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Azure’s managing director said the company was immediately progressing into the feasibility study stage with the intention of developing Oposura into Azure’s first operating mine as swiftly as possible.

Azure Minerals (ASX:AZS) has announced positive outcomes from the scoping study completed on its Oposura zinc-lead-silver project in Sonora, Mexico.

As quoted in the press release:

The study delivers a life of mine EBITDA of AU$237 million, NPV8 (pre-tax) of AU$112 million and an IRR (pre-tax) of 76 percent, confirming Oposura as an economically and technically robust, high-margin project. Low operating and capital costs, high-value concentrate, strong operating cashflows, a payback period of about 16 months and, most importantly, a C1 cash cost (per pound of payable zinc production) in the lowest quartile of world zinc producers, all support the positive project economics.

Azure’s Managing Director, Tony Rovira said:

“The completion of this Study with its very positive project economics represents a key milestone for the company. We’re immediately progressing into the feasibility study stage with the intention of developing Oposura into the company’s first operating mine as swiftly as possible to take advantage of the strong zinc thematic.”

Click here to read the full Azure Minerals (ASX:AZS) press release.

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The mining and resources sector now sets its sights on Australia’s largest mining investment forum, Mines and Money @ IMARC, co-located with IMARC from January 31, 2022, to February 2, 2022, at the Melbourne Showgrounds.

It was gold price, lithium demand and China’s appetite for copper that dominated much of the discussion at Mines and Money Online Connect @ IMARC this week at the virtual event running from the 19th to the 21st October.

Mines and Money Online Connect saw 90 mining companies, 600+ investors and more than 2,000 participants log-on to hear mining executives and analysts discuss the next big thing for savvy investors in 2022.

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Rio Tinto Iron Ore Chief Executive, Simon Trott and Rio Tinto Managing Director of Port, Rail and Core Services, Richard Cohen, joined community members, local businesses and representatives from local government to celebrate the official opening of its new community ‘Hub’ in Karratha. Located on Ngarluma country in the heart of Karratha’s CBD, the new Rio Tinto Karratha Hub will make it easier for local …

Rio Tinto Iron Ore Chief Executive, Simon Trott and Rio Tinto Managing Director of Port, Rail and Core Services, Richard Cohen, joined community members, local businesses and representatives from local government to celebrate the official opening of its new community ‘Hub’ in Karratha.

Located on Ngarluma country in the heart of Karratha’s CBD, the new Rio Tinto Karratha Hub will make it easier for local people to connect with our busines.

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Rio Tinto is progressing an innovative new technology to deliver low-carbon steel, using sustainable biomass in place of coking coal in the steelmaking process, in a potentially cost-effective option to cut industry carbon emissions. Over the past decade, Rio Tinto has developed a laboratory-proven process that combines the use of raw, sustainable biomass with microwave technology to convert iron ore to metallic …

Rio Tinto is progressing an innovative new technology to deliver low-carbon steel, using sustainable biomass in place of coking coal in the steelmaking process, in a potentially cost-effective option to cut industry carbon emissions.

Over the past decade, Rio Tinto has developed a laboratory-proven process that combines the use of raw, sustainable biomass with microwave technology to convert iron ore to metallic iron during the steelmaking process. The patent-pending process, one of a number of avenues the company is pursuing to try to lower emissions in the steel value chain, is now being further tested in a small-scale pilot plant.

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kangaroos in front of the sunrise

Silver is on the rise in Australia, with new silver mines opening, production potential booming and the precious metal's valuation reaching new heights.

Analysts have been bullish on gold for the better part of the past decade, but now it's silver's time to shine. While the price of silver tends to rise and fall alongside that of gold, silver's valuation is generally more volatile — slower to move in either direction, but more prone to abrupt spikes and plunges.

Considering the market's longtime gold rush, silver is due for a major price hike. In 2020, silver hit a seven year high with 27 percent year-over-year growth, climbing faster than gold. Silver was on the rise again in February 2021, bolstered by WallStreetBets fervour. Though prices have stabilised since, they remain elevated compared to the past decade. Additionally, at only a fraction of gold's valuation, silver is a much more attainable buy.

Shrewd investors are looking to Australia for their silver picks. A country whose silver mines continued to flourish even when most of the world was in a precious metal slump, Australia has emerged from the COVID-19 pandemic as a major player in the global silver market.


A look at Australia and silver mining

When you think of mining in Australia, you may not think of silver, especially since the country is a top global producer of several other metals, including gold and iron ore. Nevertheless, silver is on the rise in Australia, with new silver mines opening, production potential booming and the precious metal's valuation reaching new heights.

This may be surprising news, especially since 2020 was an erratic year for silver. Global silver-mining production plunged by 5.9 percent in 2020 — its biggest drop in over 10 years —⁠ following four years of steady decline.

Output from primary silver mines plummeted by 11.9 percent year-over-year, while silver by-product suffered a more modest drop, with production from gold and lead-⁠zinc mines falling by 5.7 percent and 7.4 percent, respectively. Note that silver is largely produced as a by-product of other metal-mining processes, with 72 percent of silver production taking place at non-silver mines.

This production downturn was the result of COVID-19 restrictions that forced mines to suspend operations temporarily. Silver mine closures hit certain places harder than others, with extended closures in top silver-producing countries such as Peru, Mexico, Argentina and Bolivia causing major production drops.

Australia, however, was an exception to this rule, with production increasing by 3 percent. The reason for Australia's success is that it remained relatively untouched by COVID-19 restrictions. While other countries were forced to shut down production facilities, Australia was able to avoid these closures, continuing — and even upgrading — regular operations.

Australia is now the fifth largest silver producer globally, with an annual output of 43.8 million ounces in 2020. While the output of silver-mining giants such as Mexico and Peru (178.1 million and 109.7 million ounces produced in 2020, respectively) continues to far exceed that of Australia, global demand for silver is on the rise, hitting 900 million ounces annually and making room for a new silver-mining powerhouse.

What should investors know about silver investing in Australia?

Silver remains a relatively untapped resource in Australia, which means that investors have plenty of major mining companies to choose from.

Australia's largest mine is the Cannington mine owned by South32 (ASX:S32,OTC Pink:SHTLF). It is ranked as the ninth largest silver-producing mine worldwide, with 11.6 million ounces produced in 2020.

The country's second biggest silver-producing mine is the Mount Isa zinc mine. It is owned by Mount Isa Mines, a subsidiary of Glencore (LSE:GLEN,OTC Pink:GLCNF), and produced around 5.8 million ounces of silver in 2020. The Tritton copper mine, owned by Aeris Resources (ASX:AIS,OTC Pink:ARSRF), followed closely behind with nearly 4.5 million ounces produced in the same year.

Other notable Australian silver mines include the Golden Grove mine, which is owned by 29Metals (ASX:29M), and the Dugald River mine, which is owned by Metallic Minerals (ASX:MMG,TSXV:MMG,OTCQB:MMNGF). In 2020, these mines produced around 2.9 million and 2 million ounces of silver, respectively.

Australia's impressive silver-mining industry is well-positioned for further expansion, with Silver Mines (ASX:SVL,OTC Pink:SLVMF) planning to launch its Bowden silver project in 2023. This New South Wales-based silver mine is projected to produce around 6 million ounces of silver annually, which would make it the country's new second largest producer. The company hopes to capitalise on the promising solar panel market, which currently accounts for about 5.5 percent of all silver demand worldwide.

Moreover, Australian company Thomson Resources (ASX:TMZ,OTC Pink:TMZRF) bought the New South Wales-based Webb and Conrad silver projects from Silver Mines earlier this year in a transaction worth around US$8.6 million. The deal closed on March 31, and will enable Silver Mines to concentrate on its flagship Bowden project.

Investing in silver in Australia

There are many ways to invest in silver, including physical silver, stocks, exchange-traded funds (ETFs), mutual funds, options and futures. Choosing which investment route to take is all about balancing risk and reward.

Investing in physical silver is the most straightforward option: you simply buy a tangible piece of the precious metal in the form of bullion, official coins or medallions. Bullion is a bar or 1 ounce coin of solid silver with at least 99.9 percent purity. Official silver coins are currency produced by a government mint, while silver medallions resemble coins, but lack monetary value, .

The price of physical silver rises and falls alongside the metal's market value. Physical silver is a relatively safe investment, since its value can't be affected by third-party interference or bad business practices (risks characteristic of mining stocks). However, if you plan to trade often, the added costs of buying, selling and storing physical silver may make the investment not worth your while.

Investments in physical silver rose by 8 percent last year, boosted by silver's status as a safe asset and market bullishness on gold. In Australia, coins and medals fabrication increased by 35 percent year-over-year, making physical silver a smart choice for any risk-averse investor.

Of course, low risk often means low reward. If you're looking for a bigger payday, consider investing in silver-mining stocks instead. After all, when silver's market price goes up, it is often the case that the value of a mining stock could spike far higher than that of the physical metal. The disadvantage is that mining stocks are always risky — even when the silver market is strong, a mining endeavour can fail to pan out.

ETFs offer investors the best of both worlds. ETFs are a basket of varied equities, including physical metals and shares in mining companies. Much like individual stocks, they are liable to rise or fall in price according to the market, though they tend to be less risky than stocks.

In 2020, ETF investments were at an all-time-high, though Australia only has one silver ETF that includes the physical precious metal. Stocks are a much more common means of investing in silver in Australia. The country boasts over a dozen silver-mining companies, including South32 and Silver Mines, as well as Newcrest Mining (ASX:NCM,TSX:NCM,OTC Pink:NCMGF), Golden Deeps (ASX:GED) and Investigator Resources (ASX:IVR).

Don't forget to follow us @INN_Australia for real-time news updates.

Securities Disclosure: I, Isabel Armiento, hold no direct investment interest in any company mentioned in this article.

Interested in investing in gold in Australia? This guide covers multiple ways to enter the market, from physical metal to ETFs to stocks.

With gold sitting near all-time highs, interest is high and investors are looking at ways to enter the market.

Australian investors may want to turn their attention to their own backyard. Australia is currently the second largest gold-producing country in the world, and its western region is a jurisdiction that is increasingly being sought out by exploration and mining companies.

Read on for a breakdown of the Australian gold market, as well as how and why to invest in the area.


Investing in gold in Australia: A major producer

As mentioned, Australia is currently the second largest gold-producing country. Gold output in the country reached 320 metric tons in 2020, down slightly from 325 metric tons the previous year.

"There's three countries that combine the rule of law with significant gold production: Canada, the US and Australia. Outside of these three, there's not much gold, or there's not much protection for individual investors and companies," said Kevin McElligott, managing director, Australia, at Franco-Nevada (TSX:FNV,NYSE:FNV).

"Australia is very similar to Canada in many obvious ways. Large country, small population, western liberal democracy, high standard of living, high international trade, etc.," he added.

McElligott continued, "The difference for Australia is that gold is 12 percent of exports, versus 2 percent for Canada. So the gold producers are more important to the Australian economy, to maintain that high standard of living. There's higher political and social support for gold mining here."

One of the more prolific gold-mining areas of Australia is Western Australia, which accounts for close to 70 percent of the country's total gold output. In fact, gold mining is the third largest commodity sector in the state, behind iron ore, crude oil and liquefied natural gas, with a value of approximately AU$16.63 billion.

The Fraser Institute recently named Western Australia one of the best mining jurisdictions in the world, fourth on the list after Nevada, Arizona and Saskatchewan. The more than half a million square kilometre area has attracted major miners such as Rio Tinto (ASX:RIO,LSE:RIO,NYSE:RIO) and BHP (ASX:BHP,NYSE:BHP,LSE:BLT).

Recent exploration activity in the Pilbara region of Western Australia has renewed interest and helped increase the country's consistent gold output. The area is currently in the midst of increased gold exploration thanks to a major discovery in 2017 by Novo Resources (TSXV:NVO,OTCQX:NSRPF) and Artemis Resources (ASX:ARV,OTCQB:ARTTF).

Some geologists have compared the geology of the Pilbara craton with South Africa's Kaapvaal craton and Witwatersrand basin. The similarities are significant considering Witwatersrand is home to the Earth's largest-known gold reserves and is responsible for over 40 percent of worldwide gold production.

Both the Pilbara and Witwatersrand are similar in age and composition, sitting on top of the Archean granite-greenstone basement. The Pilbara area hosts numerous small mesothermal gold deposits containing conglomerate gold — mineralization known to hold large, high-grade gold nuggets.

Following on after Novo and Artemis, a number of gold exploration companies have moved into the Pilbara area, including De Grey Mining (ASX:DEG,OTC Pink:DGMLF), Kairos Minerals (ASX:KAI,OTC Pink:MPJFF), Pacton Gold (TSXV:PAC,OTC Pink:PACXF) and Monterey Minerals (CSE:MREY).

Major mining companies like Kirkland Lake Gold (TSX:KL,NYSE:KL,ASX:KLA) have also invested in the region. Kirkland has committed C$56 million to Novo Resources, and its chairman, Eric Sprott, is a well-known resource investor who owns shares in Novo, as well as several other companies in the Pilbara region.

Investing in gold in Australia: Physical gold

Australians looking to invest in the gold space may want to look first at physical gold, which experts often suggest as a secure starting point for entering the market.

In terms of Australian physical gold, investors are able to buy and sell as much as they want, as the government does not place a minimum or maximum on the amount of the yellow metal in one's possession.

However, it's worth noting that some banks do not technically permit the storage of bullion; this is listed in the terms and agreements that customers must sign when they register. Private investors who reside in Australia should also keep in mind that physical gold can't be insured.

Below are examples of the types of Australian physical gold available for investors at the Perth Mint:

  • Bullion coins — The mint offers the Australian Kangaroo, a gold coin containing 1 ounce of 99.99 percent pure gold.
  • Minted bars — The Perth Mint also gives investors the option to buy minted bars in eight different sizes ranging from 1 gram to 10 ounces. The minted bars are 99.99 percent pure gold.
  • Cast bars — The mint describes cast bars as "one of the most cost effective and convenient ways to buy precious metals." These 99.99 percent pure gold bars range in size from half an ounce to 50 ounces.

Investors who don't want to buy physical gold directly from the Perth Mint can also buy from dealers; Australians may also want to consider reputable products like the American Gold Eagle and the Canadian Maple Leaf.

Investing in gold in Australia: Gold ETFs

Exchange-traded funds, better known as ETFs, are another popular way of getting exposure to the gold space. They trade like stocks on an exchange, which makes them easily accessible, but tend to be less risky.

The ASX is home to a number of gold-focused ETFs; read on to learn about a few of the choices available:

  • ETFS Metal Securities Australia (ASX:GOLD) — This ETF has been listed on the ASX since 2003, with a management fee of 0.4 percent. With this ETF, one share represents about a tenth of the spot gold price. For example, if the physical gold spot price is trading at AU$1,593.10 an ounce, one share, or unit, of this ETF will be roughly AU$153.
  • Perth Mint Gold ETF (ASX:PMGOLD) — The Perth Mint Gold ETF also launched in 2003, but has a much lower management fee of 0.15 percent. This is because its structure allows for lower storage costs. This ETF tracks the gold spot price, but the gold is held by the Perth Mint on the behalf of investors. It also doesn't have the same level of liquidity as ETFS Metal Securities as it trades at about a fifth of its size.
  • BetaShares Gold Bullion ETF (ASX:QAU) — The BetaShares Gold Bullion ETF is unique from the two ETFs listed above as it tracks the US gold spot price, providing "purer" exposure to the US spot gold price. BetaShares units are equal to one-hundredth of the US spot gold price. That means that a movement of a dollar in the US spot gold price is equal to a movement of a cent in BetaShares. The ETF has a management fee of 0.59 percent
  • Van Eck Vectors Gold Miners ETF (ASX:GDX) — Launched in 2015, this ETF provides diversified exposure to gold-mining companies. While only 13 percent of its holdings are ASX-listed stocks, its top 10 constituents include two Australian companies, Newcrest Mining (ASX:NCM,TSX:NCM,OTC Pink:NCMGF) and Northern Star Resources (ASX:AST,OTC Pink:NESRF). The management fee is 0.54 percent.

Investing in gold in Australia: ASX-listed gold stocks

Finally, those interested in investing in gold in Australia may want to look at gold-mining and exploration companies listed on the ASX. An easy place to begin is with the biggest gold companies listed on the ASX:

The biggest gainers are another solid point to start from:

Finally, those more interested in particular jurisdictions may want to check out these state-by-state overviews of ASX-listed gold companies:

As with any investment, the key to investing in ASX gold stocks is to keep due diligence front and centre.

This is an updated version of an article first published by the Investing News Network in 2019.

Don't forget to follow us @INN_Australia for real-time updates!

Securities Disclosure: I, Melissa Pistilli, currently hold no direct investment interest in any company mentioned in this article.

Editorial Disclosure: The Investing News Network does not guarantee the accuracy or thoroughness of the information reported in the interviews it conducts. The opinions expressed in these interviews do not reflect the opinions of the Investing News Network and do not constitute investment advice. All readers are encouraged to perform their own due diligence.