The Denver Gold Forum is annually one of the premiere conferences for those in business of gold, whether they are the miners of the metal or investors in the commodity and the companies that find and process it.
This year the conference was held at the Hyatt Recency in Denver, CO under what could be considered dark clouds over the industry. In the first six months of 2013 gold has hit its lowest levels in three years. A run up in gold prices that stretched more than a decade came to an end and gold producing companies have also taken a hit, the FTSE Gold Mines index fell 53 percent in the first six months ending in June.
Things did not get better, in fact they got worse for gold producing companies, and for other commodities, when U.S. Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernake made comments about the prospects for the U.S. economic stimulus saying that the Federal Reserve did not plan to trim its bond-buying stimulus.
According to a report from Reuters, these statements left investors surprised and uncertain over the central bank's next steps and how to interpret mixed signals from policymakers about the strength of the economy.
"The markets don't really know where to go at the moment," Saxo Bank senior manager Ole Hansen said.
"If the budget talks continue to stall, that could obviously give a boost, but on the other side the focus on the tapering won't go at the moment as an October announcement won't make the Fed look good," he told The Associated Press.
At the Denver Gold Forum, an invite only conference where companies are given 20 minutes to present to an audience of potential investors, the overriding theme of the presentations was cost-cutting and efficiency. Company executives were eager to explain how their companies have become more efficient and nimble in the time of $1,300/oz gold.
One of the more notable developments from the Denver Gold Forum was the announcement from Newmont Mining Corp. CEO Gary Goldberg that his company plans to expand copper production in addition to its core business of gold.
Goldberg told the forum that the company's three copper-gold projects are “very good core capabilities that we can leverage into copper.”
Falling, volatile gold prices and rising operating costs have pushed the miner towards diversification. Any moves into copper would help the company move downward on the cost curve and avoid more extreme “social, political and technical risks,” according to Goldberg.
The CEO also tempered optimism about a speedy return to production at Newmont's Conga project on the heels of the announcement from Peru’s Minister of Energy and Mines that his government plans to get mining projects back on track soon (ME, Sept. 23).
A restart at Conga is "not imminent," said Goldberg, adding that while the situation is improving, a decision by Newmont's Board on the project would not be taken until 2015 at the earliest.
Newmont has assets or operations in the United States, Australia, Peru, Indonesia, Ghana, Canada, New Zealand and Mexico.