Since early 2009, gold is up 45%, currently hovering around $1,300 an ounce. Caught in the brushfire, towns in which gold mining companies, large or small, have made their home are displaying the classical symptoms of a boom: rising home prices; unrelenting construction; insatiable demand for skilled workers; and just an overwhelming sense of optimism that things are finally changing for the better.
One such region nests in Ontario, Canada; the province’s northern gold belt, along which many long abandoned mines are going through a renaissance of epic proportions just because investors have finally come to their senses and realized that gold is the only true safe haven against global economic instabilities and the ever-weakening U.S. dollar.
According to Brock Greenwell, a statistical analyst with Ontario’s Ministry of Northern Development, Mines and Forestry, “I’ve been here a long time and 2010 is looking like a record year for gold exploration. It’s unprecedented.”
According to the latest mining statistics out of Ontario, there are 12 gold mines operating in the region, with four more ready to commence production in 2012. Considering that operating costs by mining companies for 2010 are likely to hit $620 million, compared to $389 million spent last year, it is more than likely that more new mines will come online in the near future. As Greenwell put it, “It’s an absolute boom. There are 40-plus companies here at any given time.”
So, who is there “at any given time?” Canada’s Red Lake gold belt, located about 500 kilometers northwest from Thunder Bay, is considered one of the world’s richest high-grade gold regions. For example, Goldcorp (NYSE/GG) has its blockbuster Red Lake mine there, which, along with adjacent complexes and exploration projects, employs close to 1,200 people. There is also Rubicon Minerals (AMEX/RBY), known for making significant capital investments in its Phoenix Gold Project — 60.0 million dollars at the last count — located in the Red Lake gold zone where the company owns about 65,000 acres of prime exploration property.
At the same time, small towns in and around the golden belt are barely keeping up with the demand, from housing to infrastructure to labor force. They are so unprepared for the boom that they don’t even have an adequate tax structure to fund everything that the Red Lake gold mining industry requires. Yet, regardless of the municipal growth woes, gold exploration and development is not abating. In addition to the already operating mines, new drilling technologies, capable of going deeper than ever before, are now unearthing new ore bodies on old and often abandoned gold properties.
Clearly, if there was a star on the dark sky after the crash of 2008, it was gold. In the short and medium terms, you would be hard-pressed to find an analyst who is not bullish on gold. But not many will commit to an opinion on gold in the long term.
Here is what I think. I don’t even have to wish for financial trouble to arise somewhere else in the world. The mess we have got ourselves into in the U.S. will take years to untangle. The financial and credit crisis has deep roots, the pulling of which could take a decade, if not longer. Adding fuel to the gold’s flaming fury is the fact that the U.S. must keep printing the money to keep its head above water. So, if anyone would ask me if I’m bullish on gold in the long term, I have two words: “You bet!”