South Korea's POSCO, the world's No.3 steelmaker, said on Tuesday that it would raise prices of its major stainless steel products by 5.5 percent for January to reflect improving market conditions and rising raw materials costs.

The company said prices for its hot-rolled stainless steel products would rise by 200,000 won ($174.1) to 3.8 million won per tonne in January, from December.

POSCO said prices of nickel and other raw materials had risen recently and the South Korean won was softening, adding cost pressures.

"Overseas stainless steel mills are vigorously lifting prices, expecting demand recovery in the first quarter after production cuts and inventory adjustments in the fourth quarter," POSCO said in a statement.

In the domestic market, stainless steel prices had bottomed out and risen this month, and were expected to climb further, POSCO said.

POSCO cut December prices of its major stainless products for the first time in five months because of sluggish local demand and price gaps with imported products.

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The outlook for oilsands investment - flash-frozen by the global economic crisis in 2008-09 - heated up during 2010 but the thawing was uneven to say the least.

While higher oil prices and relatively narrow heavy/light oil price differentials improved short-term economics, a decision by Canadian Natural Resources' to split up its Horizon Phase 2 mine and upgrader into several projects and the withdrawal of Shell Canada's application for 400,000 barrels per day of upgrading capacity showed good times had not entirely returned.

Further muddying the waters was an announcement just weeks ago by Suncor Energy and French giant Total to combine to build two oilsands mines and an upgrader worth more than $20 billion over the next several years.

Meanwhile, the number of in situ or thermal projects continued to multiply as foreign investors lined up to inject dollars.

Phil Skolnick, a research analyst for Canacord Genuity in New York, said he expects to see more of the same this year, provided oil prices stay strong.

"I think you're going to see continued mergers and acquisitions, probably more on the joint venture side, but there's always the possibility of corporate transactions because there are still a few of those smaller companies remaining," he said.

During 2010, Statoil got $2.3 billion from Thailand's PTT Exploration and Production for its Kai Kos Dehseh thermal oilsands project; Penn West Energy Trust sold a 45 per cent stake in its Peace River oilsands project to China Investment Corp. for $801 million; and Sinopec Corp. bought ConocoPhillips' 9.03 per cent stake in Syncrude Canada for $4.65 billion.

"We're still waiting for India to make a major move and they may be feeling the pressure given that we've seen Thailand and China doing all they've done. And Korea could make a few more steps," said Skolnick.

Analyst Lanny Pendill of Edward Jones in St. Louis said the mood among oilsands companies is determined but cautious, with cost inflation the biggest fear.

"The trend definitely right now is no upgraders," he said. "It's in situ to the extent you have that as an option, versus mining. And it's definitely the smaller expansions relative to the very large expansions seen in the past."

He said there will be big increases in oilsands volume this year as several projects ramp up or come on stream. Meanwhile, engineers will be kept busy planning expansions.

"I think most companies have pursued or are pursuing these smaller incremental expansions versus going with the 100,000-barrel-plus-per day type expansion," said Pendill. "They are approaching the contracting a little differently from the labour standpoint ... because everybody is getting a concerned again that we could see inflation heat up in the oilsands."

Investors are becoming more discerning as the oilsands business matures, says Bob Dunbar, president of oilsands consulting firm Strategy West.

Ten years ago, big mining projects were the only game in town - now there are choices not only between mining and in situ but sophisticated money is also seeking out the projects with the best reservoir quality.

What they are finding is that in situ technologies, through which 80 per cent of the oilsands will be accessed, are gaining an economic advantage.

Capital intensity, for example, at Imperial Oil's under-construction Kearl mine project is about $70,000 per flowing barrel - it'll cost about $8 billion for a project expected to produce 110,000 barrels of bitumen per day.

Suncor has said its oilsands mines will cost around $60,000 per barrel to build while its multiple Firebag thermal in situ projects will come in for between $30,000 and $35,000 per barrel.

"People like Cenovus are saying that, in some cases, they can add in situ capacity at about $20,000 per daily barrel," Dunbar said.

In early December, Canadian Natural announced it had broken down its Horizon expansion plan to five main components and thrown out set timelines to keep a tight rein on costs while bringing overall production up to 250,000 bpd.

It plans to spend between $800 million and $1.2 billion next year on Horizon while maintaining flat production, and vowed to cap spending on the project at $2.5 billion a year, as well as keeping the labour force at a 5,500-person maximum.

Suncor says it will allow a maximum 4,000 people on each mine site as it builds its Fort Hills and Joslyn projects in order to avoid cost inflation.

Meanwhile, Cenovus Energy plans to spend about $2.4 billion in 2011 as it moves ahead with manufacturing-style expansion of its steam-assisted gravity drainage or SAGD thermal oilsands projects.

The oilsands rely on technology and the success of the next big play - capturing bitumen trapped in carbonate or rock formations - will depend on how technology tests pan out this year and beyond.

Of the estimated 1.8 trillion barrels of total bitumen resource-in-place in Alberta, roughly 536 billion barrels are attributed to carbonate formations, according to the Alberta Energy Resources Conservation Board.

At 406 billion barrels, the Grosmont formation of northern Alberta is the largest carbonate reservoir - if it can be successfully developed, Canada's oil reserves could surpass those of Saudi Arabia.

Private companies Laricina Energy and Osum Oil Sands are now building the 1,800-bpd Saleski project, the first to tap the Grosmont west of Fort McMurray. State-owned Korea Investment Corp. invested in both companies earlier this year. Steaming started at the project last week.

Meanwhile, Alberta regulators approved Athabasca Oil Sands' application for a two-well thermal-assisted gravity drainage or TAGD winter test in its Dover West project's Leduc carbonate reef. The technology uses electrical heating to produce bitumen.

It will also perform a one-well steam injection test.

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China's Christmas Day interest rate hike had only a minimal immediate impact on gold futures on the Comex division of the New York Mercantile Exchange as the morning's losses were easily recouped due to a weaker dollar and strong physical demand.

Comex gold for February delivery was recently up $1.90 at $1,382.40 an ounce in New York.

Clearly, the big news over the weekend was that Chinese authorities on Christmas day raised interest rates by 25 basis points. The one-year benchmark lending rate increased from 5.56 to 5.81 and the benchmark deposit rate rose from 2.25 to 2.75 percent.

As would be expected, gold immediately dropped to $1372.70, down 0.7 percent, as electronic trade on the Comex reopened following the Christmas holiday; however, the impact was muted as the rate increase was expected and as volumes were thin following the holiday weekend.

"The market assumed that a rate hike was going to happen so most of its impact has already been priced in. Also, the Chinese were smart to announce this on Christmas day as it minimized market volatility and keep an unwarranted knee-jerk from happening," a US-based gold trader said.

The trader, who himself was stuck at Boston's Logan International Airport due to a flight delay, said that the massive blizzard that hit the east coast of the US overnight will keep some traders out of the office on Monday, which will also lead to decreased volumes on what is traditionally already a slow trading day.

Due to the weather conditions, the open outcry trading on the Nymex and Comex trading floors has been delayed until 11:00 am EST. Trading on CME Globex and ClearPort was unaffected.

Dennis Gartman, the author of the Gartman Letter, said in a note that Chinese rate increase was somewhat of a surprise as he surmised that the authorities had done enough in recent weeks in raising reserve requirements.

"However, the vast majority of the market watchers around the world had been expecting a rate increase by the Chinese for some while and many had been expecting an increase of 50 basis points. Thus, in reality, the effects are likely to be somewhat bearish on capital and commodity markets generally, but we suspect that the effects will be modest, not material," Gartman said.

In fact, the impact of the news out of China was short lived as gold quickly pared its losses as the dollar weakened and investors, mostly out of Asia, engaged in dip-buying.

The euro rose to 1.3151 against the dollar Monday morning from 1.3117 as concerns over eurozone sovereign-debt lessened to a small degree after China said that it may purchase 4-5 billion euros of Portugal's debt.

"People had been talking about China tightening its monetary policy for weeks but now that it has happened investors have shrugged off the news. This highlights the bullish momentum that's still in place. I would expect for gold to quickly moved past $1,400 once everyone is back at work next week," the trader said.

Silver for March delivery on the Comex was recently down 9.3 cents at $29.235 an ounce.

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The surprise timing of the People's Bank of China (PBOC) increase in benchmark lending and deposit interest rates is likely to weigh on commodity markets when trading starts on Monday.

On Christmas Day, the PBOC raised rates by 25 basis points, the second rate rise in just over two months, part of a series of measures designed to combat inflation which hit a 28-month high of 5.1 percent in November.

The opportunity to cash in on prices at or near their highest in years before the year end could mean the correction this time may be greater than the losses following the last interest rate hike in October.

While the market expected China to raise rates, some investors had thought it was too late to move in 2010, and for that reason China's commodity markets may test their downside limits on Monday.

"This certainly doesn't spell the end of the commodities boom or the strong China story. It's a smart move that may have caught the market off guard," Mark Pervan, senior commodities analyst at ANZ said.

"This may give some impetus for some profit taking before the end of the year, and an opportunity to buy on dips."

U.S. oil CLc1 ended last week around a two-year high, above $91 per barrel while soybeans Sc1 surged to a 27-month high, and copper flirted with record peaks.

Some analysts said after a lower open, markets could rebound and even hit new highs. Because the rate hike was modest and overall the real deposit rates are still in the negative territory. Money supply was not tightened strictly enough, Gu Jianjun at Jinyuan Futures said.

Western markets, such as corn Cc1 and soy futures on the Chicago Board of Trade, may be particularly choppy, as the kneejerk reaction to the rate move is accentuated by holiday-thinned volume.

When China last raised interest rates in mid-October, it sent the dollar higher, dragged gold down by more than 2 percent, oil fell 4 percent, copper lost almost 2.5 percent, and losses of 2.7 percent in wheat and 2 percent in corn.

But that, and other policy tightening choppy did little to slow commodities' march higher.

China is the world's top consumer of a host of commodity products, including copper, iron ore, coal, cotton and soy and is the second largest consumer of corn, gold and crude oil.

The Reuters-Jefferies CRB index , which tracks 19 commodities, fell almost 2 percent.

Assessing the effect on some markets will be complicated by the Christmas holidays which see British-based markets such as the London Metal Exchange and London-based agricultural contracts, including softs, on NYSE Liffe closed on Monday and Tuesday, while markets in China and the United States reopen on Monday.

"It is a little bit of a surprise, but the move should be welcomed by the market. The central bank has increased the interest rates before the end of 2010, which means the possibility of increasing interest rates in the beginning of 2011 will be smaller," said He Yifeng, analyst at Hongyuan Securities in Beijing.

"I don't think the central bank will increase interest rates before March."

After the initial reaction, analysts said the move may prove to be positive, reaffirming November's message that China's leaders are acting to stem inflation and control prices if needed.

That along with China's plans to go to the world to stock up on commodities, especially grains, makes for a bullish outlook for 2011, analysts said.

"It will be bearish for agricultural prices, which have rebounded recently. But we believe the impact will be short-lived and not hit the bullish trend, especially of the soy market, which will be supported by the drought in the South America. Right now its also the peak consuming season in China," said Wang Ping, analyst with Dongwu Futures.

China has run down many of its agricultural stockpiles this year to stop strong demand driving up prices. Many markets, especially corn <0#DCC:>, sugar <0#CSR:> and cotton<0#CCF:> surged to record highs.

Given limited farmland and rising consumption, analysts believe the government's goal of self-sufficiency in grains -- rice, wheat and corn -- may force China to import other farm products which compete for acreage, such as soy, cotton and sugar.

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Freeport-McMoRan Copper & Gold (FCX) climbed during the first half of the morning Thursday and advanced further around 1:30PM. The stock closed higher by 1.78 at $118.17.

Freeport-McMoRan Copper & Gold rose above a 2 1/2 week trading range Thursday and set a new high for the year.

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Gold prices firmed up further at the bullion market here today on increased buying by retailers and jewellery makers amidst firm Asian support.


Silver, however, declined due to lower industrial off-take.

Standard gold (99.5 per cent purity) rose by Rs 30 per 10 grams, to close at Rs 20,400, from last weekend''s closing level of Rs 20,370.

Pure gold (99.9 per cent purity) also went up by a similar margin to finish at Rs 20,500 per 10 grams, as against Rs 20,470 previously.

However, silver ready (.999 fineness) fell by Rs 35 per kilo, to conclude at Rs 45,340, from Rs 45,375 last Saturday.

In Singapore, spot gold dropped to a one-week low of USD 1,371.10 on China''s interest rate hike, but soon rebounded on speculative buying to USD 1,384.80 an ounce in early trade.

Spot silver was up at USD 29.24 an ounce.

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Signs that the world's second-largest economy China, is gearing into a formal monetary tightening cycle was apparent on Saturday, when the country's central bank raised interest rates for the second time in two months.

Analysts maintained that gold would get pounded and the dollar rebound as a consequence.

But, on Monday, India's gold demand was moderate as prices softened a touch on the back of a stronger rupee, and the news from China. However, on Saturday, December 25, gold broke through its five-days losing streak to rise marginally on mild-buying by retailers in Mumbai.

Traders said firmer trends in the global markets and the underlying appetite for the yellow metal continued to remain strong.

``Several buyers are waiting by the kerb for bigger dips as the year comes to a close,'' said M Jhaverimal, a gold retailer in Mumbai.

He went on to add that overall, 2010 proved to be a solid year for gold, as the metal rose beyond 26%, after rising 24% in 2009 and 5% in 2008. ``If one looks back, prices have not posted a negative annual return since the year 2000,'' said Jhaverimal.

Bullion trader Ashish Shah added that the fundamentals for gold were supported by the lack of significant increase in mine outputs during 2010, and a fall in scrap gold sales.

``A sizeable chunk of the Indian population may still be living below the poverty line, but when it comes to buying gold, we are right up there in the front,'' Shah added.

Though Indians spent around $ 6.9 billion to buy gold in the first three months (January-March) of the calendar year, and clearly gold demand in India is up, the question doing the rounds is, is it enough?

The figure is nearly ten times the $ 708 million that Indians spent to accumulate gold in the same period of the previous year. This clearly shows that the Indian consumers interest for the precious metal has grown by 10 times since the past year, Praful Sonawala, gold and diamond jewellery exporter said.

``Take a look at China. Its gold imports have already soared to a record 209 tonnes this year, putting it on track to overtake India as the world's largest consumer,'' he said.

China, already the largest bullion miner, imported more than 209 tonnes of gold during the first 10 months of the year, a five-fold increase from an estimated 45 tonnes last year. This clearly indicates that Beijing has overtaken India as the world's largest consumer of gold.

China is also seen to be expanding its gold buying options for domestic buyers. The country's regulatory authority has reportedly given its domestic mutual funds a nod to invest in gold ETFs (electronic traded funds) outside China.

The Industrial and Commercial Bank of China has also launched a gold accumulation plan for investors in mainland China. The daily payment scheme is very meagre, paving the way for small investors to invest in gold.

According to a report in a Chinese daily, when the People's Bank of China announced the interest rate hike, Xia Bin, an advisor of the People's Bank of China said that China should hold more gold reserves to diversify its forex reserve.

In a recent announcement, the World Gold Council said that as of mid-December, the United States remained the top country to hold reserves in gold and that the Chinese mainland ranked sixth with 1,054 tonne of reserves.

However, in spite of the Chinese mainland's huge foreign exchange reserves, its gold reserve accounts for only 1.7% of total reserves. This only goes to show that China's gold reserves are the lowest among the top 20 in terms of proportion.

India's foreign exchange reserves, on the other hand, totalled $294.6 billion, down from $295.41 billion, as on December 10. According to a release from the Reserve Bank of India, foreign currency assets amounted to $265.4 billion, also down from $266.2 billion recorded in the previous week. At the same time, gold reserves remained unchanged at $22.12 billion.

``Both gold and silver are overbought at the moment. Technically, the market needs a severe correction,'' said Shah, ``But, the EU economy is still fragile, as are Japan and South America. Investors will still put money in gold,'' he added.

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Anyone who has travelled east by train from Australia’s gold capital, Kalgoorlie, knows how flat and inhospitable the country looks. Even hardened prospectors have struggled over the past 100 years to scratch a living from the odd rocky outcrop. That’s why conventional wisdom said no-one could ever develop a successful goldmine in the region. Fortunately for the shareholders in Integra Mining their chief executive, Chris Cairns, refused to accept conventional wisdom which is why their company’s share price has effectively tripled over the past 12 months, from A21 cents to A70 cents with the potential to do even better if decisions are made next year to expand the first gold processing centre at Randalls, and develop a second centre at the nearby Aldiss project.

Exploration success from an ongoing five-rig drilling programme is the key to what Integra opts to do in terms of future development. However, an investor with an understanding as to how Integra has evolved, and the measured steps taken so far, could reasonably expect to see the current annual gold production rate at Randalls raised from 90,000 ounces to 140,000 ounces, and for Aldiss to evolve along similar lines. It’s stretching the bow somewhat, but Minesite’s Man in Oz can see Integra evolving over the next three to five years as one of Australia’s better performing gold stocks with production stretching out close to the 250,000 ounce mark.

No-one at Integra will (or can) comment on predictions like that from a humble scribbler with no official qualification apart from 40 years experience watching how companies work and grow in the Eastern Goldfields region of Western Australia. Chris is certainly not going to rise to the bait of commenting on future production and/or discovery potential given that he is a member of the Joint Ore Reserves Committee (JORC), the mining industry’s equivalent of the Roman Curia, the central management committee inside the Vatican.

But, even without any help from Chris who was travelling when Minesite called a few days ago, a pattern can be seen emerging inside Integra, and across its vast swag of 100 per cent owned tenements, and an assortment of joint ventures, spread along either side of the Trans Australia railway. Rowan Johnston, Integra’s director of operations, and the senior on the job while Chris is away, threw a little light on current site work, but not much. Like most Integra executives Rowan is technically focussed, and not particularly interested in giving much away to an inquisitive journalist. Pity really, because he had an opportunity to speak to a London audience from the company’s field camp, and you can’t beat hearing a mine exploration and development story from the horse’s mouth.

Frustration with failed personal inquiries gave way earlier today when the company answered most of Minesite’s questions with its latest ASX filing. In a comprehensive production update, Integra noted that production at the Randalls (Salt Creek) processing plant was rising month-on-month with November gold output hitting 5373 ounces, up from 4243 in October, the first full month. Teething troubles were also listed, but with no surprises there, just normal commissioning stuff. The big surprises, and pleasant ones at that, were production costs and an apparent speeding up of plant expansion plans.

Detailed costs were not provided but the management report noted that “cash costs were likely to be lower than the A$574 per ounce estimated in the feasibility study”. Adding to the growing level of enthusiasm was news that an engineering study into the expansion of the Salt Creek plant had been commissioned using a second ball mill. “Given the company’s increasing confidence in the Majestic (gold deposit) area to provide additional mill feed, and the likely decision to commence trial underground mining at Cock-Eyes Bob and Santa (two other gold deposits) it is possible that the board could be asked to approve a processing facility upgrade sooner than previously anticipated.”

The caution in that statement is a reflection of the care being taken by Integra’s management to do everything by the book. But, any investor with the ability to read between the lines will understand why the stock should be treated as a gold play with a terrific story to tell. Essentially, Integra has developed a profitable “starter” mine at Randalls for a very modest capital outlay of A$64 million. It is producing gold at an annualised 90,000 ounces with studies underway to go to 140,000oz. The cash cost per ounce is less than the forecast A$574/oz, leaving a margin of more than A$800/oz, and the internal rate of return on funds invested is 71 per cent.

Aldiss, located a bit further along the Trans Australia railway, could be a mirror image of Randalls if, in Rowan’s words “a modest discovery adds to the (500,000) ounces we now have”. Or, Aldiss could provide feed to the Randalls mill, significantly boosting mine life. In the background, but perhaps not for long is discovery news, especially at the Majestic prospect where a suite of excellent drill hits have been reported, and with 33 of those assays included in the investor roadshow presentation.

Deciphering what’s been found at Majestic is an experts game and while 29 metres at 4.62/t looks to be the best there is probably a technical reason why the 2 metres at 12.69g/t is better – whereas all that really counts is that Integra is finding gold, on its own and in joint venture areas, and that it has one project in production, another in the wings, and a third possibly emerging. Once you cut through the heavy layer of technical mumbo-jumbo a picture of a rapidly-emerging, and very profitable, gold stock is emerging.

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OIL hit a new two-year high today, heading above $US91 a barrel after economic data offered an encouraging outlook on the US economy.

Weekly US jobless claims fell by 3000 to 420,000 last week, a larger drop than expected, while new-home sales rose in November and consumer sentiment in December moved higher.

The data added to the US Department of Energy's report yesterday that oil stockpiles fell for the third consecutive week, pushing oil prices higher ahead of the Christmas holiday.

Light, sweet crude for February delivery settled up $US1.03 at $US91.51 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. It rose to $US91.63 earlier in the session, the highest price since October 2008.

Brent crude on the ICE futures exchange traded US62 cents higher at $US94.27 a barrel.

Oil trading on Nymex closed one hour earlier today, due to the Christmas holiday. Trading on the Globex electronic exchange will close at its normal time, 4.15pm in New York (8.15am AEDT).

Trading was light during the session, below 150,000 contracts as of the market close, as trading desks wrap up activities heading into the holidays and the new year. Analysts said that today's move higher could be short-lived, as low volumes can create wider swings in futures prices.

"It always gets a little dicey trying to trade ahead of the holiday," said Phyllis Nystrom, an energy analyst with Country Hedging. "You can have a small amount of interest come in and move the market."

The last two months have been anything but sluggish, with oil prices rising more than 13 per cent since mid-November. Demand from China and the US has depleted some of the excess inventories that were built up during the recession. And a weak US dollar has helped boost the price of crude by making oil cheaper for buyers in other currencies.

Over the past three weeks, US crude inventories have fallen by 19 million barrels, according to the US Department of Energy. Meanwhile, retail petrol prices have edged up toward $US3 a gallon, a level that some economists believe could start to put strains on the broader economy.

"The perception that we're going to see improving fuel-supply levels and increasing fuel demand is pushing the market higher," said Gene McGillian, a broker with Tradition Energy.

Global supplies remain high, and the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries has additional spare capacity that it could produce if prices rise too quickly.

OPEC ministers at their meeting earlier this month said they were comfortable with crude prices around $US90 a barrel, however.

Several major banks expect prices to reach triple digits next year as demand rebounds with the improving global economy. And analysts say the next few trading days will be an important test for whether oil can hold above the $US90 level.

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GOLD declined today as investors cashed in gains amid a downgrade of Portugal's sovereign debt rating and upbeat US economic data.

The thinly traded December contract settled down $US6.80, or 0.1 per cent, at $US1380.00 a troy ounce on the Comex division of the New York Mercantile Exchange. The most actively traded contract, for February delivery, settled down $US6.90, or 0.1 per cent, at $US1380.50.

Credit ratings agency Fitch cut Portugal to A+ with a negative outlook. Gold saw little upside from the decision despite the report stoking investor concerns about Europe's sovereign-debt crisis.

"The Portuguese have always been large holders of gold," and some investors worry the country could sell off a large amount of gold stock in a move that will disturb the market, said George Gero, vice-president with RBC Capital Markets.

Gold futures continue to slip amid thin trading volumes today. Comex gold trading volumes have declined for four consecutive trading sessions and were at 72,534 lots in the previous session, less than half of last Thursday's 208,180 lots.

Gold prices have declined about 3 per cent from record highs of $US1432.50 set on December 7 as investors cashed in their gains ahead of the year's end.

"For now, you're range-bound and kind of stuck," said Scott Meyers, broker and futures analyst at Pioneer Futures.

Two modestly upbeat economic reports also weighed on gold prices.

The number of US workers filing new claims for unemployment benefits fell by 3000 to 420,000 in the week ended December 18, the Labour Department said, outpacing the 2000 decline forecast by economists surveyed by Dow Jones Newswires.

The better-than-expected figure is another sign the US labour market is on its way to recovery.

The upbeat data are considered negative for gold as investors tend to shed the safe-harbour asset as economic sentiment and risk tolerance improves.

US consumer spending showed modest 0.4 per cent increase in November after an upwardly revised 0.7 per cent gain in October, the Commerce Department said. Economists surveyed by Dow Jones Newswires forecast a November increase of 0.5 per cent.

Meanwhile, US incomes grew by 0.3 per cent in November compared with an expected 0.2 per cent gain.

"The economic news was mildly bullish and there's position squaring ahead of the holidays, but I don't think you can read into it," said Mr Meyers.

"We'll get a sense of where the money is going in the first two weeks of next year."

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At the beginning of this week we drew attention to three sectors which could contribute outstanding performances next year and they were iron ore, uranium and silver. We have already been beaten to the punch in iron ore with Atlas Iron bidding a hefty price for neighbouring Giralia Resources. In fact our Man in Oz wrote a piece earlier this month questioning why the share price of Giralia had not moved after it announced a serious increase to the tonnage at its McPhee Creek iron ore project in Western Australia. Now we know why. The company was intent on not allowing its shares to fly ahead of the bid.

Iron ore was key to Australia escaping the impact of the global financial crisis through its exports of millions of tonnes to China. Spot prices for iron ore fines are approaching 2010 highs reached back in April and this has led to a 7.7 per cent increase for the quarterly price index for iron ore in the first quarter of 2011 reaching US$137/tonne compared to US$127/tonne in the last quarter of 2010. It is now expected to stay steady or fall very slightly towards the end of next year as new productive capacity is expected to come on stream in 2012.

China has increased iron ore production in the past 12 months as it tried to reduce its massive imports and to an extent it has been successful as these imports are forecast to have only increased by 2.7 per cent. But this does not mean that iron ore contract prices will fall. In fact they should increase in the first quarter of 2011, triggered by the recent increase in spot market prices. Overall, therefore, the iron ore market should remain stable, after a volatile period extending from the global financial crisis to the collapse of the annual benchmark pricing system and the introduction of quarterly iron ore contracts in the second quarter of 2010.

Bids remain a probability for iron ore throughout the world and it is a lot simpler and cheaper to acquire an existing project than to develop it from square one. Rob Davies, our commodities expert explained why earlier this week. “Copper at $9,049 a tone, “he wrote,” might look very expensive in historical terms. Fine, if that’s what you think go and find your own. First, you need to devote about ten years to finding an economic deposit. And it’s not much good finding one in a country that that doesn’t give you secure legal tenure. Once you have done that you need to spend capital equivalent to several thousand dollars a tonne to build a mine and the associated infrastructure. Assuming of course you can find a banks that will lend you the money on terms that will allow you to keep your right arm. Then you have to spend another few thousand dollars a tonne to actually mine the deposit. Finally, if you are lucky, you might make a few bucks in profit.”

These same comments also apply to uranium and silver. Uranium is a sector coming back into favour at last after a few dismal years when the spot price refused to budge. Now it is around US$65/lb which is 25 per cent up on the US$48/lb achieved in September and nearly 50 per cent ahead of the US$40.75/lb in June. The recent price surge has been driven by Chinese buying as Alan Eggers or Manhattan Resources forecast at the annual Australian Uranium Conference last July in Fremantle. He reckoned that China was starting to stock pile uranium well ahead of its requirement to fuel 24 new reactors under construction and his view was supported by the World Nuclear Association and Thomas Neff, a physicist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Market confidence has increased in the growth outlook for Chinese reactor build following recent Memoranda of Understanding and long term sales agreements announced by the Chinese with Kazatomprom, Areva, Cameco and Paladin. Nor are the Chinese alone as there are no less than 479 new nuclear reactors planned or proposed by countries around the world as of now and it is when they commence operations that the demand for uranium is highest. The search by existing producers for others with advanced projects in politically stable areas is therefore now well under way.

Silver may prove to be the wild card in mining this year and the FT continually draws attention to it by quoting its price in US cents/lb when the rest of the world has it in US$/lb. Still the FT has been notoriously weak on metals for some time and those who took notice of the Lex comments on gold from 2004 onwards must be kicking themselves. We are deliberately not discussing gold in this note because enough has already been said about it over the past year. The same cannot be said of silver and a couple of weeks ago Martin Vander Weyer wrote a very cogent piece about this metal in the Spectator which adopted an ambivalent view to the rumours about JP Morgan amassing a huge short position in the metal.

Sooner or later the squeeze will start, as the Hunt Brothers found to their cost when they cornered the market in 1980, and those who are long of silver will have a very happy time. What Martin pointed out is that silver, which is subject to dual demand from industry and jewellers, has lagged behind gold in a big way over the last 30 years. In 1980 gold was 17 times more expensive than silver: now it is 48 times more expensive. A market squeeze allied to a number of new industrial uses for silver could put it into orbit next year. Demand has now overtaken supply and when this happens a premium attaches to any potential bid target be it a company in production, development or at the advanced exploration stage. Silver is often a by-product of a lead and zinc mine so it will be interesting to see how values are assigned. Guess right and you could be in the money.

At the beginning of this week we drew attention to three sectors which could contribute outstanding performances next year and they were iron ore, uranium and silver. We have already been beaten to the punch in iron ore with Atlas Iron bidding a hefty price for neighbouring Giralia Resources. In fact our Man in Oz wrote a piece earlier this month questioning why the share price of Giralia had not moved after it announced a serious increase to the tonnage at its McPhee Creek iron ore project in Western Australia. Now we know why. The company was intent on not allowing its shares to fly ahead of the bid.

Iron ore was key to Australia escaping the impact of the global financial crisis through its exports of millions of tonnes to China. Spot prices for iron ore fines are approaching 2010 highs reached back in April and this has led to a 7.7 per cent increase for the quarterly price index for iron ore in the first quarter of 2011 reaching US$137/tonne compared to US$127/tonne in the last quarter of 2010. It is now expected to stay steady or fall very slightly towards the end of next year as new productive capacity is expected to come on stream in 2012.

China has increased iron ore production in the past 12 months as it tried to reduce its massive imports and to an extent it has been successful as these imports are forecast to have only increased by 2.7 per cent. But this does not mean that iron ore contract prices will fall. In fact they should increase in the first quarter of 2011, triggered by the recent increase in spot market prices. Overall, therefore, the iron ore market should remain stable, after a volatile period extending from the global financial crisis to the collapse of the annual benchmark pricing system and the introduction of quarterly iron ore contracts in the second quarter of 2010.

Bids remain a probability for iron ore throughout the world and it is a lot simpler and cheaper to acquire an existing project than to develop it from square one. Rob Davies, our commodities expert explained why earlier this week. “Copper at $9,049 a tone, “he wrote,” might look very expensive in historical terms. Fine, if that’s what you think go and find your own. First, you need to devote about ten years to finding an economic deposit. And it’s not much good finding one in a country that that doesn’t give you secure legal tenure. Once you have done that you need to spend capital equivalent to several thousand dollars a tonne to build a mine and the associated infrastructure. Assuming of course you can find a banks that will lend you the money on terms that will allow you to keep your right arm. Then you have to spend another few thousand dollars a tonne to actually mine the deposit. Finally, if you are lucky, you might make a few bucks in profit.”

These same comments also apply to uranium and silver. Uranium is a sector coming back into favour at last after a few dismal years when the spot price refused to budge. Now it is around US$65/lb which is 25 per cent up on the US$48/lb achieved in September and nearly 50 per cent ahead of the US$40.75/lb in June. The recent price surge has been driven by Chinese buying as Alan Eggers or Manhattan Resources forecast at the annual Australian Uranium Conference last July in Fremantle. He reckoned that China was starting to stock pile uranium well ahead of its requirement to fuel 24 new reactors under construction and his view was supported by the World Nuclear Association and Thomas Neff, a physicist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Market confidence has increased in the growth outlook for Chinese reactor build following recent Memoranda of Understanding and long term sales agreements announced by the Chinese with Kazatomprom, Areva, Cameco and Paladin. Nor are the Chinese alone as there are no less than 479 new nuclear reactors planned or proposed by countries around the world as of now and it is when they commence operations that the demand for uranium is highest. The search by existing producers for others with advanced projects in politically stable areas is therefore now well under way.

Silver may prove to be the wild card in mining this year and the FT continually draws attention to it by quoting its price in US cents/lb when the rest of the world has it in US$/lb. Still the FT has been notoriously weak on metals for some time and those who took notice of the Lex comments on gold from 2004 onwards must be kicking themselves. We are deliberately not discussing gold in this note because enough has already been said about it over the past year. The same cannot be said of silver and a couple of weeks ago Martin Vander Weyer wrote a very cogent piece about this metal in the Spectator which adopted an ambivalent view to the rumours about JP Morgan amassing a huge short position in the metal.

Sooner or later the squeeze will start, as the Hunt Brothers found to their cost when they cornered the market in 1980, and those who are long of silver will have a very happy time. What Martin pointed out is that silver, which is subject to dual demand from industry and jewellers, has lagged behind gold in a big way over the last 30 years. In 1980 gold was 17 times more expensive than silver: now it is 48 times more expensive. A market squeeze allied to a number of new industrial uses for silver could put it into orbit next year. Demand has now overtaken supply and when this happens a premium attaches to any potential bid target be it a company in production, development or at the advanced exploration stage. Silver is often a by-product of a lead and zinc mine so it will be interesting to see how values are assigned. Guess right and you could be in the money.

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Asian stock markets are mostly subdued on Friday with investors in most of the markets staying away on the sidelines ahead of the Christmas weekend. The overnight flat close on Wall Street and a lack of triggers from the Asian region are also contributing to the subdued trend.

The Australian stock market is trading weak with investors pressing sales in mining, industrial and property trusts stocks. Stocks from healthcare, information technology and consumer staples sectors are edging higher, while financial stocks are trading mixed.

The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 index is down 22 points or 0.5% at 4,777. The broader All Ordinaries index is trading at 4,868, down 20.2 points or 0.4% from its previous close.

Among miners, BHP Billiton is down 0.6%, Rio Tinto is trading lower by about 1% and Newcrest Mining is down with a loss of 1.2%, while Fortescue Metals is trading flat after an initial upmove.

Shares of Whitehaven Coal Ltd are down nearly 5% following the company hinting at an earnings downgrade, after it was forced to buy coal as wet weather struck its own operations. Although production in the first-half will be up about 10% on last year, the company said it will fall about 24% or 700,000 tonnes, below budget.

In the energy space, Woodside Petroleum and Oil Search are up 0.6% and 0.7% respectively, while Origin Energy and Santos are trading weak.

Sundance Energy Ltd shares are up more than 4% after the company struck an agreement with U.S. oil services giant Halliburton and Macquarie Group Ltd to hasten drilling work at its Niobara project in the United States. According to the agreement, Halliburton and Macquarie will participate in up to 40% of the Sundance acreage at its Silo and Bull Canyon prospects in the states of Wyoming and Colorado.

Sundance will receive a non-refundable participation payment of A$A2.39 million in cash under the deal. Halliburton and Macquarie will also pay up to A$3.89 million in development costs.

Among bank stocks, ANZ Bank, National Australia Bank and Westpac are trading weak, while Commonwealth Bank of Australia is in positive territory with a modest gain. Bendigo & Adelaide Bank and Bank of Queensland are down marginally, while Macquarie Group is down 0.6%.

In the currency market, the Australian dollar opened higher amid a firm trend in commodity prices. In early trades, the Aussie was quoting at US$1.0044, up from Thursday's close of US$1.0029. The Australian dollar is currently trading at 1.0026 to the U.S. dollar.

The Japanese stock market is trading notably lower with the overnight flat close on Wall Street and a stronger yen prompting investors to indulge in some selling across various sectors.

Steel, non-ferrous metals, financial, warehousing, precision instruments and marine transport stocks are mostly down in negative territory. Mining, oil and pharmaceuticals stocks are trading mixed.

The benchmark Nikkei 225 index was down 73.52 points or 0.71% at 10,272.96, at the end of the morning session.

Taiheiyo Cement, Mitsui OSK Lines, Nippon Express, Mitsui Chemicals, Taisei Corp, Shinsei Bank and Mitsubishi Paper are trading lower by 2%-3%.

Advantest Corp. has presented a revised proposal to acquire ordinary shares of Verigy Ltd. for 15 dollars apiece, raising its price by 2.85 dollars a share from a previous offer. Shares of Advantest Corp. are currently down by almost 2%.

Casio Computer, Nisshin Steel, Sumitomo Mitsui, Daiwa Securities, Mazda Motor, Kobe Steel, Nippon Sheet Glass, Yokogawa Electric, Mizuho Securities, Credit Saison and Mitsubishi UFJ Financial are also trading notably lower.

Inpex Corp., Toshiba Corp., Mizuho Trust & Banking, All Nippon Airways, Mitsubishi Estate, Sumco Corp., East Japan Railway and Mitsubishi Motor are among the prominent gainers in the Nikkei index.

Nippon Electric Glass is up nearly 2.5% following an announcement from the company that its net income for the nine months ending December 31 will be 58 billion yen, as against an earlier estimate of 55 billion-61 billion yen.

Ministop Co. shares are up with modest gains after the company raised its full-year net income forecast by 38% to 3.3 billion yen.

Sanyo Elecric Co. shares are down by over 5%. The company announced that it will invest 15 billion yen to raise annual production capacity of lithium iron batteries by 150%.

In economic news, the cabinet is expected to endorse a fiscal 2011 budget bill worth about 92.41 trillion yen at an extraordinary meeting later in the day. The budget is a record and 110 billion yen higher than the initial budget for fiscal 2010. The primary balance, or the government's net borrowing or lending excluding payments on the debt, is expected to be 22.7 trillion yen in the red. The fiscal deficit is expected to fall only by 900 billion yen next fiscal year despite an estimated tax revenue increase of 3.5 trillion yen from fiscal 2010.

In the currency market, the U.S. dollar traded around the 83 yen-level in early deals in Tokyo. The yen is currently trading at 83.06 to the U.S. dollar.

The South Korean market is also trading weak. Despite an early upmove following a flat start, the benchmark KOSPI index declined to around 2,031 and is currently trading at 2,035, down 3.1 points or 0.16% from its previous close.

Among other markets in the Asia-Pacific region, Shanghai, Malaysia and Taiwan are trading weak, while Hong Kong, New Zealand and Singapore are up marginally. Markets across the region ended on a mixed note on Thursday.

On Wall Street, stocks closed mostly lower on Wall Street on Thursday amid thin volumes. The major averages all saw choppy trade late in the day, ending on a mixed note. The S&P 500 slid by 2.1 points or 0.2% to 1,256.8 and the Nasdaq eased by 5.9 points or 0.2% to 2,665.6, while the Dow ended up 14 points or 0.1% at 11,573.5.

Major European markets too ended mixed on Thursday. The U.K.'s FTSE 100 index gained 0.2%, while the German DAX index and the French CAC 40 index ended lower by 0.1% and 0.2% respectively.

Crude oil prices sailed past US$91 a barrel on Thursday, amid falling stockpiles. Light, sweet crude for February delivery ended up US$1.03 at US$91.51 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange, the highest price since October 7, 2008.

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When Minews last took a look at Euromax Resources at the end of August it was in a complete shambles. The nigger in the woodpile, if that is not a politically incorrect phrase nowadays, appeared to be the finance director Christopher Serin who had been instrumental in chucking John Menzies, chairman and chief executive, off the board. John did not appear to an outsider to have done a bad job and towards the end of 2009 he had put together a merger with Silk Road Resources and then sold a property in China which put C$13.5 million in the Euromax kitty. Earlier this year Mr Serin appointed himself as interim chief executive and then proceeded to have a bitter battle with a major shareholder, Anthony Patriarco, who had been a director from June 2009 to March 2010. Serin accused Patriarco, among other things, of insider trading and thus gained a very bad enemy.

No point in going over the whole saga again with all the ins and outs of dissident majorities being ignored at AGMs as the company is on an even keel again. Serin is out and Mark Gustafson, a leading dissident along with Anthony Patriarco, is chief executive. This happened back in September and the first thing announced by Mark was that the company intended to complete a formal review of all the properties in its portfolio and formalize an appropriate exploration plan that takes into account its available cash resources and any available strategic alternatives. This has now been completed and the priority projects for 2011 are going to be the the Trun gold project in Bulgaria, Karavansalija copper-gold complex in Serbia and Ilovitza porphyry copper-gold project in Macedonia. In addition, the Breznik and Rakitovo gold projects in Bulgaria are also considered to be quality projects that should be advanced towards mining concession status.

What was very encouraging for John Menzies to read was the report from Dr Quinton Hennigh, technical adviser to Euromax Resources which read as follows, “Seldom does one see a collection of potentially world-class projects within a junior exploration company. Euromax has some of the best properties in the Balkans and a superb geologic team to advance them. With the successful start-up of Dundee Precious Metals' operation at Chelopech, people are beginning to recognize that the Balkans region is a good place to operate. Through diligent exploration Euromax is in a great position to deliver more projects that may be developed by partners into mines."

Dr Hennigh then went on to give basic descriptions of each project starting with Trun which covers 136 sq kms in western Bulgaria. The gold mineralization is associated with a series of granite and syenite stocks that intrude a broad anticline of metamorphic rocks and displays striking similarities to the Tintina gold belt of the Yukon and Alaska which hosts the Fort Knox and Dublin Gulch deposits. A resource estimate is underway for the Logo area, the northernmost gold zone identified at Trun and an NI43-101 report is expected in early 2011. Euromax plans to advance the Trun exploration permit towards a mining concession in 2011 by defining in situ resources and conducting preliminary metallurgical testing.

The Karanvansalija project in southern Serbia was acquired under option from Freeport-McMoran back in May 2008. It hosts extensive zones of skarn and siliceous breccia presumed to be associated with buried porphyry centres. Alteration and mineralization are evident throughout an area of approximately 12 square kilometres within the 60 square kilometre exploration concession. Although porphyry mineralization has yet to be encountered by drilling, the styles of mineralisation discovered to date suggest the likelihood of associated porphyry mineralization nearby. At Copper Canyon, a zone of copper-gold skarn measuring 500 metres long, 300 metres wide and 80 to 90 meters thick has been intercepted by drill holes. Results include 113 meters at 0.32% copper and 0.52 g/t gold. Attached to this copper-gold skarn is a gold skarn, where an intersection of 143 metres grading 1.6 g/t gold has been recorded, and there is another one to the north of it. Euromax is planning to undertake geophysical and geochemical surveys in the spring of 2011 to define the skarn better, as well as potential buried porphyry targets for drilling.

Ilovitza is a large Tertiary age porphyry copper-gold system in Macedonia that shows similarities to other porphyry deposits of the Balkans. It has a NI43-101 compliant inferred resource, dated August 7 2008, of 303 million tonnes grading 0.23% copper 0.32 g/t gold and 0.005% molybdenum. Recent geophysical work by the Company has identified the potential for a higher grade core to this large porphyry system. Euromax is presently drilling the last two holes of a programme designed to significantly expand and upgrade the Ilovitza resource. Results are expected in the first quarter of 2011, at which time the company will commission an update of the resource statement.

Mark Gustafson will therefore kick off 2011 with plenty on his plate. He will also be conscious that he has to establish confidence in the new management among investors and this is best done by a newsflow of good results. North Americans will also have to be convinced that the Balkan states, of which some of them will have heard, are not in constant conflict. The last of the wars in the former Yugoslavia took place in Kosovo in 1998-9 and included fighting throughout this period between Serb-dominated security forces and the Albanian Kosovars, and also the 1999 NATO bombing of Yugoslavia. Things have improved massively in the area since then and many Brits now favour eastern Europe for holidays. Thus London should be a priority for promotion of Euromax and he will be greeted warmly as John Menzies, well known here, has given him full backing.

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Gold on the Comex division of the New York Mercantile Exchange dipped modestly Thursday as investors look to end a record breaking year by taking some profits off the table before the holidays.
Gold futures for February delivery were down $11.50 to $,1375.90 an ounce in New York. Trade ranged from $1,374.30 to $1,389.00.

"It's not at all surprising that prices have moved down during these last couple sessions of 2010. The few traders and the funds that are left in the market are taking profits before Christmas eve," said a US-based gold trader, who added that gold will find support around the $1,365 area.

Nevertheless, it was a fairly busy day for macro news out of the US as data that's usually released on Friday was moved up one day.

Weekly unemployment claims were lower than expected at 420,000 compared to a forecast of 421,000, and followed last week's 420,000.

Personal income in November was in line with expectations at 0.3 percent and down from last month's 0.4 percent.

The US core durable goods orders increased by 2.4 percent in November, after falling by a revised 1.9 percent in October. Expectations has been for core durable goods orders to rise by 1.7 percent.

Overall durable goods orders, which include more volatile transportation and energy items, dropped for the second consecutive month in November, falling by 1.3 percent, after a revised 3.1 percent decline in October. Analysts had expected durable goods orders to fall by 1.0 percent in November.

"This data is too close to Christmas to really have much of an impact on commodity prices. Neither the unemployment nor durable good orders deviated far enough from expectations to cause a knee-jerk reaction," the trader said.

"Really, it would take additional shelling on the Korean peninsula or a significant deepening of the European debt crisis to move metal prices in a big way before the end of the year," he added.

However, due to the fairly upbeat durable goods numbers and continuing credit concerns in Europe, the dollar strengthened to a 2-week high of 1.3054 against the euro.

"The stronger dollar has put some (downward) pressure on gold but nothing to get up in arms over," the trader said.

Silver for March delivery in New York were down 27 cents to $29.12 an ounce. Palladium for March delivery on the Nymex was off $9.15 to $746.00 an ounce, while platinum for January delivery was down $16.9 at $1,714.00 an ounce.

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Gold movements

Diposkan oleh jim | 13.09 | , , | 0 komentar »

A divergent trend developed on the bullion market during the past week as silver rose on increased offtake by industrial units and coin makers, while gold declined on restricted buying at prevailing higher levels.

Traders said increased offtake by industrial units and coin makers amid firming trend in overseas market mainly surged silver prices.

Retailers refraining from buying gold at existing higher levels mainly pulled down the prices, they said.

Firming global trends, which normally set price trend on the domestic front here, failed to impact as retail customers postponed their buying decision.

On the global front, gold recovered smartly but could not hold on to its initial gains due to profit-taking though it ended slightly higher as most of the trading sessions was sluggish throughout the week in view of long 'Christmas Holidays'.

Meanwhile, silver maintained the rallying momentum on investment buying.

In New York, gold for February delivery ended higher at USD 1,380.50 on an ounce Thursday's from last weekend's level of USD 1,379.20 an ounce.

Silver for March delivery also closed higher at USD 29.33, as against USD 29.13 previously.

Silver ready commenced higher and rose further to Rs 45,300 before ending at Rs 44,900 per kg, showing a rise of Rs 100. Silver weekly-based delivery gained Rs 90 to Rs 44,420 per kg.

Silver coins spurted by Rs 400 to Rs 49,400 for buying and Rs 49,500 for selling of 100 pieces. However, gold of 99.9 and 99.5 per cent purity lost Rs 30 each to Rs 20,700 and Rs 20,580 per 10 grams, respectively, while sovereign remained stable at Rs 16,750 per piece of eight grams.

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Russian metals giant Norilsk Nickel (GMKN.MM) is once again considering a share buy-back, a move which analysts say appears to put paid to hopes of its two biggest shareholders settling their long-running feud.

"The management (of Norilsk Nickel) examined a buyback option yesterday," a Norilsk spokesman said on Friday. He declined to provide details.

UralSib bank said that the buyback plan suggested the conflict is far from over between Vladimir Potanin, who controls 25 percent of Norilsk through his company Interros, and Oleg Deripaska who also controls 25 percent through his aluminium group RUSAL (0486.HK).

Potanin and Deripaska have been arguing over Norilsk's strategy and dividend policy for years but earlier this month Norilsk offered to buy back RUSAL's stake for $12 billion.

And although RUSAL said it was not a seller it has hired Bank of America Merril Lynch to value the stake.

But then on Thursday RUSAL demanded an extraordinary meeting to change the Norilsk board after Norilsk had announced that its subsidiaries sold an 8 percent stake in the company to oil and metals trader Trafigura Beheer BV

RUSAL said it objected to the sale of the stake without board approval and was concerned that subsidiaries might buy more shares.

"To prevent this process, RUSAL is proposing the removal of the existing board of directors, in which the vast majority is represented by the management of MMC (Norilsk Nickel) and the representatives of Interros," RUSAL said.

"The rumoured buyback programme and the new EGM requested by RUSAL reduces the chances of RUSAL accepting the $12 billion offer for its 25 percent stake in Norilsk," UralSib said.

Earlier on Friday business daily Kommersant quoted a source close to Norilsk as saying the management had approved a two-stage buyback plan for $4.5 billion worth of its shares.

In the first stage Norilsk would aim to buy in up to $3 billion worth of its shares at a 10-15 percent premium to the market.

Then, in six months time, the company plans to buy a further $1.5 billion of the shares on the open market.

SHAREHOLDER FEUD MAY INTENSIFY

"The move (buyback) will imply an intensification of the acute shareholder conflict -- the shares will be kept as quasi-treasury and the management will be able to vote them," Troika Dialog brokerage commented.

"As such, if one adds up the 8 percent stake acquired from the company by Trafigura, Interros and the management will assemble close to a controlling stake in the company."

RUSAL has opposed previous buybacks and in June accused Norilsk's management of manipulating votes with some 8.5 percent of treasury stock. The management denied any wrongdoing.

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The Indian market is subdued with little change on Friday, weighed by continued selling by foreign funds and negative Asian cues ahead of the year-end.

With auto, oil/gas and banking stocks leading the declines, the 30-share Sensex is currently posting a modest 0.1% loss, while the 50-share Nifty is down 0.15%. However, second-line stocks are finding some support. In the broader market, gaining shares are outpacing declining ones by 1464 to 832 shares on the BSE.

Among heavyweights, Tata Motors (down 1.47%), ICICI Bank (down 1.06%), BHEL (down 0.86%), Hero Honda Motors (down 0.83%), Mahindra & Mahindra (down 0.77%) and HDFC (down 0.63%) are the top losers.

Tata Steel is rising 0.62% after global miner Rio Tinto made a new A$3.9 billion bid to take over Australia's Riversdale Mining , in which the Indian steel maker has a 24.2% stake.

Aurobindo Pharma is unchanged after it fixed February 11 as the record date for a stock split. India Infoline is rallying 3% on receiving board approval for a share buyback at a price not exceeding Rs.99 per share.

A2Z Maintenance & Engineering Services is climbing nearly 4% after its disappointing debut in the previous session. Rasoya Proteins is gaining 1.18% on forming a subsidiary company in Sharjah. KNR Constructions is up a percent on establishing a wholly-owned subsidiary in Ras Al Khaimah, UAE.

Indian Hotels is advancing 0.96% after it received board approval to allot shares and warrants to Tata Sons on a preferential basis. Godfrey Phillips India (up 0.75%) and ITC (up 0.45%) are firm on reports that they have resumed cigarette production after getting clarification from the government on the kind of pictorial warnings to be carried on tobacco products.

State-run oil marketing companies such as BPCL, HPCL and IOC are down over 2% each, as crude oil prices surged to their highest level in two years.

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We have heard many commentators implying that a U.S. economic recovery that leads to the sort of growth that was seen before 2008 will give investors reasons to divest from gold.

As the year end approaches and another year is on us, it seems wise to us to look at this carefully. All of us would dearly love to see a real recovery, with rising housing prices moving back to levels seen in 2008, strong employment data and consumers with plenty of disposable income to make life stress free again. In such a climate, one can understand that these desires would be accompanied by a fall in the gold price, which to many is a thermometer measuring the ailments of the developed world economies. But is that the reason that gold is at current levels?

THE DEVELOPED WORLD ECONOMY GROWS AS THE GOLD PRICE ROSE

Let's take a look back to the year when the gold price started to rise, back in 2,000. What was the economic climate of the developed world like then? When the Volker hiked interest rates in the early eighties, confidence in the dollar grew and world growth took off. As the turn of the century approached, developed world economies looked good. The euro made its entrance onto the world monetary stage and the Eurozone grew steadily. By 2008, life was even better. The bulk of the world's executives had only seen these good times. There appeared no unmanageable reason for not expecting the future to be more of the same. During the days from 1999 to 2008, the gold price rose nearly five times. Could we relate this to the economic state of the developed world? No, of course not! In fact it would almost be wrong to say that the gold price rose. When it was at $275, it was very undervalued.

WHY WAS IT AT $275 AND ROSE FROM 2,000 ONWARDS?

The $275 price of gold was a result of the long-term central bank campaign to ‘discredit' gold in favor of the dollar then the euro. Britain sold half of its gold in 1999 at that price. The fact that European central banks decided to limit their sales of gold to amounts that the gold market could handle without taking the gold price down was the key factor.

The arrival of the gold Exchange Traded Funds unleashed pent-up U.S. institutional demand and brought gold back to the investment world.

The realization by gold mining companies that the profits from hedge positions in a gold market, where the price was persistently falling were disappearing caused them to re-think their policies. The profitable hedge positions, which so many of them had, could limit their income to prices lower than the rising gold price. These positions had to be closed to increase profits. Shareholders demanded that they were. Around 400 tonnes of these hedge positions were bought back annually. A combination of the above factors ensured that the gold price would drift upwards towards a level it should have been in 1985.

THE CAME THE ‘CREDIT CRUNCH'

When the growth of the east met growth in the West, the oil price took off and nearly doubled in price. This was the pinnacle of world growth. It was a time when the worry was, could the resources of the world accommodate global growth? It was also the zenith of U.S. economic power. Then came the unexpected credit crunch as the property bubble burst. All markets fell, including the gold and silver markets, but for different reasons.

Why did they fall when the hope in the future was so strong? We would favor calling this an investor meltdown. There appeared every reason to expect companies to continue to perform well in the future, when the investment was looked at, but the change had hit investor's capacities to invest. Too many investors has leveraged their positions so that when house prices fell then equity and other markets fell, there was a need to liquidate holdings and find cash to cover the margin and other calls. So markets, such as gold and silver, which should have risen in that economic climate, fell as investor investment capacities shrank.

History shows that when such breakdowns in prices happens, gold and silver act as ‘safe havens', but they weren't between mid-2008 and most of 2009. Right now, U.S. investor capacities remain well below what they were before then. Markets in general have stabilized, but not grown, in an investment climate that has been marked by falling confidence in the monetary system and the rising fear of instability and uncertainty.

The gold and silver markets also stabilized. With the Fed's policy of QE, the developed world's economies have not spiraled down into deflation nor have they promised a real recovery. What has happened is that in this fearful financial climate, business goes on as usual, but with little hope of seeing the pre-credit crunch days.

As the credit crunch crossed the Atlantic and morphed into the sovereign debt crisis fears of a systemic collapse have heightened. The attention has swung to a falling confidence in the currency system itself as far too much debt is being carried by nations responsible for confidence in the paper currency systems. The expectation is for the sovereign debt crisis to worsen in the future.

THE GOLD MARKET CHANGES STRUCTURE

The change in the gold and silver markets has been structural. It has become global and embraced peoples from diverse cultures, nations and stations in life.

- From the limitation of gold sales by European central banks, to the cessation of those sales, to central banks becoming buyers of gold the ‘official' gold market has changed direction completely.

- U.S. institutional investors have joined the line of investors holding for the long-term [not trading for profits], a change from past attitudes. The advent of the gold E.T.F.'s have drawn new large investors to the gold market [the same has happened in silver].

- As Europe's sovereign debt crisis brings the Euro into question, Europeans, who have experienced many currency collapses in the last hundred years are turning to physical gold held out of reach [they hope] of their governments.

- In India as that country's middle classes go global and enlarge locally, gold demand is overcoming rising prices in line with growing disposable income. This year should see them buy close to record levels of bullion. As always they do not buy for profit, but because they see gold as money and to ensure financial security.

- In China the last decade has seen that country turn into the world's second largest economy and headed to be the largest, with more than four times as many people as the U.S. From a tiny gold market at the turn of the century, it is growing phenomenally with the support of its government. With its people new to wealth, their propensity to save is unwavering [saving around 40% of income]. The Chinese, from the government down, favor gold as both money and a means of saving. With inflation running ahead of interest rates there, gold is proving itself a leading investment medium. The potential gold demand from China is many times the level it is and was in the developed world.

WILL GOLD FALL IN A REAL RECOVERY?

Against the background painted above, it is clear that the gold price is independent of the state of the U.S. economy. Mr Ravi Kumar in Mumbai does not understand the implications of U.S. house prices rising or falling. Mr. Wang Ho of Shanghai is not overly worried about U.S. Treasury Yields. They are driven to buy gold by completely different forces, as old as man himself. He wants to protect himself and his future with it. This won't change if U.S. growth were to jump to 10%, let alone 3%.

The reasons why gold rose [pre-2008] had very little to do with U.S. economic growth. Those reasons will continue to take gold higher in 2011 and onwards, because they have to do with the monetary system not economic growth or the lack thereof. Where U.S. economic growth will affect the gold price in a recovering investment climate, is that U.S. investors will be financially more able to invest in gold and silver. The rise of gold is about the state of the developed world's money!

But far more importantly the gold market has moved primarily out of the developed world and India to encompass the entire global economy. As money, as a reserve asset and as an international measure of value there are considerably more ramifications of far greater importance to gold investors than a recovering U.S. economy.

Julian Phillips is a long-term analyst of the gold and silver markets and is the principal contributor to Global Watch - Gold Forecaster - www.goldforecaster.com and Silver Forecaster - www.silverforecaster.com

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The world economy can withstand an oil price at $100 per barrel, Kuwait's oil minister said on Saturday.

Asked in Cairo if the global economy can stand a $100 oil price, Minister Sheikh Ahmad Al-Abdullah Al-Sabah said: "Yes it can".

Asked if he foresaw a rise in oil production, Sheikh Ahmad replied: "No, more compliance, more compliance".

Meanwhile, Qatar's oil minister Abdullah Al-Attiyah said on Saturday he did not expect Opec to meet before its scheduled gathering in June 2011.

"I do not expect an Opec meeting before June because oil prices are stable," he told reporters on the sidelines of a meeting of Arab oil exporting countries in Cairo.

Attiyah does not expect Opec to increase production in 2011.

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Gold miner Avocet Mining is to sell assets in Malaysia and Indonesia for $200 million to private Indonesian mining fund J & Partners, to focus on expanding its West African mines.

London-listed Avocet, which had previously said it might reduce its hedge with the proceeds, said on Friday it had not decided what to do with the cash it will receive. The hedge -- agreeing to sell gold in advance at fixed prices -- forces it to sell gold at well below market prices.

"Questions have come up this morning about our hedge and whether we are going to buy it out and quite frankly we are just going to continue to stick with our (hedging) policy. We have made no decisions on the use of proceeds," chief executive Brett Richards told a conference call.

As of Oct. 31, Avocet had an outstanding hedge of 362,019 ounces at $970 per ounce and was due to deliver 25,000 ounces per quarter. Spot gold rose to a record at around $1,430 earlier this month and currently trades at $1,385.

Avocet, also listed in Oslo, said in June it hoped to reduce its hedge, but the following month said cutting its debt and investing in existing operations were a higher priority.

Avocet, whose main asset is the Inata mine in Burkina Faso, had $37.7 million net debt at the end of the third quarter.



PROSPECTING IN BURKINA FASO, GUINEA

Avocet is to sell the Penjom mine in Malaysia and the North Lanut mine Indonesia in a deal due to be completed in the second quarter of 2011 and resulting in a pretax profit of about $100 million.

"We have some significant land packages in Burkina Faso and in Guinea which are underdrilled and underexplored and we need to understand them," Richards said.

At some point, Avocet might be in the market for acquisitions, but the time was not right.

"We are focusing on West Africa as a potential growth area for us in M&A, however, we are not in a position at this point in time to go out and do a deal," Richards said.

The divestment is subject to a right of first refusal by Indonesian group PT Lebong Tandai, which owns 20 percent of the North Lanut mine in North Sulawesi. It can buy out Avocet's stake for $120 million in cash.

In that case, the deal with J & Partners would be cancelled and Avocet would seek to sell the Penjom mine separately.

The ageing Asian mines have been hit by weaker output and higher costs. Output at Penjom fell 19 percent to 39,150 ounces of gold during the first nine months of the year, while production at North Lanut fell 2 percent to 34,865 ounces.

Cash costs surged 35 percent at Penjom to $907 per ounce and 32 percent to $657 at North Lanut.

The advisers for the deal were Standard Chartered Bank for Avocet and Macquarie Capital for J & Partners.

Avocet's shares were down 0.1 percent to 229.75 pence by mid-morning.

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Nevada gold production fell last year as producers concentrated on processing lower-grade ore while prices are high.

A report by the Nevada Division of Minerals said gold mined in 2009 was valued at $4.9 billion. Nevada mines produced 5.03 million ounces of gold during the year, down 12 percent from 2008.

"It's the economics of the situation," John Dobra, an economics professor at the University of Nevada, Reno. "They couldn't make money using lower grade ore before. So why waste it now? They are letting the higher grade ore sit there and taking the lower grade while prices are high."

The annual Major Mines report, recently released, said Nevada mines last year produced total mineral commodities worth $5.8 billion, a drop of $300 million from 2008, the Las Vegas Review-Journal reported Wednesday.

Nevada gold production has been steadily declining since 2000, when it topped 8.5 million ounces. All-time peak production came in 1998, when 8.86 million ounces were produced.

Tim Crowley, president of the Nevada Mining Association, said low-grade ore is more expensive to mine and process.

"We are purposely mining lower grade ore and trying to provide sustainability for the industry. It costs more to mine lower grade ore, but when the price is up you can afford to do it."

Ore is the rock that contains the gold. By crushing rock and then treating it with water, cyanide and other chemicals, the gold is released and can be recovered. Typically less than an ounce of gold is found in each ton of ore.

Gold sold for an average of $972 per ounce in 2009, but this year the average price has been $1,217, Dobra said.

Alan Coyner, administrator of the Nevada Division of Minerals, predicted continued strong demand for the precious metal.

"I think we will see future increases in gold prices," he said. "As long as we have this tremendous debt load and a weak dollar, I think we will see strong gold prices. In times of economic crises, people tend to turn to gold."

He expects Nevada will continue to produce about 5 million ounces of gold per year.

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With a very positive outcome from a resource and reserve upgrade, the Gold One International (ASX / JSE: GDO) Modder East resources gained 18%, with reserves up 13%.

The gold upgrade has extended the mine life of Modder East, located in South Africa, by five years out to 2022.

Modder East’s total life of mine is now 13 years, and with a plant capacity of 100,000 tonnes of ore per month, production between 2012 and 2015 is forecast to exceed 150,000 gold ounces annually.

Based on the current spot gold price around US$1400, the in situ value of production for the four years from 2012 to 2015 is US$840 million.

Gold production is forecast to decrease from 2016 to between 100,000 and 120,000 ounces annually until 2020, then to 40,000 each year until 2022, as generally lower grade ore will be used.

Production for 2011 is forecast at 120,000 ounces.

The Modder East upgrade boosted Gold One’s total resource base to; 21.7 million gold ounces, with importantly 8.6 million ounces in the measured and indicated categories, with 13.1 million ounces inferred.

This total resource includes; Modder East, Ventersburg, Megamine and New Kleinfontein and Turnbridge.

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Global miner Rio Tinto has sold most of its stake in U.S. coal miner Cloud Peak Energy Inc for $499 million in an underwritten secondary offering as part of its divestment programme.

Rio kept a 48 percent stake when spinning off Cloud Peak in an initial public offering in November 2009 to cut debt.

The Anglo-Australian miner will sell 25.6 million shares of Cloud Peak at $19.50 per share, it said on Thursday. Rio's remaining 6.2 percent stake could also be sold if underwriters exercise an over-allotment option.

Cloud Peak shares closed at $20.01 on Wednesday.

Total proceeds from the divestment of its U.S. coal unit, Energy America, comprising Cloud Peak and the separate sale of Jacob's Ranch, would total at least $2.0 billion, Rio said.

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Bank of America-Merrill Lynch sees copper as the top performing commodity of 2011, stretching to yet more record highs as demand from emerging market powerhouses places further strain on a projected supply deficit.

Gold prices are expected to peak at $1,500 an ounce next year, while crude oil, currently around $90 a barrel, should temporarily break above $100, the bank projected.

Sabine Schels, BofA-ML global commodities strategist, said at a presentation on Wednesday that commodity prices are expected to rise next year, driven by very robust economic growth in the emerging world and in spite of a weak growth outlook in developed economies.

Emerging economies such as China or Brazil will implement tighter monetary policy to contain inflation and allow for growth, which could act as a temporary headwind to the raw materials complex, she said.

But increased government spending on improvements to infrastructure and social housing, for example, should feed demand for copper, among other commodities, Schels said.

"Of course, the European debt crisis and also the inflation risks in China have recently tempered some of the hype around QE2 by the Fed, but we still believe that supply constrained commodities will do well in 2011," she said.

"Our favourite call across the spectrum is copper. We think copper will continue to go to new record highs and will average $11,250/t next year," she added.

Benchmark copper prices for three months delivery on the London Metal Exchange have risen by nearly 25 percent so far this year to record highs above $9,200 a tonne.

Copper, which is widely used in electronics, cabling and construction, has risen to all-time highs this year, fuelled by demand from top consumer China as well as by broad-based investment in commodities by funds.

GOLD, GAS, OIL AND OPEC

The 14-percent decline in the value of the U.S. dollar against a basket of currencies in the five months to November this year also acted as a key driver of gains in copper.

Now investor concern over the euro zone sovereign debt crisis has resurfaced with the financial bailout of Ireland, punishing the euro, the dollar has pared some of these losses.

However, the Federal Reserve's $600-billion bond buying programme and a government plan to maintain tax cuts to boost economic growth could further strain a yawning budget deficit, thereby undermining the dollar and boosting commodity prices.

With the dollar expected to decline and inflation pressures set to pick up in both the developed and emerging world, BofA-ML expects the gold price to extend this year's gains to reach a peak at $1,500 an ounce next year, Schels said.

For crude oil, the bank is predicting prices breaking above $100 a barrel, with the benchmark Brent crude futures contract averaging $88 a barrel next year.

"We do think OPEC in 2011 can no longer ignore the tightening in physical fundamentals," Schels said.

"There are really too many signals right now that suggest OPEC will have to increase production in 2011. Number one, inventories have come down across the board to five-year averages and two, we've seen a number of oil benchmarks moving into backwardation."

U.S. natural gas is the bank's favoured short position.

"The outlook will get worse before it gets better on the back of low demand and record production growth in the U.S. and record inventories," Schels said.

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Russia's United Company RUSAL , the world's top aluminium maker, said on Thursday that it sees next year's aluminium prices at $2,400-$2,500 per tonne and global demand for the lightweight metal to rise 8 percent.

The company said the spot market price for alumina, which is used in the production of aluminium, may reach $400 per tonne in 2011 on strong demand from China and other regions, it said in a statement.

Deputy Chief Executive Oleg Mukhamedshin told reporters in November in Hong Kong that aluminium prices in 2011 would be roughly at current levels or higher, referring to a guidance of $2,400-$2,500 per tonne for the fourth quarter.

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Mining giant Rio Tinto PLC (RIO: 68.93, 0.00, 0.00%) Thursday announced a secondary public offering of Cloud Peak Energy Inc. (CLD: 20.00, 0.00, 0.00%) shares that could result in a full divestment its stake in U.S.-based coal company and gross proceeds of about $573 million.

The secondary offering is part of Rio Tinto's decision to sell out of a large chunk of its investment in the U.S. coal market.

"With the proceeds from the Cloud Peak Energy transactions and the sale of Jacobs Ranch, the total gross proceeds for the divestment of the majority of Rio Tinto Energy America will be at least $2.0 billion," Rio Tinto's Chief Financial Officer Guy Elliot said in a statement.

The Anglo-Australian miner plans to offer 25.6 million shares of Cloud Peak common stock at $19.50 a share, resulting in gross proceeds of $499.2 million for Rio Tinto.

The deal is expected to close on, or around, Dec 21. Once the offering has been completed, Rio Tinto will retain a 6.2% stake in the mining company.

Should the underwriters of the deal choose to exercise an over allotment option to buy up to 3.8 million additional shares of Cloud Peak, then Rio Tinto would have sold out of its entire shareholding in the company. The exercise of the option would generate $74.1 million in gross proceeds, bringing the total to about $573 million.

Rio Tinto is divesting of its stake in Cloud Peak at a time when the coal miner has seen its bottom-line pressured by slimming margins--though it reported last month its third-quarter revenue increased on higher production. The producer of so-called thermal coal, the type burned by power plants, faces low natural-gas prices pressuring the commodity's value.

Cloud Peak, which went public in November 2009, was "carved out" of Rio Tinto and includes most of the mining giant's coal operations in the western U.S.

Cloud Peak had about 31.5 million shares outstanding as of Oct. 31. It would not receive any proceeds from the transaction.

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Silvercorp Metals Inc. (TSX: SVM)(NYSE: SVM)("Silvercorp" or the "Company") is pleased to report that its GC silver-lead-zinc project in the Guangdong Province has received a mining permit issued by the Ministry of Land and Resources of China. The GC mining permit has a term of 30 years and covers the entire 5.52 square kilometer area of the GC Project. The permit was issued on the terms applied for, and allows for the operation of an underground mine to produce silver, lead and zinc ores.

A qualified Chinese engineering firm is close to finalizing the design of a 1,500 tonne per day mechanized underground mine, a flotation mill, and a dry stack tailing facility. The estimated capital cost is about US$30 million. Following its completion, Silvercorp expects to convert the design report into a NI 43-101 qualified report. With the strong support of the local County government, Silvercorp has completed the acquisition of surface rights required for the construction of the mine and mill and is preparing the site and hiring contractors for the construction. Initial production of 700 tonnes per day mining capacity is expected to be achieved in 12 months with full capacity of 1,500 tonnes per day to be achieved in 18 months. The GC Project is held though a 95% owned Chinese subsidiary.

Receiving the GC Mining Permit represents an important step in Silvercorp's China expansion strategy beyond the Ying Mining camp in Henan Province:

-- creating production footholds in new areas,

-- establishing Silvercorp's reputation for production expertise and
efficiency in the new camp; and

-- build through production increases and potential consolidation of other
nearby mining assets.


Silvercorp intends to rapidly establish the GC Project in Guangdong Province as its second production base and foothold, to be followed by a third production foothold at the recently acquired BYP Gold-lead-Zinc Project in Hunan Province.

About Silvercorp Metals Inc.

Silvercorp Metals Inc. is engaged in the acquisition, exploration, development and mining of high-grade silver-related mineral properties in China and Canada. Silvercorp is the largest primary silver producer in China through the operation of the four silver-lead-zinc mines at the Ying Mining Camp in the Henan Province of China. The Company has applied for a mining permit for its GC silver-lead-zinc mine in the Guangdong Province and recently announced the acquisition of a 70% interest in the BYP gold-lead-zinc mine in Hunan province. In Canada, Silvercorp is in preparation of applying for a Small Mine Permit for the Silvertip high grade silver-lead-zinc mine project in northern British Columbia to provide a further platform for growth and geographic diversification. The Company's shares are traded on the New York Stock Exchange and Toronto Stock Exchange and are included as a component of the S&P/TSX Composite and the S&P/TSX Global Mining Indexes.

CAUTIONARY DISCLAIMER -- FORWARD LOOKING STATEMENTS

Certain of the statements and information in this press release constitute "forward-looking statements" within the meaning of the United States Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995 and "forward-looking information" within the meaning of applicable Canadian provincial securities laws. Any statements or information that express or involve discussions with respect to predictions, expectations, beliefs, plans, projections, objectives, assumptions or future events or performance (often, but not always, using words or phrases such as "expects", "is expected", "anticipates", "believes", "plans", "projects", "estimates", "assumes", "intends", "strategies", "targets", "goals", "forecasts", "objectives", "budgets", "schedules", "potential" or variations thereof or stating that certain actions, events or results "may", "could", "would", "might" or "will" be taken, occur or be achieved, or the negative of any of these terms and similar expressions) are not statements of historical fact and may be forward-looking statements or information. Forward-looking statements or information relate to, among other things: the price of silver and other metals; the accuracy of mineral resource and mineral reserve estimates at the Company's material properties; the sufficiency of the Company's capital to finance the Company's operations; estimates of the Company's revenues and capital expenditures; estimated production from the Company's mines in the Ying Mining Camp; timing of receipt of permits and regulatory approvals; availability of funds from production to finance the Company's operations; and access to and availability of funding for future construction, use of proceeds from any financing and development of the Company's properties.

Forward-looking statements or information are subject to a variety of known and unknown risks, uncertainties and other factors that could cause actual events or results to differ from those reflected in the forward-looking statements or information, including, without limitation, risks relating to: fluctuating commodity prices; calculation of resources, reserves and mineralization and precious and base metal recovery; interpretations and assumptions of mineral resource and mineral reserve estimates; exploration and development programs; feasibility and engineering reports; permits and licences; title to properties; First Nations title claims and rights; property interests; joint venture partners; acquisition of commercially mineable mineral rights; financing; recent market events and conditions; economic factors affecting the Company; timing, estimated amount, capital and operating expenditures and economic returns of future production; integration of future acquisitions into the Company's existing operations; competition; operations and political conditions; regulatory environment in China and Canada; environmental risks; foreign exchange rate fluctuations; insurance; risks and hazards of mining operations; key personnel; conflicts of interest; dependence on management; internal control over financial reporting as per the requirements of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act; and bringing actions and enforcing judgments under U.S. securities laws.

This list is not exhaustive of the factors that may affect any of the Company's forward-looking statements or information. Forward-looking statements or information are statements about the future and are inherently uncertain, and actual achievements of the Company or other future events or conditions may differ materially from those reflected in the forward-looking statements or information due to a variety of risks, uncertainties and other factors, including, without limitation, those referred to in the Company's Annual Information Form for the year ended March 31, 2010 under the heading "Risk Factors". Although the Company has attempted to identify important factors that could cause actual results to differ materially, there may be other factors that cause results not to be as anticipated, estimated, described or intended. Accordingly, readers should not place undue reliance on forward-looking statements or information.

The Company's forward-looking statements and information are based on the assumptions, beliefs, expectations and opinions of management as of the date of this press release, and other than as required by applicable securities laws, the Company does not assume any obligation to update forward-looking statements and information if circumstances or management's assumptions, beliefs, expectations or opinions should change, or changes in any other events affecting such statements or information. For the reasons set forth above, investors should not place undue reliance on forward-looking statements and information.

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