Fair enough. Investors around the world had a gloomy week, and it wasn’t because of the cricket. Australia was no exception, though the Japanese incident happened after we had closed for the week. Overall, the ASX had its worst week in nine months, as the all ordinaries index dived by 4.5 per cent. It was worse in the sectors we follow, as the metals and minerals index lost 7.3 per cent, and the gold index dropped six per cent. That last was interesting, because the price of physical gold barely moved over the week, down by around US$5 an ounce, or less than half a percentage point.

Which part of the mining sector was hardest hit?

That’s an interesting question. The lion’s share of the pain was taken by the big miners. BHP Billiton (BHP) fell by seven per cent, and Rio Tinto (RIO) was down eight per cent. Some of the smaller miners also suffered falls of the same magnitude, BHP Billiton and Rio dominate index movement on the ASX. Elsewhere, the picture was not one of uninterrupted gloom, as can be demonstrated, provided you are prepared to don a pair of rose-tinted spectacles.

That sounds interesting, although perhaps slightly misleading.

Oh, it is misleading, because the market was undoubtedly in a funk last week, but since we know that already, it’s probably worth looking for the bright side - if only because no-one else is. The way to go about this exercise in optimism is to trawl through a list of the companies that were making news, and see how investors treated them. Of the 110 companies in what might be called the universe of interest to Minesite readers, 14 rose. And that’s a surprisingly high proportion in such a dark week.

The best performers came from the minor metals sector, which includes rare earths, lithium, zirconia, potash and other secondary commodities. That’s where six of the 14 companies that rose can be found. There were a few surprises from other quarters too, including continued strength from North Australian Diamonds (NAD), a company which disappeared from view some time ago, despite persevering with work on the Merlin diamond pipes in the Northern Territory. Legendary mining promoter Joseph Gutnick has now taken effective control of the company, which rose A2 cents to A40 cents last week. Perhaps a sign of things to come.

Interesting. Let’s go through the minor metals, and then see if we can highlight one or two of the risers elsewhere.

Alkane (ALK) continued its strong upward move as interest grows in the Dubbo Zirconia Project, and in its gold assets. Last week, Alkane chief executive, Ian Chalmers, gave an upbeat presentation on the outlook for zirconia, and Alkane’s shares responded with a rise of A16 cents to A$1.40. At one stage on Tuesday the company actually a 12 month high of A$1.65, and rejoiced in a speeding ticket from the ASX. Elsewhere, Reward Minerals (RWD) was the best performer of the week, though in thin turnover. It added A31 cents to A$1.08, as interest grows in its Lake Mackay potash project in Western Australia. Other upward movers in the minor metals space included Archer Exploration (AXE), the graphite hunter, which regained recently lost ground with a rise of A3.5 cents to A22.5 cents, and Imagine Resources (IMA), which put on A4 cents to A48 cents after gaining extra ilmenite exploration ground. Atlantic (ATI), a vanadium hopeful, was also better off, closing at A$1.97, for a gain of A4 cents.

Companies on the rise in the better-known sectors were rare. There appeared to be only two among the gold companies. OceanaGold (OGC) crept up by A1 cent to A$2.49, and a tiddler with the grand name of Golden Deeps (GED) added A2.5 cents to A15.5 cents in thin turnover, after briefly touching a 12 month high of A16 cents. Its claim to fame is exploration tenements in the historic Victorian goldfields. There were three risers in the uranium space. Extract (EXT) rose A$1.17 to A$10.63 as takeover speculation mounts in the wake of a potential Chinese bid for 41 per cent shareholder Kalahari Minerals. Manhattan Corporation (MHC) rose by A10 cents to A$1.05, after announcing a revised resource at its Double Eight project, and Aura Energy (AEE) crept half a cent higher to A42 cents. Three coal companies rose. Riversdale (RIV) put on A44 cents to A$15.52, as Rio Tinto increased its offer price for the company. Hunnu (HUN) gained A8 cents to A$1.32 after Thailand’s Banpu bought a big slice of the shares. And Carabella (CLR) added A14 cents to A$2.18, on the back of soaring coking coal prices. There appeared to be no risers among copper, nickel, zinc and iron ore companies.

Thanks for that optimistic, albeit distorted look at the market. We’re ready now for the rollcall of the fallen.

Let’s do it quickly, and more just to impart the flavour of a dreadful week. In gold the list of fallers included: Integra (IGR), down A8 cents to A46.5cents, Allied (ALD), down A2.5 cents to A62.5 cents, Catalpa (CAH), down A7 cents to A$1.58, Troy (TRY), down A16 cents to A$3.42, Resolute (RSG), down A17 cents to A$1.13, Kingsgate (KCN), down A1.08 to A$8.18, Kingsrose (KRM), down A3 cents to A$1.35, and Medusa (MML), down A71 cents to A$6.51. Newcrest (NCM), the gold sector leader, fell a whopping A$2.43 to A$37.59. In silver, Cobar (CCU), the emerging silver producer, fell A17 cents to A86.5 cents.

Iron ore companies on the slide included: BC Iron (BCI), down A8 cents to A$2.95, Murchison Metals (MMX), down A15 cents to A$1.24, Iron Ore Holdings (IOH), down A22 cents to A$1.64, Sherwin (SHD), down A1.5 cents to A18 cents, Atlas (AGO), down A49 cents to A$3.38, Mt Gibson (MGX), down A27 cents to A$1.75, Gindalbie (GBG), down A8 cents to A$1.05, and Fortescue (FMG), down A72 cents to A$5.88.

Among the movers in the copper space were: Equinox (EQN), down A67 cents to A$5.15, OZ Minerals (OZL), down A17 cents to A$1.48, Sandfire (SFR), down A81 cents to A$6.43, Sumatra (SUM), down A3 cents to A28.5 cents, and Marengo (MGO), down A5.5 cents to A27.5 cents.

Nickel movers included: Mincor (MCR), down A18 cents to A$1.43, Western Areas (WSA), down A65 cents to A$6.29, Mirabela (MBN), down A21 cents to A$2.02, and Panoramic (PAN), down A20 cents to A$2.09.

Zinc movers included: Perilya (PEM), down A7 cents to A62.5 cents. Terramin (TZN), down A2.5 cents to A37.5 cents, Meridian (MII), down A1.5 cents to A10.5 cents, and Ironbark (IBG), down A3 cents to A24 cents.

Okay. Coal, uranium, minor metals, any specials, and then off to the pub to forget about last week.

Sounds like an admirable plan. Coal movers, apart from the three we mentioned earlier, included: Aston (AXT), down A50 cents to A$8.49, Coal of Africa (CZA), down A8 cents to A$1.31, Stanmore (SMR), down A4 cents to A$1.25, and Aspire (AKM), down A4.5 cents to A68 cents.

Among the fallers in uranium were: Paladin (PDN), down A26 cents to A$4.73, Berkeley (BKY), down A6 cents to A$1.42, Greenland (GGG), down A11.5 cents to A$1.13, Bannerman (BMN), down A5.5 cents to A69 cents, and Stonehenge (SHE), down A3 cents to A16.5 cents.

There was also weakness in the lithium space, as Orocobre (ORE) fell A35 cents to A$2.49, and Galaxy (GXY) fell A21 cents to A$1.24. It was no better in the tin space, as Venture (VMS) fell A6 cents to A45.5 cents, and Kasbah (KAS) fell down A3 cents to A28.5 cents. In potash, South Boulder (STB) dropped a sharp A$1.33 to A$4.47.


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