In a recent interview with Stockhead’s Oriel Morrison, stock speculator and massive gold bull Rick Rule said this:
“There are so many factors weighing on things that I have no idea of the direction of the market in the near term.
“I do believe that the USD weakness in gold will end sooner rather than later, within 12 months.”
Gold may not need 12 months. Last week his thesis was validated when a cool US inflation report indicated to markets that the Fed may soon downshift interest rate hikes.
The USD tumbled and gold surged, perhaps helped along by the chaos in crypto.
Just a sniff of a Fed pivot sent gold to the high $US1,700/oz mark. What would an actual loosening on monetary policy do?
“I don’t believe the impact of high interest rates has worked its way through the economy yet,” Rule says.
“I suspect when the pain associated with those interest rate rises works through the US economy, the Fed will likely have to pivot.
“If they pivot, I think that gold in USD terms will surprise people to the upside.”
Rule, along with most experts, is expecting a recession in 2023. Because of that he sees limited upside for base metals stocks in the near term.
“I do allow my timid economic nature to constrain my bullishness around base metals stocks, which I see doing very well five years from now when we hit a supply cliff,” he says.
“Make no mistake, a supply cliff is coming in a lot of commodities, like copper. Absent a recession you could expect copper stocks, as an example, to do extremely well, because of the production shortfall relative to demand.
“But if we have a recession, I expect demand for commodities will fall. And even if commodity prices don’t fall further, they won’t rise the way they otherwise would.”
These are the conditions in which gold can thrive, Rule says.
“If we have a recession next year, it wouldn’t surprise me at all to have fiscal action which brings us back to the 1970s — inflation, with economic stagnation simultaneously,” he says.
“That set of circumstances, if it occurs, would likely be as good for the gold prices as it was in the 1970s.
“If you weren’t around back then, take my word for it – while it was not good for other parts of your portfolio, it was very good for your precious metals portfolio.”
EMR owns the Okvau gold mine in Cambodia, where it is a first mover, with the $120 million mine opened in 2021 considered the first commercial gold mining operation in the Southeast Asian country.
So far it has been a winner, delivering over 100,000oz in its first full year of operation in FY22, including commissioning.
After official commercial production of 88,171oz at US$754/oz in 2022, the September quarter was a reasonably strong start, with 23,217oz produced despite a SAG mill gearbox failure and what the miner called a “99th percentile” wet season.
That saw costs finish slightly above its US$740-810/oz forecast at US$824/oz. Still very good.
The company, which also took majority control of WA gold explorer Bullseye Mining this year, has maintained FY23 forecasts of US$740-810/oz AISC and production of 25-30,000oz per quarter.
“What I really like about the Emerald story is I have done business with the team in various incarnations for a very long time,” Rule says.
“I know them, and I trust them.
“They are very good at acquiring projects where the attributes aren’t understood by other people, building them, and operating them successfully.
“In this case they identified a project in a frontier market of Cambodia. The metrics of the property when they acquired it surprised me in terms of the grade and the stripping ratio, but I was nervous about their ability to build a mine in a remote, frontier surrounding.
“They are now on time, on budget, and well ahead of anticipated capacity.”
Because they are frontier developers, they have an advantage in a highly mineralised part of Cambodia where there is absolutely no competition, Rule says.
“I could see this becoming a camp, or a district,” he says.
Bullseye is also an attractive project, Rule says, although not as attractive as the Cambodian asset.
“But I think it will find favour with the Australian investors; they will get a lift as they begin to demonstrate good news coming out of this second project,” he says.
The Emerald team are serial developers, Rule says. They have built companies with several mines.
“I suspect that the free cashflow, which will exceed $100m next year from Cambodia, will allow them to do that,” he says.
“They will be able to build a 3, 4 or 5 mine company over the next five years.”
Rule says he has owned this former small cap explorer for a “very, very long time”.
In April 2020, the long-time West African prospect generator rocketed from 0.7c to 7c per share – a 900 per cent gain – on its discovery at the Bankan project in Guinea.
The stock now has a 4.2Moz resource in the bag following a recent resource update. An extensive drilling program is ongoing, with 10 drill rigs in operation.
“This 4Moz discovery [is] by all indications going to grow,” Rule says.
“But this company suffers in equity markets because of Australian investors’ preference for Australian projects. So it falls through the cracks a little bit.
“A discovery of this scale, one that could become a tier 1 discovery, relative to its market cap appears attractive to me.
“It’s been attractive to me for enough time that I have a full allocation. If I didn’t have a full position, I would be on the bid.”