Monday, March 19, 2012

Gold/ Siver Miners' Nationalization Risk Much Greater in US vs. Rest of World

SD reader FW discusses mining company nationalization risks in the US (where this risk is rapidly escalating- see the National Defense Resources Preparedness Executive Order) vs. mining companies in much safer political environments such as parts of South America, Asia, and Africa.

The following meme is being expressed on SD on a more regular basis: "The mines will be nationalized."
This is an oversimplification and as such, can be dangerous to your wealth. Not all political jurisdictions are created equal. While it's quite possible that PM and base metal mines will be nationalized in an increasingly fascist United States, there are publicly traded mines that you can own shares in that have their corporate headquarters (and "choice of law") AND owned resources/assets within countries that are very unlikely to nationalize - and in fact will continue to see their national interest best served by going in the opposite direction towards liberalization.

To address this question, you have to think in terms of a continuum of risks, not an either-or framework. For example, there are publicly trading mining companies in Scandinavia, Chile, Brazil, Mexico, Asian countries outside of China and many others that fit the description I note above to greater or lesser extents. Even Australian and Canadian domiciled companies might very well prove to be safer than their brethren in the US, and Canada is the largest financing market for miners in the world so there's quite a few firms to review.

Stacking physical and doing nothing else might be the best thing to do if you only have, say, $20,000 in savings to work with. But if your net worth starts moving into the six figures or higher, you would be wise to not get religious nor dogmatic about your wealth. Seek out diversification strategies.

This subject is worthy of a large post that goes into details and offers specific examples of companies, such that I could flesh out exactly how the diversification could work. Perhaps I'll do that some day. But for now, just know that you don't have to be a professional investor nor securities analyst to figure these options out -- but it will take a good deal of homework.

Ahhh.... What the heck. I'll provide just one example but think of this as an illustration of the things to consider and look for and not investment advice. Jim Sinclair is the largest shareholder of Tanzanian Royalty Exploration Corporation, which has corporate headquarters in Canada and even though it trades on a US-based exchange as well as Canada, it's gold assets are 100% based in Tanzania and it's legal considerations are mostly involving Tanzania and Canada and would not likely be at risk for US nationalization. Sinclair is well informed. He was thinking about fascism, nationalization and the rise of gold long before the majority of people reading this sentence. He understands the value of diversification - and what I mean by diversification in the context I'm writing about in this post.

Other key points need to be underscored as well, such as:

a) If we get to the point of mine nationalization, physical holdings of PMs will come under a combination of taxes and regulations that will make it much harder to "make liquid" your holdings for transactions and that has nothing to do with being a tough guy ready to shoot to defend so don't let your stash of lead and brass cloud your thinking about the coming future challenges of dealing with your gold and silver; and yes, barter will remain under the radar, but again, the level of liquidity and flexibility you currently see as "normal" will be reduced by definition, along with the elevation of other risk factors, primarily your visibility as an owner of shiny stuff worth stealing;

b) as with true numismatics that were not "confiscated" by the oligarchy under FDR on account of the fact that it was primarily the oligarchy that owned true numismatics, equities are heavily owned by the oligarchy so there's a mixed bag of political forces at work when it comes to mine nationalization that could slow down such an effort; and note that much of the oligarchy holds their physical metal in Swiss and other internationally located vaults so they're not motivated to give a rat's arse about you and your physical stash, but they would get ticked off about nationalization of mining companies they hold shares in.

c) There's the important issue of the example of MF Global and the fact that to own shares one should take steps like holding actual certificates or, in the least, getting title out of "street name" and into the exclusive control of the corporate register firm used by the mining company's treasury (e.g., "Computershare Limited" and many others that perform this function). This is another topic worthy of its own detailed post and maybe I'll write it some other day, but the ground has been covered in great detail by others already so hit your favorite search engine.

We don't live in a black and white, binary world. Be flexible. Diversify -- and that includes actively "prepping" in all ways you can above and beyond dealing with what to do with your finances.