It was certainly tough for most of the miners, but there was also the odd outbreak of optimism, just to show that the speculative spirit is alive. All of the major indices ended down. The gold index was hit hardest, and shed 4.4 per cent. The metals and mining index dropped by three per cent, and the all ordinaries held up rather well, losing just one per cent.

Apart from the gold price weakness, was there any other reason for the sell-off?

China worries seem to be a factor across all sectors. Despite the strong growth figures still coming out of China, there is concern that the government over there will soon crack down on inflation by means of further interest rate rises and reduced bank lending. If that happens it might dim demand for Australian exports. The Queensland and Victorian floods also had a negative effect on sentiment, but the financial cost seems manageable, even if it leads to a one-off tax levy to raise A$20 billion, or so.

Enough of the big picture, let’s have some prices.

Right. Good news first, fallers later. That way our London readers will be starting out with a look at the smaller companies which caught the eye of traders down this way, and there was quite a selection.

Good news is always welcome. Let’s hear it.

The prize for biggest rise of the week went to Mt Isa Metals (MET) which at one stage came close to doubling as the shares ran up from A48 cents to a 12 month high of A80 cents during trading on Friday. Mt Isa eventually closed the week at A70 cents, a gain of A22 cents, a rise that following in the wake of a a suite of excellent assays from its Nabanga gold project in Burkina Faso. The best result, reported on Thursday, was eight metres at 14.01 grams a tonne from a depth of 26 metres, followed by three metres at 24.62 grams per tonne from 59 metres. Gold mineralisation of more than 0.5 grams per tonne has been noted over a 3,600 metre line of strike, with the average coming in at 4.6 metres grading 5.66 grams per tonne.

Impressive results. Did they get much coverage in your news media?

Barely a mention. Only a couple of trade publications picking up the story, which is interesting for a number of reasons. The company itself is approaching the A$100 million market capitalisation level, and it has skilled management led by John Bovard, an old hand who some of your readers might remember as the man in charge, in its early days, of the Kalgoorlie Superpit gold mine, and then later on, at Greenwich Resources.

Indeed. What else is going on?

Other stocks which do not often get a mention in the mainstream investment media, but which did well last week, included two coal explorers, Attila Resources (AYA) and Universal Coal (UNV). Atilla only listed late last year, with coal in Western Australia as a target, but this week it jumped A16 cents higher to A77 cents, and did get as high as A80 cents on Friday, double its opening day price on December 8th. Universal Coal, meanwhile, is the latest Australian explorer to try its luck in South Africa’s coalfields, and added A11.5 cents to A57 cents.

The gold explorer which caught the eyes of traders, though we are yet to discover why, was Jaguar Minerals (JAG), which effectively doubled from A2.6 cents to A5 cents. Jaguar has projects across Australia, and at the moment its Mt Darlot joint venture with Barrick Gold looks the most promising. Among the other upward movers was Atomic Resources (ATQ), which is looking for gold and uranium in Tanzania. It added A4 cents to A57.5 cents. Also better off was Voyager Resources (VOR), which is exploring in Mongolia, and which rose by A3.5 cents to A55 cents, but did trade up to A66 cents on Friday. Elsewhere, Uramet (URM), which has switched its focus to gold in the South American country of Guyana, put on A1.5 cents to A17 cents, a 12 month high. Sovereign Gold (SOC) added A3.5 cents to A24.5 cents after completing its first drill hole in the historic Rocky River-Uralla goldfield in New South Wales, but with no assays to report yet. And one of Minesite’s old favourites, Scotgold (SGZ), shot up by A2.8 cents to A9.6 cents after reporting encouraging assays from its Auch project in Scotland which, fortunately, lies outside the national parks which stopped its flagship Cononish project last year.

Thanks for that burst of good news, which probably took a bit of prospecting on your part.

It did, but the results were worth it because they showed that hidden gems can always be found in the market if you look hard enough. A couple of other risers also merit a mention, because their share price movements, courtesy of speculators, could be pointers to future news. Prairie Downs (PDZ), one of the lost souls in the sickly zinc sector, attracted a bit of attention and put in a sudden upward move to a 12-month high of A25 cents on Friday. At the close it had slid back to A18.5 cents, for a gain over the week of A1.5 cents. Meanwhile, one of Minesite’s quieter members, Sabre Resources (SBR) recovered recently lost ground with a rise of A4 cents to A22 cents, but did trade as high as A24 cents on Friday, perhaps due to a revival of interest in its Namibian copper exploration project..

I think we’re now sufficiently softened for the bad news. Let’s start the call of the card, starting with gold.

Apart from Scotgold’s revival there were only three other gold companies that finished in the black, alongside one interesting producer which held its ground. Ampella (AMX) managed a rise of A3 cents to A$3.00. Silver Lake (SLR) recovered recently lost ground, and delivered a rise of A8 cents to A$2.18. Thor (THR) also continued to recover, putting on A0.3 of a cent to A4.7 cents. Apex (AXM), which almost disappeared from view thanks to trouble at processing plants in Western Australia, held its ground at A2.6 cents after reporting increased resources at its Wiluna mine, production of 19,500 ounces of gold in the December quarter, and a 30 per cent fall in costs to A$890 an ounce.

Now for the falls. Adamus (ADU) fell A6 cents to A75 cents, despite pouring first gold at Nzema. Kingsgate (KCN) fell A59 cents to A$10. Resolute (RSG) fell A3 cents to A$1.44. OceanaGold (OGC) fell a sharp A38 cents to A$2.88. Newcrest (NCM) fell A$1.58 to A$36.71, in the wake of problems at three of its mines. Gryphon (GRY) fell A23 cents to A$1.65. Perseus (PRU) fell A17 cents to A$2.95. Kingsrose (KRM) fell A9 cents to A$1.45, and Medusa (MML) fell A36 cents to A$7.19.

Time’s short. Let’s move quickly now, with base metals next.

Apart from the rise from Sabre, which we mentioned earlier, there were only two copper companies that gained ground. Rex Minerals (RXM) rose by A23 cents to A$2.97, but did get as high as A$3.12 on Wednesday. And Exco (EXS) added A1 cent to A52.5 cents. After that there was a long list of fallers, led by Sandfire (SFR), down A43 cents to A$7.36, Bougainville (BOC), down A22 cents to A$1.77, OZ Minerals (OZL), down A6 cents to A$1.67, Altona Mining (AOH), also down A6 cents to A38 cents, and Marengo (MGO), down A3 cents to A34.5 cents.

All nickel companies fell. Mincor (MCR) fell A6 cents to A$1.85. Panoramic (PAN) fell A11 cents to A$2.37. Western Areas (WSA) fell A24 cents to A$6.45, and Independence (IGO) fell A71 cents to A$7.01.

All zinc companies, apart from Prairie Downs, also lost ground, but not much, which is what you might call an interesting negative. Meridian (MII) was down A1.5 cents to A11.5 cents. Ironbark (IBG) fell by A2.5 cents to A27.5 cents, while Perilya (PEM) and Bass (BSM), both slipped half-a-cent lower to A59.5 cents and A37 cents respectively.

Iron ore next, please.

Mainly down, but with a few handy rises. Best performers were BC Iron (BCI) and Grange Resources (GRR). BC Iron accepted a takeover bid from Hong Kong’s Regent Pacific Group, and added A13 cents to A$3.28. Grange Resources reported strongly profitable production from its Savage River mine in Tasmania, and rose by A7.5 cents to A85 cents. The fallers were led by Fortescue (FMG), which fell A36 cents to A$6.69 following the exit from its share register of Singapore’s sovereign wealth fund, Temasek. Other movers included Iron Ore Holdings (IOH), down A4 cents to A$2.25, Mt Gibson (MGX), down A5 cents to A$2.14, and Brockman (BRM), down A30 cents to A$5.00. Moly Mines (MOL) also fell, down a sharp A26 cents to A$1.16, after it hit fund-raising problems

Now for the fuel twins, coal and uranium.

Coal remained popular with local investors, and uranium should have done better as the spot price is now up to US$68 a pound. Among the coal companies Aspire (AKM) continued to rise, adding A12 cents to A73.5 cents. Aston (ATZ) rose A16 cents to A$8.55. Carabella (CLR) shot up by A23 cents to A$1.62. Coalworks (CWK), added A3.5 cents to A94 cents, and Bathurst (BTU) put on A16 cents to A$1.04. The only significant decline came from Coal of Africa (CZA), which lost A19 cents to A$1.60.

Uranium companies failed to respond to the higher spot market, though most falls were modest. Berkeley (BKY) slipped A3 cents lower to A$1.79. Manhattan (MHC) lost A4 cents to A$1.38. Uranex (UNX) was A4.5 cents weaker at A69 cents, and Paladin (PDN) did worst of all with a drop of A37 cents to A$5.04 after it reported an expected production shortfall.

Minor metals to close, please.

Rare earth companies were sold off, apart from Alkane (ALK), which added A8 cents to A$1.14. Lynas (LYC) lost A6 cents to A$1.97, and Arafura (ARU) fell A16 cents to A$1.40. Lithium stocks also suffered, and Orocobre (ORE) fell A60 cents to A$3.40. The same fate was suffered by the tin twins, Venture (VMS) and Kasbah (KAS). Venture fell by A5 cents to A48 cents and Kasbah by A2.5 cents to A31.5 cents. Best of the minor metals, or other minerals, was South Boulder (STB), which added A19 cents to A$3.70 as interest grows in its potash project in the Eritrea.


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