Tag Archives: Royal Canadian Mint

BullionStar attends LBMA Conference in Singapore, October 2016


This year, the well-known annual conference of the London Bullion Market Association (LBMA) was held in Singapore between Sunday 16 October and Tuesday 18 October at the impressive Shangri-La Hotel. The conference attracts delegates and speakers from across the world of bullion, with representatives from precious metals refiners, mints, bullion banks, brokers, trading and technology providers, bullion dealers and bullion wholesalers. This year over 700 delegates attended.

The main speaker sessions, presentation and panel sessions of industry representatives ran over two days, between Monday 17 October and Tuesday 18 October. Topics covered in the speaker sessions were numerous and varied and included the bullion market in China, developments in the Indian gold market, responsible gold guidance, LBMA updates and developments, a dedicated session on platinum group metals, and a session on the financing of refineries.

As interesting as the speaker sessions and presentations are, many of the conference attendees use at least some of their time at the LBMA conference to engage in meetings with each other on the sidelines. This explains the constant stream of small breakout meetings that took place in the hotel lobby's seating areas, as well as in dedicated meeting rooms around the hotel. BullionStar also used the occasion to meet with existing suppliers from the refining, minting and wholesaling world, as well as to discuss potential business opportunities with new suppliers.

There were also approximately 20 exhibitor stands at the conference, including stands hosted by CME Group, Brinks, the World Gold Council, IE Singapore (Singapore's trade development authority), Istanbul Gold Refinery (IGR), Metals Focus consultancy, Cinnober, and Nadir Refinery.

Shangri-La Hotel, Singapore

Hong Kong - Shenzhen Gold Connect

On the Sunday prior to the conference, the Chinese Gold and Silver Exchange (CGSE) and the Singapore Bullion Market Association (SBMA) co-hosted a pre-conference presentation titled “Building a physical gold corridor in Asia: Shanghai – Hong Kong / Qianhai – Singapore”, at the hotel, which featured a series of discussions about the CGSE’s new gold trading and vaulting project located in the Shenzhen free trade zone at Qianhai, just across the border from Hong Kong.

Haywood Cheung, Permanent President of CGSE, gave an introductory overview of the Qianhai project, showcasing it as part of China’s “One Belt, One Road” plan, after which Dong Feng, Ping An Commodities Trading in Shenzhen presented a detailed explanation of how the linkages between the CGSE’s trading platform in Hong Kong and Qianhai’s clearing and settlement will for the first time enable the trading of both onshore and offshore Renminbi and the trading of onshore and offshore gold. The Qianhai project integrates trading, clearing, settlement and vaulting, with a 1500 tonne capacity vault, and a trading hall. ICBC will provide settlement of both onshore (Shenzhen) and offshore (Macau) Renminbi as well as providing use of its Shenzhen gold vault (onshore gold settlement) until the CGSE Qianhai vault is completed.

This onshore and offshore trading and settlement of Yuan and physical gold will facilitate arbitrage trading, and is another step in China’s liberalisation of its currency and its gold market as it links the Chinese currency to physical settlement of gold inside and outside of China. This initiative is one to watch and will demonstrate the Chinese government’s gradual easing of cross-border restrictions on currency and gold flow. Next phase gold trading in Qianhai by CGSE member companies will commence on 7 December.

With the CGSE having already established a gold trading link with the Shanghai Gold Exchange (SGE) though its Shanghai-Hong Kong Connect, and with the Shenzhen (Qianhai) - Hong Kong Connect now coming on stream, the CGSE is also planning a Singapore - Hong Kong Connect, and a Dubai - Hong Kong Connect, which, if they materialise, will extend physical gold corridor (trading and vaulting connections) across the Asian region and beyond.

Albert Cheng, CEO of the SBMA, wrapped up the afternoon with an overview presentation of SBMA’s aspirations to evolve Singapore into a bullion market hub for the entire ASEAN region, including countries such as Indonesia, Vietnam and Myanmar. However, details of how this plan will be implemented were not addressed. Cheng also showcased the SGX gold contract which is backed by the SBMA, but which has yet to take off despite being launched over 2 years ago.

Singapore Skyline - Central Business District
Singapore Skyline - Central Business District

LMEprecious gold Futures

The first event we attended on Monday was an early morning presentation by the London Metal Exchange (LME) about LMEprecious, its new suite of spot, daily, and monthly gold and silver futures contracts to be launched in the first half of 2017, that will trade on LME’s trading platform, with market-making offered by 5 investment banks such as Goldman Sachs and ICBC Standard Bank. These futures are for delivery of unallocated metal in the London market and the contracts will still clear through the London bullion market's LPMCL unallocated bullion clearing system. In time, the LME plans to launch platinum and palladium futures contracts on LMEprecious, as well as options contracts on all 4 metals. The LMEprecious platform will also link into LBMA’s planned trade reporting system.

ICE gold Futures

On Monday morning, ICE Benchmark Administration (IBA), a direct competitor to LME in the precious metals trading and clearing space, used the LBMA conference to make a very well-timed announcement that it too will be launching a new gold futures contract for delivery of unallocated gold in London (loco London). The ICE contract will trade on the ICE US futures platform and will begin trading in February 2017, in advance of the LME contracts. This contract is being designed to be compatible for settlement within the LBMA Gold Price auction which IBA administers in London, and it will, according to IBA, allow the introduction of central clearing into the auctions, and thus facilitate wider auction participation. Currently,the direct auction is exclusively open  to a handful of large banks that have large bi-lateral credit lines with each other. At this stage it’s unclear how the connections between the futures contract and the LBMA Gold Price auction will work, but BullionStar plans to examine this development in future coverage.

Unallocated Gold, Gold Lending and Central Banks

Given that the LBMA Conference is attended by dozens and dozens of precious metals refineries and mints, it was notable that the subject of "unallocated gold" cropped up in the discussion of LMEprecious and ICE futures contracts, but that there was no discussion in the actual LBMA conference programme schedule of 'unallocated gold' as the term is used by the LBMA. An unallocated gold position in an account in the London gold market is merely a contractual claim for gold against the bank that the account is held with. As such, it is a synthetic gold position.

It was also odd in our view that there was no seminar or discussion about the London gold lending market within the conference programme. As gold lending is an important and influential area of the London gold market, it affects marginal gold supply, and it has an impact on gold price formation.  Notably, the topic of central bank activities in the gold market was completely missing from the conference schedule this year,  a notable omission compared to previous years.

Gold price benchmark for Singapore revisited

In another announcement on Monday morning at the conference, the Singapore minister for trade and industry announced that the SBMA in conjunction with the LBMA and ICE Benchmark Administration (IBA), they'll begin a feasibility study on launching a “pre-AM gold price” auction, which would serve as a benchmark for the Asian region and which would be held at 2pm Singapore time, in advance of the European trading day. This Singapore benchmark was already discussed and announced over 3 years ago, but has put on hold in 2014 due to European regulatory investigations at that time into manipulation of the London Gold Fix.

LBMA Trade Reporting

The conference speaker programme opened on Monday morning with introductory remarks from Lim Hng Kiang, Singapore Minister for Trade and Industry, outgoing LBMA chairman Grant Angwin, incoming newly appointed Chairman Paul Fisher who recently arrived from the Bank of England, Tim Pearce, the chairman of the London Platinum and Palladium Market (LPPM), and LBMA CEO Ruth Crowell.

The LBMA CEO’s introductory speech touch on the planned launch of trade reporting services for the London Gold Market. This trade reporting contract has been awarded to financial technology providers Cinnober – BOAT Services – Autilla, after those partners won the LBMA’s recent RfP tender which had been launched in October 2015. Ruth Crowell referred to trade reporting as ‘Phase 1’ of a new suite of technology services. Trade reporting  will be launched in Q1 2017, and will, according to the LBMA “demonstrate of the size and liquidity of the market for clients, investors and regulators”. Phase 2 of this project refers to services such as central clearing in the London bullion market.

Further background to the chosen trade reporting solution was provided by Jamie Khurshid, the CEO of BOAT Services. Surprisingly, even though this RfP took the LBMA over 1 year to complete, it will still now require a 'design phase' where BOAT/Cinnober needs to meet with LBMA member firms to discuss the scope of reporting, followed by a period of customisation and configuration of the implementation. Details on what exactly will be reported (the scope) remain sketchy, and since full London gold and silver trade reporting by all participants (including central banks) is not mandatory in a regulatory sense, it remains to be seen to what extent transparency will be improved.  Because if you don't have full mandatory reporting, you don't have transparency. In another related presentation, Sakhila Mirza, LBMA General Counsel stated that trade reporting will apply to loco London spot trades, forwards and options, but that "LBMA and its members retain control over the scope of reporting", which highlights the self-regulatory nature of the reporting, and again may suggest that the trade reporting may not be as granular or have as much informational value as some may think, especially given that central banks will be exempt from trade reporting.

The Shanghai Gold Exchange and Chinese Gold Market

Monday's schedule also included an  informative series of presentations titled "The Bullion Market in China" from an impressive list of experts. Jiao Jinpu, chairman of the Shanghai Gold Exchange (SGE), provided an overview of the latest developments from the SGE, which has a network of 61 vaults across 35 cities in China, and where physical trading volume reached 34,100 tonnes of gold in 2015. Jinpu revealed that the International Board of the SGE (known as SGEI) has, since launch in September 2014, traded 7,838 tonnes of gold, while the daily Shanghai Gold Price auction, only launched in April 2016, has already traded 384 tonnes, worth RMB 105.5 billion, giving it an average daily trading volume of 3.4 tonnes. Jinpu also vindicated BullionStar's estimates of 2015 SGE gold withdrawals, because, in the words of Jinpu, he sits on the SGE tap, and knows exactly how much gold has been withdrawn from the Exchange vaults.

In his speech, Jinpu announced that in the near future, the SGE and other exchanges will begin using the SGE Gold Price benchmark to develop gold price derivative products.

SGE Chairman Jiao Jinpu
SGE Chairman Jiao Jinpu

In another notable confirmation, Yang Qing, from the Bank of China, one of China's largest commercial banks involved in the global gold market, responding to a question posed by BullionStar, said that he thinks that in future, the Chinese currency, the Renminbi, should have an element of gold backing.

In what was probably one of the most interesting and revealing presentations from BullionStar's perspective, and which vindicates the extensive research and analysis that BullionStar's precious metals analyst Koos Jansen has done on the Chinese gold market, Matthew Turner from Macquarie Commodities Research in London gave a presentation about how to accurately capture and estimate the total trade flows of gold into China given that China does not publish this data itself.

One of Turner's approaches is to use the trade data of all other countries which do report gold exports to China. This approach reveals that China imported 1626 tonnes of gold in 2015 from a number of countries, primarily Hong Kong, Switzerland, the UK and Australia. Another more elegant Turner approach is to take China's total import figure which it does publish, as well as the summated figures of  all of China's other import categories of data, which China also does publish, and then derive the gold import quantities as the delta.

This approach yields a net gold import figure of 1693 tonnes in 2015. Both of these figures are very close to BullionStar's previously published Chinese gold import data estimates, as calculated by Koos Jansen. Adding 2015 Chinese gold mining production to imports gives total new supply coming into the Chinese market in 2015 in excess of 2000 tonnes, which is over 1000 tonnes higher than consumer gold demand as estimated by consultancies such as GFMS and the World Gold Council.

LBMA and SGE familiar with BullionStar's research

On the Monday evening we attended a dinner hosted by Australia and New Zealand Bank (ANZ) at Singapore’s famous Raffles Hotel. Just after arriving we had the privilege of chatting for a few minutes to Jiao Jinpu, chairman of the Shanghai Gold Exchange (SGE) via his colleague and interpreter Jess Yang, and we highlighted to him BullionStar’s extensive research from Koos Jansen on the China gold market and the SGE, which we were impressed that he was already familiar with. Dinner conservation was interesting and varied as we were seated at a table with representatives of the London Metal Exchange, ICE Benchmark Administration (IBA), the CME Group, GFMS, Metalor Singapore, and the Royal Canadian Mint.

During the conference, we also learned that the LBMA is familiar with BullionStar's research into the London gold market, another confirmation that the analysis that we publish is read widely within the bullion industry.

As the conference wrapped up on the Tuesday afternoon, delegates were asked to forecast what the US Dollar gold price will be this time next year. Audience members submitted their forecasts via a special handheld device in the auditorium, which resulted in an average forecast of US$ 1347.

BullionStar Seminar during LBMA Week

To coincide with the fact that the LBMA conference was located in Singapore this year, BullionStar hosted a number of events at its shop and showroom premises on New Bridge Road, Singapore. On the Saturday prior to the conference,  15 October, BullionStar held a 'meet and greet' morning, where customers and anyone in town for the conference could pop in and chat with BullionStar staff. On Wednesday 19 October, BullionStar held a precious metals seminar in its showroom premises at which BullionStar CEO Torgny Persson and Precious Metals Analyst Ronan Manly presented to an audience on the topics of Bullion Banking, and Transparency vs Secrecy in the gold market, respectively. The presentations and transcripts of the speeches will be published on the BullionStar website in the near future.

Additional Gold & Silver & Platinum Coins GST-free in Singapore

Starting 1 September 2016, the exemption of gold, silver and platinum coins from Goods and Services Tax (GST) in Singapore has been extended. The following coins, all available for ordering at BullionStar.com, are now available for purchase without any GST.

The updated IRAS Guide on Exemption of Investment Precious Metals (IPM) can be found here.

United Kingdom Gold Queen's Beast 2016 - 1 oz 

The 1 oz Queens' Beast gold coin is the first of ten coins in a newly released series by the British Royal Mint featuring the heraldic beasts that stood guard at The Queen's coronation. Each 1 oz Queen's Beast is minted in .9999 fine gold and is legal tender at £100. With the coin priced as a bullion coin, it is expected to find its' way into both the hands of investors and collectors.

United Kingdom Gold Lunar Monkey 2016 - 1 oz

This is the third coin released by the United Kingdom Royal Mint as part of its' Lunar Series program. The series began in 2014 with the release of the UK Gold Lunar Horse and has attracted investors and collectors alike who are impressed with the design of the coin, as well as the high quality of the finish. The front of the coin features a rhesus monkey swinging through the trees, along with the inscription "Year of the Monkey" . The UK Gold Lunar Monkey has a maximum mintage of just 8,888 coins.

Canadian Gold Growling Cougar 2015 - 1 oz

This coin is part of the "Call of the Wild" Series released by the Royal Canadian Mint in 2014. The series highlights animals living in the wild that have been hunted to near extinction. The Gold Growling Cougar 2015 is the second coin in the series. The coin is unique in that the purity of the gold used to mint the coin is 99.999% pure, making it one of the purest gold coins in the world. The coin is legal tender at CAD$200 which is an unusually high denomination.

Canadian Gold Roaring Grizzly Bear 2016 - 1 oz 

This coin is the third coin released in the "Call of the Wild" Series. Just like the 2015 edition, the Gold Roaring Grizzly Bear is minted in 99.999% pure gold and is legal tender at CAD$200.

United Kingdom Silver Queen's Beast 2016 - 2 oz 

The 2 oz Queen's Beast silver coin is the first of ten coins in a newly released series by the British Royal Mint featuring the heraldic beasts that stood guard at The Queen's coronation. Each 2 oz Queen's Beast silver coin is minted in .9999 fine silver and is legal tender at £5. 2 oz silver bullion coins are relatively rare. With the attractive design of this coin, it can be purchased for a combination of its investment and collectors' properties.

Armenian Silver Noah's Ark 2016 - 1 oz

The Armenian Silver Noah's Ark is one of the most price-worthy bullion coins on the market. The premium is very attractive and is on par or lower than other popular bullion coins like the Silver Maple and Silver Kangaroo. The coin has been minted since 2011. The Armenian Noah's Ark features a dove in flight with an olive branch and Noah's Ark floating on the flood waters. The coin is minted by the German mint, Geiger Edelmetalle. Each coin is minted in 1 oz of .999 fine silver and is legal tender at 500 Dram. Also available in 1/2 oz and 1/4 oz.

Australian Silver Kangaroo 2016 - 1 oz

The Silver Kangaroo is a new bullion release from the Perth Mint and follows in the footsteps of the popular Gold Kangaroo. The Silver Kangaroo features the iconic Australian Red Kangaroo, surrounded by outward radial lines. This enhances the image of the Kangaroo, rendering a 3D-like effect to the kangaroo. With the Silver Kangaroo now exempted from GST, the pricing of the coin is very competitive even compared to the popular Canadian Silver Maples. Each coin is minted in 1 oz of .9999 fine silver and is legal tender at AUD$1.

United Kingdom Silver Lunar Series 2016 - Year of the Monkey - 1 oz

This is the third coin released by the UK Royal Mint as part of its' Lunar Series program. The series was launched in 2014 with the release of the Lunar Horse and has attracted investors and collectors alike who are impressed with the design of the coin, as well as the high quality of the finish. The front of the coin features a rhesus monkey swinging through the trees, along with the inscription "Year of the Monkey". The UK Silver Lunar Monkey has a maximum mintage of just 138,888 coins. Each coin is minted in 1 oz of .999 fine silver and is legal tender at GBP£2.

Canadian Wildlife Peregrine Falcon 2014 - 1 oz

The Peregrine Falcon was the first coin released in the 4-coin "Birds of Prey" Series minted by the Royal Canadian Mint. The series depicts predators in action hunting for its' prey. The reverse of the coin depicts a Peregrine Falcon which can be seen on the coin ready to swoop down to catch its' prey. The mintage for each coin in the "Birds of Prey" series is limited to a maximum of just 1,000,000 coins. Each coin is minted in 1 oz of .9999 fine silver and is legal tender at CAD$5.

Canadian Wildlife Series - Great Horned Owl 2015 - 1 oz 

The Great Horned Owl was the fourth and final coin released in the 4-coin "Birds of Prey" Series minted by the Royal Canadian Mint. The reverse of the coin depicts a menacing Great Horned Howl, wings spread as it descends upon its prey, along with the weight and purity of the coin. Each coin is minted in 1 oz of .9999 fine silver and is legal tender at CAD$5.

Canadian Wildlife Series 2013 - Wood Bison - 1 oz

The Wood Bison was the sixth and final coin released in the Canadian Wildlife Series, a series of coins minted by the Royal Canadian Mint. The series depicted animals in their natural habitat and has proven to be very popular with collectors. The reverse of the coin depicts the Wood Bison, which can be seen galloping through the snow. The mintage for each coin in the Wildlife series is limited to a maximum of just 1,000,000 coins. Each coin is minted in 1 oz of .9999 fine silver and is legal tender at CAD$5.

Austrian Platinum Philharmonic 2016 - 1 oz

2016 is the inaugural year for the Platinum Philharmonic which follows the Gold Philharmonic, first released in 1989, and the Silver Philharmonic released in 2008.  The Platinum Philharmonic features the same loved design as the Gold Philharmonic and Silver Philharmonic. The obverse of the coin depicts the pipe organ in the Vienna Musikverein's Golden Hall. The reverse of the coin shows some of the instruments of the Vienna Philharmonic. Each coin is minted in 1 oz of .9995 fine platinum and is legal tender at €100.

Full official list of Gold Coins qualifying for GST exemption

(i) America Buffalo
(ii) Australia Kangaroo Nugget
(iii) Australia Lunar
(iv) Austria Philharmonic
(v) Canada Maple Leaf
(vi) China Panda
(vii) Malaysia Kijang Emas
(viii) Mexico Libertad
(ix) Singapore Lion
(x) United Kingdom Britannia
(xi) Canada Call of the Wild 3-coin series
(xii) United Kingdom Lunar
(xiii) United Kingdom The Queen's Beasts 10-coin series

Full Official list of Silver Coins qualifying for GST exemption

(i) America Eagle
(ii) Australia Kookaburra
(iii) Australia Koala
(iv) Australia Lunar
(v) Austria Philharmonic
(vi) Canada Maple Leaf
(vii) China Panda
(viii) Mexico Libertad
(ix) United Kingdom Britannia
(x) Australia Saltwater Crocodile
(xi) Canada Wildlife 6-coin series
(xii) Canada Birds of Prey 4-coin series
(xiii) United Kingdom Lunar
(xiv) Armenia Noah’s Ark
(xv) Australia Kangaroo
(xvi) United Kingdom The Queen's Beasts 10-coin series

Full official list of Platinum Coins qualifying for GST exemption

(i) America Eagle
(ii) Australia Koala
(iii) Australia Platypus
(iv) Canada Maple Leaf
(v) Austria Philharmonic

The World’s largest Precious Metals Refineries

There are many precious metals refineries throughout the world, some local to their domestic markets, and some international, even global in scale. Many, but by no means all, of these refineries are on the Good Delivery Lists of gold and/or silver. These lists are maintained by the London Bullion Market Association (LBMA) and they identify accredited refineries of large (wholesale) gold and silver bars that continue to meet rigorous proficient standards of refining and assaying, and that are, at the same time, financial viable and stable companies. Currently, there are 71 refiners on the LBMA’s gold Good Delivery List and 81 refiners on its silver Good Delivery List, or which just over 50 of these refineries are accredited to both the LBMA’s gold and silver lists.

But within the top echelons of the world’s precious metals refineries, a number of names stand out due to their sheer scale and pedigree, as well as their global brand recognition in the production of a wide range of investment grade gold and silver bullion bars. These names include PAMP, Argor-Heraeus, Metalor Technologies, Heraeus, Valcambi, Tanaka Kikinzoku Kogyo, and Rand Refinery.

5000 Tonnes of Gold

Together these seven refinery groups have a combined gold refining capacity approaching a mammoth 5000 tonnes per year. And that’s not even taking into account their refining capacity for other precious metals such as silver and platinum. Valcambi has a gold refining capacity of 1600 tonnes per annum, Metalor 800 tonnes, Heraeus 400 to 500 tonnes, PAMP over 450 tonnes, Argor-Heraeus over 400 tonnes, Tanaka 500 tonnes, and Rand Refinery 600 tonnes.

Notably four of these refineries are based in the gold refining powerhouse of Switzerland, of which three, PAMP, Valcambi and Argor-Heraeus, are clustered literally within a few kilometres from each other in the golden triangle of Swiss refineries centred within the very south of the Swiss canton of Ticino near the Swiss-Italian border. Metalor Technologies is the exception, as its Swiss headquarters facility is based in Neuchâtel, in the north-west of Switzerland. Of the non-Swiss refineries, Heraeus, Tanaka and Rand Refinery, these are headquartered in Germany, Japan and South Africa, respectively.

Gold Refineries, Heraeus, PAMP, Valcambi, Metalor, Argor-Heraeus, Tanaka, Rand Refinery

International in Scale and Ownership

Although three of the four giant Swiss refineries have historically each been owned by a Swiss bank, and although groups such as Heraeus and Tanaka are still privately owned and controlled by founding shareholders, its important to note that none of these giant refineries are purely local concerns, so their headquarters locations are to some extent a secondary concern. From operating facilities, to metal supplier networks, to customer bases, all of these refineries are now absolutely global in nature.

For example, Metalor operates four precious metals refineries globally, in Switzerland, Hong Kong, Singapore and Massachusetts (US). Heraeus runs gold refining and gold bar production facilities in Hanau (Germany), Hong Kong, and Newark (US). In addition to its Swiss refinery, PAMP, part of the Geneva-based MKS PAMP group, runs a joint venture refinery in New Delhi, in conjunction with MMTC, a large state-owned Indian trading company.

In many cases, the ownership of these refineries is international and cross-border in nature, and increasingly so over the last few years. Agor-Heraeus is owned by the Austrian Mint and two German entities Commerzbank and Hereaus. In 2015, Valcambi was acquired by Indian jewellery producer Rajesh Exports, with one of the selling shareholders being US-based gold mining giant Newmont. Indeed, just last month, Tanaka announced the acquisition of Metalor Technologies, a development which has initiated an upcoming major Japanese - Swiss precious metals refinery combination. Metalor was already international in ownership, as its controlling shareholders are French and Belgian private equity companies. While Rand Refinery of South Africa is  exclusively owned by five of the largest South African gold mining companies, some of these owners, such as Anglogold Ashanti and Goldfields, are vast international concerns. Rand Refinery has also increasingly had to cast its new wider for sourcing gold to process in its refinery as South African gold mining output has declined. Rand Refinery now refines over 75% of the gold mined on the African continent (excluding South Africa), and is also increasingly tapping into gold mining output from the US and Asia.

The World's Refinery Referees

Another indicator of the esteem within which these select refineries are held is their membership of the exclusively small panels of good delivery list referees which have been appointed to run the LBMA’s good delivery lists, and similar good delivery lists maintained by the London Platinum and Palladium Market (LPPM) for platinum and palladium bars.

The LBMA’s good delivery referee panel is a five refinery member panel made up of Argor-Heraeus, Metalor Technologies, PAMP, Rand Refinery and Tanaka Kikinzoku Kogyo. The LPPM’s referee panel also comprises five refiner members, namely Metalor Technologies, PAMP, Valcambi, Tanaka Kikinzoku Kogyo and platinum specialist Johnson Matthey. So not only are these refineries listed on these LBMA and LPPM good delivery lists, they actually help run the entire set of good delivery standards and processes. With the upcoming acquisition of Metalor by Tanaka, these LBMA and LPPM referee lists may need some adjustment, since Tanaka and Metalor are members of both referee panels.

Overwhelmingly, the gold and silver bars of these refiners are all also accepted as good delivery for the COMEX gold 100 oz and gold kilo futures contracts, the gold contracts of the Tokyo Commodity Exchange (TOCOM), the Dubai Good Delivery gold list maintained by the Dubai Multi Commodities Centre (DMCC), and the good delivery standards of the Shanghai Gold Exchange.

Investment bullion bars

Although all of these precious metals refineries, to various extents, supply semi-fabricated precious metals, alloys and industrial precious metals suppliers to a diverse set of industrial and jewellery sector clients, it is perhaps the investment grade bullion products of these giant refiners that they are best known to a global audience.

PAMP fabricates a vast range of cast and minted gold and silver bars which are extremely popular across Asia and the Middle East, in fact, the premier brand in those regions. Valcambi manufactures a wide range of gold, silver and platinum / palladium investment bars, as well as precious metal coins and medals, and has become well-known as the international supplier of Combibars. Heraeus, Metalor and Argor-Heraeus produce a wide selection of gold and silver bars ranging from large wholesale (good delivery) bars through to smaller cast and minted gold and silver bars. Tanaka’s gold bars dominate the Japanese market and notably, Tanaka is also the sole distributor in Japan of gold and silver bullion Maple Leafs coins from the Royal Canadian Mint and gold and platinum Philharmonic coins from the Austrian Mint. Tanaka's acquisition of Metalor will be interesting in terms of how the combined group markets and distributes its investment bullion products going forward.

It's also not widely appreciated that Rand Refinery has refined over 50,000 tonnes of gold since it first opened in 1921, which is a staggering nearly one-third of all the gold ever mined. Rand Refinery large gold bars are held widely by central banks across the world. Rand Refinery’s flagship gold bullion Krugerrand coin is also held very widely, with over 60 million Krugerrands minted since 1967.

This article has not touched on the Perth Mint, Royal Canadian Mint or Royal Mint, which its important to remember, each operates its own precious metals refinery facilities in addition to being a sovereign national mint.

In summary, the seven refineries featured above are truly giants of the industry, and their longevity and customer trust attest to the authenticity and quality of their investment bullion products.

To learn more about the world's top precious metals refineries featured in this article, please see the full refinery profiles which have now been published on BullionStar's Gold University pages:

Heraeus: https://www.bullionstar.com/gold-university/heraeus-refinery

PAMP: https://www.bullionstar.com/gold-university/pamp-refinery

Valcambi: https://www.bullionstar.com/gold-university/valcambi-refinery

Metalor: https://www.bullionstar.com/gold-university/metalor-refinery

Argor-Heraeus: https://www.bullionstar.com/gold-university/argor-heraeus-refinery

Tanaka Kikinzoku Kogyo: https://www.bullionstar.com/gold-university/tanaka-refinery

Rand Refinery: https://www.bullionstar.com/gold-university/rand-refinery

In addition, the refining activities of the Royal Mint, Royal Canadian Mint and Perth Mint can be consulted in their respective profiles, also on BullionStar's Gold University pages:

Royal Mint: https://www.bullionstar.com/gold-university/the-royal-mint

Perth Mint: https://www.bullionstar.com/gold-university/perth-mint

Royal Canadian Mint: https://www.bullionstar.com/gold-university/royal-canadian-mint


Bullion coin sales boost revenues of world’s largest Mints

The world’s major precious metals mints are currently riding high on the back of extremely strong global bullion coin demand and relatively buoyant gold and silver prices. These mints are predominantly run as commercial enterprises. The sheer scale of revenues that the US Mint, Royal Canadian Mint (RCM), Perth Mint and Austrian Mint have been generating over the last number of years is eye-opening. Not surprisingly, due to their high value nature, revenues from bullion coin sales account for the lion’s share of total revenues for each institution and have been a core driver of their overall profitability.

Official Bullion Coin Programs

Each of these four mints has an official bullion coin program. The US Mint’s program consists of the production and sales of American Eagle Silver bullion coins, American Eagle gold bullion coins, American Buffalo gold bullion coins, America the Beautiful silver coins, and American Eagle Platinum coins. RCM's bullion coin program comprises gold, silver, platinum and palladium Maple Leaf bullion coins, as well as the recently added MapleGrams.

The Perth Mint bullion program is slightly more extensive and briefly consists of the following: Australian Kangaroo gold and silver coin series, Australian Kookaburra silver coin series, Australian Koala silver coin series, Australian Platypus platinum coin series, Australian Lunar gold and Australian Lunar silver coin series. The flagship of the Austrian Mint's bullion program is the Vienna Philharmonic gold bullion coin series, but the mint also produces the Vienna Philharmonic as a silver and platinum bullion coin, as well as historical re-strikes of original Austrian circulation gold ducats, gold guilders and gold crowns.

Bullion Coin Sales Drive Revenues

In fiscal 2015 (to September 30), the US Mint generated revenues of US$2.12 billion on its bullion coin sales. This represented 57.6% of the Mint’s total 2015 revenues of US$ 3.69 billion. Revenues from gold Eagles totalled $979.6 million, silver Eagle sales added $785.4 million, and gold American Buffalos contributed another $252.2 million in revenues.

In 2015, the RCM’s Gold Maple Leaf coin sales generated revenues of CA$1.41 billion while the Silver Maple Leaf coins added a further CA$687 million, giving a combined revenue of CA$2.1 billion. This represented over 80% of RCM’s total bullion revenues in 2015, and nearly 71% of RCM’s total 2015 group revenues.

The Austrian Mint’s annual report for 2015 is not out yet but will be published in early July. For calendar 2014, the Austrian Mint generated revenues of €1.14 billion. The biggest revenue contributors were gold bullion coin sales of €464.2 million and gold bar sales of €391.7 million. Together the Austrian’s Mint’s gold coin and bar sales represented a combined 75% of total mint revenues.

However, profit margins on the mints’ bullion coin sales are relatively small. For example, in fiscal year 2015, the US Mint only generated bullion income of $61.1 million on bullion revenue of $2.126 billion, so this was a margin of 2.87%. Nevertheless, it’s important to remember that the bullion sales of these mints, both in coins and bars, supply a global distribution network of precious metals wholesalers, bullion dealers and banks on the downstream side, as well as a chain of precious metals suppliers, refineries and gold miners upstream. Not to forget the ultimate beneficiaries of bullion sales, the investors and collectors. There is therefore an entire virtuous ecosystem built around the bullion coin output of these giant precious metals mints.

Furthermore, an often overlooked point is that with all four of these mints, profits from operations can and often do go to the mints’ owners in the form of either transfers or dividends. For three of the mints, their owners are governments. For the Austrian Mint it is owned by a government-owned central bank, which is essentially the same thing.


Government Ownership and Dividends

The US Mint is part of the US Department of the Treasury, and reports to the Office of the Treasurer. The Mint is structured as a Public Enterprise Fund (PEF) under 31 U.S.C. § 5136 and generates its own revenues without the need for Federal appropriations. Any revenue that the US Mint deems to be excess to it’s needs is transferred to the Treasury General Fund.

For fiscal year 2015 (to September 30), the US Mint transferred $561 million to the Treasury General Fund, however $11 million of this was income from numismatic / bullion products, as the rest was a seigniorage transfer from the sale of circulating coins to the Federal Reserve Banks. But interesting, this $11 million can actually be used to reduce the US Treasury’s budget deficit.

The Royal Canadian Mint (RCM), a federal Crown corporation of the Government of Canada, is 100% owned by the Canadian Government and reports to the Canadian Department of Finance. Like the US Mint, the RCM is not funded by the Government and is predominantly run as a commercial organization except for the Canadian circulation coin program which since 2014 has been operated on a non-profit basis. Although the RCM made a small loss in fiscal 2015 (its year-end is December 31) due to a one-off impairment, it still paid dividends of CA$53 million to the Government of Canada which was a lot higher than previous years due to strong Maple Leaf coin sales.

The Perth Mint, through a holding company called Gold Corporation, is 100% owned by the Government of Western Australia. Western Australia is a state within the Commonwealth of Australia. The Perth Mint group operates on a fully commercial basis and is self-funding. In its fiscal 2015 results to June 30, the Mint made a profit after tax of AU$14 million and also paid a dividend of AU$10.54 million to the Government of Western Australia.

The Austrian Mint (Münze Österreich) is fully owned by Austria’s central bank, the Oesterreichische Nationalbank (OeNB). The OeNB’s capital is itself fully owned by the Austrian government. Although the Austrian Mint 2015 annual report is not yet published, the Austrian central bank has already reported that for 2015, it received a regular dividend of a cool €89 million from the Austrian Mint. In 2014, the Austrian Mint paid the central bank an even bigger dividend of €184.8 million out of its net profit.


Silver - Gold Production Ratio

The relative importance of gold and silver bullion coin sales varies across each mint and between years since each Mint’s bullion program differs, and demand patterns ebb and flow.

In 2015, the US Mint sold 801,500 ounces (24.93 tonnes) of gold American Eagles and 220,500 ounces (6.86 tonnes) of gold American Buffalos, for total gold bullion coin sales of 1,022,000 ounces (31.79 tonnes). Silver American Eagle sales reached 47 million ounces (1,461.85 tonnes) in 2015, with another 1,060,000 ounces (32.97 tonnes) of America the Beautiful 5 oz coins sold, bringing total US Mint silver bullion coin sales to 48.06 million ounces (1,494.82 tonnes).

Using a metric of silver ounces sold compared to gold ounces sold, this gives a silver to gold coin sales ratio of 47:1 for the US Mint. In 2015, the RCM sold 953,000 ounces of gold Maple Leaf bullion coins (29.6 tonnes), and 34.3 million ounces (1067 tonnes) of silver Maple Leaf bullion coins, giving a silver to gold coin sales ratio of 36 for the RCM. Therefore applied to 2015, it is justifiable for the US Mint to say that it was the world’s largest seller of gold bullion coins and silver bullion coins.

Although the Austrian Mint hasn’t published its full 2015 bullion sales statistics yet, it did reveal to Bloomberg earlier this year that its combined gold coin and gold bars sales for 2015 totalled 1.32 million ounces (41 tonnes), and its combined silver sales in 2015 totalled 7.3 million ounces (227 tonnes). This would give a general silver to gold ratio for the Austrian Mint of only 5.53, which highlights the Austrian Mint’s relative concentration on gold bullion over silver bullion.

In 2014, the Austrian Mint sold 483,700 ounces (15 tonnes) of gold coins, mainly Vienna Philharmonics, and 410,364 ounces of gold bars (12.75 tonnes). Total gold sold was therefore 894,000 ounces (27.75 tonnes). The Mint’s silver coin sales approximated 144.4 tonnes of silver in 2014. This would give a silver to gold coin ratio of 9.63 and a silver coin to total gold (coins and bars) ratio of 5.2.

Overall, the world’s largest mints are a useful source of income for their government owners. More importantly though, these Mints actually make the valuable and high quality investment gold and silver coins and bars that are in such high demand right now, and that also provide tangible economic benefits such as employing large numbers of people around the world in highly skilled jobs.

To learn more about the world's top Mints, please see full profiles of these Mints which have now been published on BullionStar's Gold University pages:

United States Mint: http://www.bullionstar.com/gold-university/united-states-mint

Royal Canadian Mint: https://www.bullionstar.com/gold-university/royal-canadian-mint

Perth Mint: http://www.bullionstar.com/gold-university/perth-mint

Austrian Mint http://www.bullionstar.com/gold-university/austrian-mint