowing Enemies

Mining operations have a significant impact on the local community. Good companies look to make mutually beneficial partnerships of equals with local communities.

Ignoring or failing to respect the local community will jeopardize a mining project at every stage of its mine life. A local community that does not want mining to occur will oppose even the best laid plans.

Signs of a Friendly Relations:

  • Operations bring community together
  • Local history shows support for mining
  • Understanding of local concerns and regional variety
  • Company contributes to economic growth and health of the community

#6: Environment: Clean Campsite or One Night Party

There is no way around it: mining impacts the environment and local ecosystems. But, mining operations are a blip on the radar when it comes to Earth’s timeline.

Mine sites can again become productive ecosystems, if a company has the capacity and plan to mitigate mining’s impacts at every stage of the life of a mine—even beyond the life of a mine.

Signs of a Clean Campsite:

  • Development plan mitigates environmental damage
  • Well-planned closure and remediation
  • Understand how communities use their environment

Bringing it together: ESG Investing

These six points outlined above point towards a more complete picture of the impacts of a mining project. Currently, this falls under what is labeled as Environmental, Social and Governance “ESG” standards.

Mining companies are the forefront of a big push to adopt these types of considerations into their business, because they directly affect natural and human environments.

ESG is no longer green wash, especially for the mining industry. Companies that understand and apply these concepts in their business will have better outcomes in the jurisdictions they operate within, hopefully offering investors a more successful venture.

Geology does not change on the human time scale, but bad management can quickly lose a good project and investor’s money if they do not pay attention to the other attributes of a jurisdiction.

Subscribe to Visual Capitalist

Thank you!
Given email address is already subscribed, thank you!
Please provide a valid email address.
Please complete the CAPTCHA.
Oops. Something went wrong. Please try again later.

Continue Reading

Mining

Silver Bulls: Visualizing the Price of Silver

Silver has always proved its value throughout history. From ancient coins to jewelry, silver retains its value and goes through tough times.

Published

on

Silver Bulls: Visualizing the Price of Silver

Silver has always shown its value throughout history. From ancient coins to its use as a global currency during the Age of Discovery, silver has circulated the world to become an important financial asset. Its value continues to shine in the era of the modern finance industry.

Today’s infographic comes to us from New Pacific Metals and it takes a look at the bull markets in silver prices and the future of silver.

Silver Bulls: 1967 to Today

The late 1960s marked the beginning of the end for silver as currency, but also the start of its use in protecting and securing wealth.

In the United States, silver certificates were issued by the Treasury until late 1963, when the $1 Federal Reserve Note was released into circulation. After this, the remaining silver certificates were still redeemable for silver, but this practice ended in 1968.

Since then, silver has had several bull markets in which prices have increased—or as some silver aficionados may argue, the relative value of fiat currency has decreased.

 Percentage GainPrice Range (USD)*Duration
Silver Bull #1 (1967-68)49%$12.50 - $18.5813 months
Silver Bull #2 (1971-74)274%$8.45 - $31.5927 months
Silver Bull #3 (1976-80)544%$18.40 - $118.5048 months
Silver Bull #4 (1986-87)40%$12.47 - $17.4812 months
Silver Bull #5 (1993-95)39%$6.47 - $9.0027 months
Silver Bull #6 (2001-11)827%$6.01 - $55.69113 months
Silver Bull #7 (2015-Present?)90%$15.04 - $28.5356 months

Source: MacroTrends
*Inflation-adjusted data using CPI from BLS, LBMA Monthly prices

That said, not all silver bull markets are the same, nor do they necessarily coincide with bull markets in the price of gold.

Performance: Gold vs. Silver

Despite being often referred to as “poor man’s gold”, silver has actually outperformed gold in five of the six previous bull markets for gold and silver.

There are two ways to look at how silver prices performed during these timeframes:

  1. We can compare silver price performance to corresponding peaks and troughs of the gold price
  2. We can also look at silver prices based on its own peaks and troughs, irrespective of gold

Often, gold prices move first with silver prices quickly following—but then, silver can outperform gold on its own timeline.

 Gold PerformanceSilver Performance Silver Performance
Based on gold's peaks and troughsBased on silver's peaks and troughs
Silver Bull #140%-17%100%
Silver Bull #2455%144%432%
Silver Bull #3715%912%977%
Silver Bull #478%27%94%
Silver Bull #528%63%75%
Silver Bull #6:636%904%45%

Source: CPM Group (Nominal data)

More recently, prices of silver have been on an upward trend since 2015 and some would say we are in a new bull market for the precious metal. For however longer, it is anyone’s guess.

The Future of Silver?

While the future price direction of silver is difficult to predict, this doesn’t diminish the increasing importance of silver’s role as a metal in an electrified future.

As you can see in the demand breakdown below, silver is not only precious—it is useful:

Silver Demand (2019)Millions of Ounces
Industrial510.9
...of which Photovoltaics98.7
Photography33.7
Jewelry201.3
Silverware59.8
Net Physical Investment186.1
Total Demand991.8

Source: Silver Institute

While silver’s uses and applications continue to grow, silver remains a safe haven investment from political uncertainty and economic distress—all while being a cheaper and better alternative to gold.

Subscribe to Visual Capitalist

Thank you!
Given email address is already subscribed, thank you!
Please provide a valid email address.
Please complete the CAPTCHA.
Oops. Something went wrong. Please try again later.

Continue Reading

Subscribe

Join the 200,000+ subscribers who receive our daily email

Thank you!
Given email address is already subscribed, thank you!
Please provide a valid email address.
Please complete the CAPTCHA.
Oops. Something went wrong. Please try again later.

Popular