text in pdf format) extract:
Americans Lost Their Right To Own Gold
Became Criminals in the Process
About the Author:
Mark Holzer is a Professor of Law. He teaches constitutional law, administrative
law, and other courses. His practice is limited to appeals and constitutional
Holzer has lectured widely on a variety of legal and law-related topics,
and his articles have appeared in newspapers, popular and professional
magazines, and academic journals. His most recent books are The Gold Clause
Government's Money Monopoly
For the first time since [James] Bond had known
Goldfinger, the big, bland face, always empty of expression. showed a trace
of life . . . . "Mr. Bond, all my life I have been in love. I have been
in love with gold. I love its colour, its brilliance, its divine heaviness
. . . .I have worked all my life for gold . . . .I ask you . . . . is there
any other substance on
earth that so rewards its owner?"1
For centuries, most people have shared the fictional
Mr. Goldfinger?s attitude about gold, though not necessarily for the same
reasons. While gold has been much sought after, both for ornamental and
industrial purposes, modern times?or, more
specifically, modern governments?have taught men to value it for one
purpose above all others: as a hedge against the debasement of paper money.
Monetary economist Charles Rist acknowledged this phenomenon when he wrote:
?[I]n the absence of governments capable of maintaining stable money, private
individuals seek to assure it for themselves, hoarding a purchasing power
[gold] more stable than that of any other merchandise . . . stable money
is one of the last arms that remains at the disposal of the individual
to direct his own affairs, whether it be an enterprise or a simple household.?2
Indeed, during the monetary crisis of the last several
years, the price of gold soared in free world markets as more and more
individuals around the world acquired gold as a hedge against actual and
potential currency devaluations.3 Unfortunately, while
others scrambled to protect themselves from the instability of paper
money, Americans had to watch from the sidelines. For them, owning gold
has long been a criminal offense, punishable by up to ten years in jail
and/or up to a $10,000 fine; they
also risk confiscation of the gold and a penalty of twice its value.4
Most Americans are unaware of the existence of these
harsh criminal sanctions. Fewer still, including the legal community, are
aware of how?and why?Americans lost their right to own gold in the first
place. The facts, which should startle layman
and lawyer alike, expose the shaky legal foundation on which the gold
prohibition rests: an unconstitutional arrogation of congressional power
and the improper delegation of that power to the President, leading to
what can be called the ?endless
World War I: The Seeds Are Sown
The existence of a state of war between the United
States and Germany in 1917 had prompted the passage of the Trading with
the Enemy Act,5 one purpose of which was to make unlawful all dealings
between Americans and the enemies of the United States.6 However, an obscure
subsection of the Act7 authorized the President to regulate, investigate,
and prohibit ?under such rules and regulations as he may prescribe . .
. any transactions in foreign exchange, export or earmarkings of gold or
silver coin or bullion or currency . . . by any person within the United
States . . . ?8 These sweeping new presidential powers had teeth in them:
elsewhere the Act provided for severe criminal sanctions of up to ten years
in prison and/or up to a $10,000 fine for violation of any decrees which
the President might make under the Act.9. The net result of the Act, vis-à-vis
transactions in gold, was the arrogation by the Sixty-Fifth Congress of
a money power not granted by the Constitution10-and further: the delegation
of that power to the Executive branch of the Government.
The war emergency and the President's duty to fight
the war provided Congress with a convenient rationale for the Act. The
fact is, however, that the Constitution nowhere empowers Congress to prohibit
dealing in gold-much less authorizes Congress to delegate that power to
a coordinate branch of government.
Worst of all, the power which Congress delegated
to the President enabled him to make criminals out of honest American citizens
whose crime would consist only of trying to protect themselves from official
debasement of their money. In more fundamental terms, Americans henceforth
would be ?under the gun? for exercising a fundamental, inalienable right:
the right to deal with their own property as they saw fit. Gold, no matter
what its special characteristics, is, after all, just another form of
If there were those who feared that Congress had
more in mind than merely prohibiting transactions in gold during the World
War I emergency, their concern would have been justified. On September
24, 1918, less than a year after its original enactment, and virtually
on the eve of the War?s end, the Trading with the Enemy Act was amended
in two important respects: not only was the wartime Act extended ?[u]ntil
the expiration of two years after the date of the termination of the war
between the United States and the Imperial German Government. . . ,?11
but the amendment actually enlarged the Executive?s power to control private
gold. Now, President Woodrow Wilson could also ?[i]nvestigate, regulate,
or prohibit any hoarding . . . of gold . . . by any person within the United
States.?12 Less than two months later, on November 11, 1918, the war ended,
and two years later Wilson?s power over private gold expired. Once again,
Americans were under no restraints with regard to what they did with their
gold. Presumably, the emergency was over.
The New Deal and the New ?Emergency?
Franklin D. Roosevelt was inaugurated as President
on March 4, 1933. Throughout the country, banks were slamming their doors
on depositors clamoring to withdraw their own money, preferably in gold.
For people who were seeking to exchange soft paper currency for the more
stable metal?as existing law allowed, and as the Government had solemnly
pledged?the new President had other ideas. On March 5, 1933, one day after
taking office, Roosevelt issued a Proclamation convening Congress in Extra
Session at noon on March 9, 1933, a decision allegedly necessitated by
what the Chief Executive referred to vaguely as ?public interests.?13
But March 9 was still four days away, and Roosevelt
apparently was impatient to stop bank depositors from withdrawing their
paper money or converting it to gold. Accordingly, the next day, March
6,1933, he took an unprecedented step. For the first time in United States
history, an American president closed the nation?s banks. By Proclamation,14
he stated the following: the recent gold and currency withdrawals had been
?unwarranted? and for the purpose of ?hoarding?; speculation
abroad had caused ?severe drains? on the ?Nation?s? gold stocks; the
result was to create a national ?emergency?; further ?hoarding?; and ?speculation?
must be prevented and ?appropriate measures? taken ?to protect the interests
of our people?;
the Trading with the Enemy Act, as amended, had given the President
certain powers over private gold; and therefore, ?to prevent the export,
hoarding, or earmarking of gold,? the banks would take a ?holiday? from
Monday, March 6, 1933, to and
including Thursday, March 9, 1933, and that during the holiday no bank
would ?pay out, export, earmark, or permit the withdrawal or transfer in
any manner or by any device whatsoever of any gold . . . or take any other
action which might facilitate . . . hoarding.?15 Roosevelt?s action was
devoid of even arguable legal justification.
Nowhere in the Constitution is any branch of government,
let alone the Executive, given the power to close privately owned banking
institutions. Nor did the Proclamation even purport to invoke constitutional
authority. And despite the Proclamation?s passing reference to an alleged
?national emergency,? no war conditions were present which could have enabled
Roosevelt to argue that, under the Commander-in-Chief?s ?war powers,?16
he had the authority to place in suspended animation a huge, crucially
important part of America?s commercial establishment.
The Proclamation?s reference to the World War I
Trading with the Enemy Act, which had long since expired, was a strained
attempt to find some semblance of legal support for Roosevelt?s unprecedented
assumption of complete control over
America?s banking system.
It is no wonder that Roosevelt immediately sent
to a docile and compliant 73rd Congress, a hastily drawn but comprehensive
bill to amend the moribund Trading with the Enemy Act and to attempt to
secure a legal basis for the unilateral action hehad already taken.17
Retroactive Rubberstamping: The Emergency Banking Act
The House of Representatives convened at noon on
March 9, 1933. After the customary opening prayer and the disposing of
certain routine ?housekeeping? matters,18 a message was received from the
President19 which requested passage of
The bill?s preamble dramatizes the haste with which
the President?s minions sought to railroad the bill through both Houses
of Congress: ?An Act to provide relief in the existing national emergency
in banking, and for other purposes. Be it enacted . . . that the Congress
hereby declares that a serious emergency exists and that it is imperatively
necessary speedily to put into effect remedies of uniform national application.?20
In the House, Majority Leader Joseph W. Byrns, Democrat
of Tennessee, asked for immediate consideration of the bill and that debate
be limited to forty minutes, twenty minutes for each party. Mr. Byrns expressed
the hope that under the peculiar
circumstances and under the serious circumstances which confront the
country, we agree to take this bill up now, pass it, send it to the Senate
so it may become a law this evening, and thus enable the President of the
United States to open the banks tomorrow.21
Next rose House Minority Leader Bertrand H. Snell,
Republican of New York. After noting that ?it is entirely out of the ordinary
to pass legislation in this House that, as far as I know, is not even in
print at the time it is offered,? Mr. Snell, in a burst
of bipartisanship, observed: The house is burning down, and the President
of the United States says this is the way to put out the fire. [Applause.]
And to me at this time there is only one answer to this question, and that
is to give the President what he demands and says is necessary to meet
the situation. I do not know that I am in favor of all the details carried
in this bill,22 but whether I am or not, I am going to give the President
of the United States today his way. He is the man responsible, and we
must at this time follow his lead. I hope no one on this side of the
aisle will object to the consideration of the request. [Applause]23
Someone then produced a copy of the bill, and it
was read by the Clerk of the House.24 The bill was passed.25 After a short
discussion, the spectacle of what had just transpired in the House in that
hour-and-a-half session was best expressed by
Mr. LUNDEEN. Mr. Speaker,
today the Chief Executive sent to this House of Representatives a banking
bill for immediate enactment. The author of this bill seems to be unknown.
No one has told us who drafted the bill. There appears to be a printed
copy at the speakers desk, but no printed copies are available for the
House Members. The bill has been driven through the House with cyclonic
speed after 40 minutes debate, 20 minutes for the minority and 20 minutes
for the majority.
I have demanded a roll call,
but have been unable to get the attention of the Chair. Others have done
the same, notably Congressman SINCLAIR of North Dakota, and Congressman
BILL LEMKE, of North Dakota, as well as some of our other
Farmer Labor Members. Fifteen men were standing,
demanding a roll call, but that number is not sufficient; we therefore
have the spectacle of the great House of Representatives of the United
States of America passing, after a 40-minute debate, a bill its Members
never read and never saw, a bill whose author is unknown. The great majority
of the Members have been unable to get a minute?s time to discuss this
bill; we have been refused a roll call; and we have been refused recognition
by the Chair. I do not mean to say that the Speaker of the House of Representatives
intended to ignore us, but everything was in such a turmoil and there was
so much excitement that we simply were not recognized.
I want to put myself on record
against procedure of this kind and against the use of such methods in passing
legislation affecting millions of lives and billions of dollars. It seems
to me that under this bill thousands of small banks will be crushed and
wiped out of existence, and that money and credit control will be still
further concentrated in the hands of those who now hold the power.
It is safe to say that in
normal times, after careful study of a printed copy and after careful debate
and consideration, this bill would never have passed this House or any
other House. Its passage could be accomplished only by rapid procedure,
hurried and hectic debate, and a general rush for voting without roll call.
I believe in the House of
Representatives. I believe in the power that was given us by the people.
I believe that Congress is the greatest and most powerful body in America,
and I believe that the people have vested in Congress their ultimate and
final power in every great, vital question, and the Constitution bears
me out in that.
I am suspicious of this railroading
of bills through our House of Representatives, and I refuse to vote for
a measure unseen and unknown.
I want the RECORD to show
that I was, and am, against this bill and this method of procedure; and
I believe no good will come out of it for America. We must not abdicate
our power to exercise judgment. We must not allow ourselves to be swept
off our feet by hysteria, and we must not let the power of the Executive
paralyze our legislative action. If we do, it would be better for us to
resign and go home?and save the people the salary they are paying us.
I look forward to that day
when we shall read the bill we are considering, and see the author of the
bill stand before the House and explain it, and then, after calm deliberation
and sober judgment?after full and free debate?I hope to see sane
and sensible legislation passed which will lift
America out of this panic and disaster into which we were plunged by the
Neither ?calm deliberation and sober judgment, nor
?full and free debate? characterized what took place next in the Senate,27
where H.R. 1491?which affected ?millions of lives and billions of dollars??spent
the afternoon with at least eighty
United States Senators. Seventy-three of them voted ?yea?28 and the
bill, which had originated in the House at noon, passed the Senate by 7:30
P.M. Later that same night, Roosevelt approved it and H.R. 1491 became
the Emergency Banking Act.29
Fundamentally, the Act accomplished three things.
First, it retroactively approved the President?s illegal action of March
6, 1933.30 (If Roosevelt had thought himself to be on solid legal ground
when he closed the banks, one could ask why he thought it necessary to
go to Congress in the first place. This legislative ?rubber stamp? approach
to past and future executive action would be used more than once in themonths
Second, it amended section 5(b) of the Trading with
the Enemy Act, to provide that: During time of war or during any other
period of national emergency declared bythe President, the President may,
through any agency that he may designate, or
otherwise, investigate, regulate, or prohibit, under such rules and
regulations as he may prescribe, by means of licenses or otherwise, any
transactions in foreignexchange, transfers of credit between or payments
by banking institutions as defined by the President, and exporting, hoarding,
melting, or earmarking of gold or silver coin or bullion or currency, by
any person within the United States or any place subject to the jurisdiction
thereof; and the President may require any person engaged in any transaction
referred to in this subdivision to furnish under oath, complete information
relative thereto, including the production of any books of account, contracts,
letters or other papers, in connection therewith in the custody or control
of such person, either before or after such transaction is completed. Whoever
willfully violates any of the provisions of this subdivision or of any
license, order, rule of regulation issued thereunder, shall, upon conviction,
be fined not more than $10,000, or, if a natural person, may be imprisoned
for not more than ten years, or both, and any officer, director, or agent
of any corporation who knowingly participates in such violation may be
punished by a like fine, imprisonment, or both. As used in this subdivision
the term ?person? means an individual, partnership, association, or corporation.31
Finally, it added a new subsection (n) to the Federal
Reserve Act, giving the Secretary of the Treasury virtually unfettered
discretion to compel holders of gold coin, gold bullion, and gold certificates
to surrender them to the Treasurer of the United States, and to accept
paper money instead.32
Ironically, while the Act ostensibly reflected Congress?
alleged concern with gold withdrawals, Congress itself took no action at
all. Instead, consonant with the remarks on the floor of each House, Congress
gave the President sole authority to regulate all banks and financial transactions
in general, and everything concerning gold in particular (with the Secretary
of the Treasury acting as his ?Requisitioner-in-Waiting?). And more: Roosevelt?s
new powers far surpassed those granted President
Wilson by the World War I Trading with the Enemy Act; Roosevelt?s authority
extended beyond ?time of war? to ?any other period of national emergency
declared by the President.? Needless to say, just as the Act contained
no elaboration as to what
the current ?emergency? was, neither did it establish any criteria
by which thePresident was to ascertain the existence of any emergency?an
omission which was to prove crucially important to future presidents?and
to future owners of gold.
Cashing In on the ?Emergency?: Confiscation
Passage of the Emergency Banking Act on March 9,
1933 did not end that day?s hectic activities. Still later that night,
under the authority given him only several hours earlier, Roosevelt issued
a new Proclamation. This one continued, in full force and
effect, ?until further proclamation by the President,? the provisions
of his March 6, 1933 bank holiday Proclamation33 and the regulations and
orders which had been issued thereunder.34 However, a last loophole remained
to be plugged: many individuals still had gold in their possession and
no requisition had yet been made by the Government. Something had to be
done to keep the gold where the Government could get at it when the time
Accordingly, the next day, March 10, under the authority
of the Emergency Banking Act and ?all other authority vested in me,? Roosevelt
issued Executive Order No. 6073.31 In addition to authorizing the Secretary
of the Treasury to decide which of the nation?s banks could open, the order
prohibited owners of gold from exporting or otherwise removing it ?from
the United States or any place subject to the jurisdiction thereof. . .
except in accordance with regulations prescribed by or under license issued
by the Secretary of the Treasury.?36
Given this frozen state of financial affairs, the
President could now turn his attention to what earlier he had deprecatingly
referred to as ?hoarding??i.e., the holding of gold by the people who owned
it. It took Roosevelt a month. Acting under
the authority he thought had been given him by the Emergency Banking
Act, the President, on April 5, 1933, issued Executive Order No. 6l02.37
Its title clearly discloses how Roosevelt intended to deal with ?hoarding?:
?Executive Order Forbidding the Hoarding of Gold Coin, Gold Bullion, and
There were exceptions to this general prohibition:
every American could retain a maximum of one hundred dollars in gold coin
and gold certificates, rare coins were excepted altogether, and reasonable
amounts of gold could be retained for use in
industry and the arts. Banks, however, were required to turn over gold
coin, gold bullion, and gold certificates ?owned or received by them,?
to the Federal Reserve Bank. This included not only gold owned by the banks,
but also gold owned by their depositors. In short, on or before May 1,
1933, all privately owned gold in the United States (subject to a few minor
exceptions) was to be confiscated by the Government.
As compensation, the owners were to receive paper
money, whether they liked it or not.38 Willful failure to submit to the
confiscation was punishable by up to ten years in jail and/or up to a $10,000
During the next two months, additional steps were
taken to implement the government?s confiscatory policy. On April 19, the
Secretary of the Treasury advised that, until further notice, no further
licenses would be granted to export gold for the
purpose of supporting the dollar in foreign exchange.40 On April 20,
the President went one giant step further: he issued an Executive Order
prohibiting the earmarking for foreign account, and the export, of gold
coin, gold bullion, or gold certificates,
while, at the same time, authorizing the Secretary of the Treasury
to issue licenses permitting such export under certain conditions.41 On
April 29, the Secretary of the Treasury issued supplementary regulations
relating to the Executive Orders of April 5 and 20, with respect to gold
hoarding and the gold export embargo.42 Article 5, section 1, of those
regulations provided that:
any person showing the need for gold coin or gold
bullion for a proper transaction not involving hoarding, or for gold coin
or gold bullion for purposes specified in the Executive Order of April
5 1933, and not covered by the foregoing Articles of these regulations
may make application to the Secretary of the Treasury for a license to
purchase, or if such coin or bullion is already in his possession to retain
such coin or bullion.43
However, just the day before, on April 28, Acting
Secretary of the Treasury Ballantine had established a precondition for
all applicants: first, the gold had to be turned in. This precondition
was, of course, couched in more legalistic terminology:
Until further notice the Secretary of the Treasury will grant no licenses
for the acquisition of gold, gold coin, or bullion by persons making application
for the same under the Executive order of April 5, 1933, for the purpose
of meeting maturing obligations calling for payment in gold coin or bullion,
within the United States or elsewhere, except where such applicants have
surrendered gold coin, gold bullion, or gold certificates in obedience
to the Executive order of April 5, l933.44
text in pdf format)
Pierre-Alain Blum voulait recycler l'or
des partisans d'une Algérie française
de l'OAS refait parler de lui dans le Jura
Le gouvernement est prié de s'expliquer Jura
L'or de l'OAS refait parler de lui dans le JuraAFFAIRE - Pierre-Alain
Blum voulait recycler l'or des partisans d'une Algérie française.
Le gouvernement est prié de s'expliquer JuraIvan VecchiLes 33 millions
de francs accordés en 1990 par la Banque Cantonale du Jura à
l'entreprise Varinor SA à Delémont auraient dû servir
à financer un projet concocté par son partenaire, la firme
EBEL SA - et plus particulièrement par son actionnaire principal,
Pierre-Alain Blum. Le projet en question: recycler 450 tonnes d'or appartenant
à l'OAS (Organisation armée secrète), les partisans
d'une Algérie française. Ni plus ni moins que son trésor
de guerre de près de 7 milliards de francs suisses constitués
de lingots d'or entreposés au port franc de Zurich. Révélée
en mai 1998 par L'Impartial cette affaire nous avait été
confirmée par un ancien associé de l'entreprise, André
Varin («Le Matin» du 21 mai 1998). Puis le 22 novembre dernier
encore par un courrier de son frère, Jean Varin, établi aux
Philippines.Hier, c'est le groupe socialiste au Parlement qui est revenu
à la charge, déposant une intervention demandant au gouvernement
de divulguer les informations qu'il détient sur cette affaire. Pour
étayer ses propos, le député et président du
PSJ, Gilles Froidevaux, a montré une copie d'un courrier d'un expert-comptable
qui mettait en garde à l'époque Pierre-Alain Blum contre
les nouvelles dispositions pénales relatives au blanchiment d'argent,
arguant même que l'activité prévue à Varinor
paraissait «suffisamment proche» de ces dispositions pénales
pour attirer son attention. Selon le PSJ, c'est à réception
de ce courrier par M. Blum que les difficultés ont alors commencé
pour Varinor et par voie de conséquence pour la BCJ. Sans parler
du contribuable jurassien, dont les impôts servent encore à
éponger les pertes engendrées par toute cette affaire.Les
socialistes, qui veulent savoir si les anciens dirigeants de la BCJ étaient
au courant de ce projet, ont encore montré une copie de lettre de
crédit de la BCJ à Varinor, dans laquelle Robert Salvadé,
directeur général adjoint de la Banque, évoque ce
«projet ambitieux pour le développement de l'économie
jurassienne». S'ils étaient au courant, pourquoi n'en ont-ils
rien dit lors de la procédure de recapitalisation de l'établissement
bancaire? S'interrogeant sur la nature délictueuse de ces pratiques,
le groupe socialiste suggère au gouvernement de rouvrir l'enquête
pour faire la lumière sur les aspects touchant le recyclage de l'or
d'une organisation terroriste et sur l'implication de M. Blum et des anciens
dirigeants de la BCJ.
August 20, 2001
Anniversary of a Crime
by Burton S. Blumert
The 30th anniversary of Richard Nixon's closing of the gold window was
hardly mentioned in the financial press.
In one article posted on August 12 at Miningweb.com, a mining trade
publication, Nixon's dastardly act is described by writer Tim Wood: The
Executive Order "unplugged the U.S. dollar from its gold life support,"
bringing about "the longest period a gold standard has been absent from
the international system."
In effect, Nixon’s dictatorial Executive Order cancelled the dollar/gold
exchange rate established 27 years earlier, when foreign central banks
were allowed to claim an ounce of American gold for US$35. By his single
stroke, Tricky Dick cut any relationship the US dollar had to gold.
Mr. Wood pines for those good old days when (allegedly) the Fed respected
gold: "A central bank exists for no other (or better) reason than to keep
the national unit of account stable."
I'm a bit surprised Mr. Wood didn't apply even a bit of his tortured
nostalgia to the earthshaking event that occurred on April 5, 1933, when
gold was demonetized, and Americans lost the right to hold "real" money.
I'm sympathetic with Mr. Wood's depressed state, but there's another
date in gold's history that should be celebrated: January 1, 1975, when
all restrictions on owning gold were lifted.
Why no mention of April 5, 1933, and January 1, 1975?
I have a theory: Mr. Wood's reverence for gold is pragmatic. He is more
concerned with enlightening central bankers and reminding them of their
proper relationship to gold than the freedom of the individual.
If this sounds like the wisdom of Jude Wanniski, you are correct. Mr.
Wood gives full credit to Wanniski and the other supply siders for his
views on gold.
Mr. Wanniski is one of my heroes, and there is no more courageous commentator
on the passing scene. He buckles to no pressure, but I disagree with his
recommended path to a gold standard. The Fed cannot be trusted. But that
debate is for another time.
For now, I thank Mr. Wood and, indirectly, Mr. Wanniski, for prompting
me to reflect on my 40 years plus as a gold dealer.
If ever there was a day of infamy, April 5, 1933, qualifies. For the
first time, gold was demonetized and Americans were forced to surrender
their gold coins to the government. You received a $20 bill in exchange
for your $20 gold coin. Later that year, gold was revalued from $20.67
per ounce to $35. The citizen was first plundered, then humiliated, by
the monster Roosevelt.
On January 1, 1975, the beleaguered US citizen had a bit of freedom
restored when the draconian laws denying Americans the right to own and
trade gold were eliminated. No, a gold standard was not restored, but January
1, 1975, was a day freedom lovers celebrate.
Back to 1971: Nixon's action was more than symbolic. It had real impact.
And to conservatives of the day, the anguish caused by the closing of the
gold window was dwarfed by the shock of wage and price controls simultaneously
imposed by Executive Order. (Some contend that several key Southern Californian
Nixon supporters never forgave him for that betrayal, and quietly swung
their financial support to Ronald Reagan.)
In 1971, Nixon was preparing for his reelection campaign. He was tidying
up potentially troublesome areas. Consumer and wholesale price indices
were bubbling up although the increases were miniscule as compared with
inflation rates nine years later. Nixon's brain trust believed controls
would be politically palatable, and could head off future price increases
long enough to ensure his reelection.
The closing of the gold window meant little to most Americans as citizens
had been legally barred from holding the precious metal since 1933.
As part of his reelection campaign, Nixon also wanted to punish French
president Charles DeGaulle. In compliance to federal direction, the US
media caricaturized the elegant, aloof French hero as unappreciative. After
all, American conscripts had saved the French from the Hun in two world
wars. This comic opera general was greedily using American dollars to plunder
our gold reserves. Putting this ingrate in his place would resonate well
with US voters.
Where was the dissent? Well, there wasn't much.
The equity markets had little interest in the closing of the gold window,
but wage and price controls set the stock market off to record-high percentile
increases the day following the announcement. Only a few old-fashioned
economists, like Murray Rothbard and Hans Senholz, shook their heads in
disbelief. The failed ghost of controls had arisen once more.
And by 1971 most Americans had little first-hand memory of gold. The
Depression and WW II were indelibly imprinted on their psyches and if they
thought about gold at all, it was as a murky link to the hard times of
the 1930s. Silver was a different story. The dimes, quarters, and half
dollars minted almost continually from 1796 through 1964 were 90% silver.
Most folks simply took it for granted that the coinage was silver.
Not one in a thousand reflected that one dollar's face value in silver
coins contained 72 parts of a pure ounce and that at $1.29 an ounce, the
price fixed by the Treasury Department, the intrinsic value was precisely
one dollar. This magnificent reality went unnoticed.
That all came to an end several months after JFK's death in 1963.The
new "LBJ" non-silver, 10 and 25-cent sandwich coinage appeared on the scene
amidst a barrage of propaganda.
The experts said the "sandwiches" would circulate side-by-side with
the silver coins for eternity. Speculator-hoarders would find slim profit
in pulling the silver coinage from circulation. This obvious deceit provided
me with early evidence that public opinion was being manipulated and the
manipulators knew the truth.
Shortly thereafter the US Treasury announced that August 16, 1968, would
be the last day to redeem the $1, $5 and $10 silver certificates. In effect,
the government had created an expiring option, and as the days passed,
silver's time as money was passing as well. The silver coinage quickly
disappeared, of course.
Your local coin shop was the place where you purchased or sold silver
coinage, or liquidated your silver certificates. This activity honed the
coin industry for the onslaught that was to soon follow in the gold market.
In 1962 US Treasury Department policy toward gold ownership was little
changed since 1933. Gold for jewelry was legal. Gold coins dated 1932 and
older could be legally held, but ONLY if physically in the US and as collectibles,
not investments. All gold imports were forbidden, except by special license
which was rarely granted.
So, a US $20 St. Gaudens gold piece was available in Switzerland for
US $50, but, due to a shortage of supply in the US, it was worth $60 plus.
Hmmm…US gold coins minted prior to 1933 were legal if already here?
You couldn't legally bring them in. But, if you were able to get them here,
there was a nice profit. Interesting. Sounds like an invitation to the
My company, Camino Coin, was founded in 1959. Although our primary business
was numismatics, we soon were deeply involved in buying and selling precious
metals. In Europe, these services were provided by banks.
US government policy was harsh, and the gold coin bootleggers reign
existed through the early 1960s. The process was simple: the bootlegger
purchased the US gold coins in Europe where most of them had resided since
1933, and had them shipped to Canada. So far, everything was legal. Getting
the gold safely across the border was the problem.
Treasury Department enforcement against the smugglers was sporadic.
Most of the gold coins arrived safely, but occasionally the feds would
"send a message to the coin community" by making midnight raids and confiscating
gold as if they were dealing with dangerous drugs.
In one instance, I saw the process close up. A smuggler carried gold
coins from Canada to the state of Washington, packaged them, and mailed
the parcel from a Seattle post office to a US dealer. (This fellow was
selling them to me.) When the dealer's sister sought to pick them up at
her California post office, the Secret Service confiscated the coins.
The dealer, desperate to recover his merchandise, argued that since
the coins were mailed from Seattle, they were physically in the US, thereby
not subject to confiscation. The government held that these coins were
never "here," but rather in transit from Canada, hence, contraband. The
case finally went to a US Circuit Court and the government prevailed.
Near the end of JFK's presidency, the Treasury Department modified its
restrictions on gold coins minted 1932 and earlier. US and foreign coinage
could now be legally imported by Americans. This led to an avalanche of
European gold coins like the British Sovereign, the French and Swiss 20
Franc, and all the American gold coins coming into the US.
In 1973, with the government in disarray, and a president near impeachment,
a small but energetic movement to eliminate all remaining restrictions
on gold ownership won a shocking victory and for the first time in over
40 years, Americans could freely own and trade gold without restriction.
The late, great coin dealer and conference entrepreneur James U. Blanchard
III was the main force behind the struggle.
For the first time since 1932 gold coins, bars, and gold certificates
could be freely imported. Items that, prior to January 1, 1974, were almost
as dangerous to handle as heroin were part of everyday commerce.
But it took a while for a dealer to hold a Krugerrand or a Credit Suisse
gold kilo bar in his hand without looking over his shoulder to see if a
Secret Service agent was lurking in the shadows.
Burt Blumert [send him mail]
is publisher of LewRockwell.com
and president of the Center
for Libertarian Studies.
The Cost of Gold
Behind Gold's Glitter: Torn Lands and Pointed Questions
There has always been an element of madness to gold's allure.
For thousands of years, something in the eternally lustrous metal has
driven people to the outer edges of desire - to have it and hoard it, to
kill or conquer for it, to possess it like a lover.
In the early 1500's, King Ferdinand of Spain
laid down the priorities as his conquistadors set out for the New World.
"Get gold," he told them, "Humanely if possible, but at all costs, get
In that long and tortuous history, gold has now arrived at a new moment
of opportunity and peril.
The price of gold is higher than it has been in 17 years - pushing $500
an ounce. But much of the gold left to be mined is microscopic and is being
wrung from the earth at enormous environmental cost, often in some of the
poorest corners of the world.
And unlike past gold manias, from the time of the pharoahs to the forty-niners,
this one has little to do with girding empires, economies or currencies.
It is almost all about the soaring demand for jewelry, which consumes 80
percent or more of the gold mined today.
The extravagance of the moment is provoking a storm among environmental
groups and communities near the mines, and forcing even some at Tiffany
& Company and the world's largest mining companies to confront uncomfortable
questions about the real costs of mining gold.
"The biggest challenge we face is the absence of a set of clearly defined,
broadly accepted standards for environmentally and socially responsible
mining," said Tiffany's chairman, Michael Kowalski. He took out a full-page
advertisement last year urging miners to make "urgently needed" reforms.
Consider a ring. For that one ounce of gold, miners dig up and haul
away 30 tons of rock and sprinkle it with diluted cyanide, which separates
the gold from the rock. Before they are through, miners at some of the
largest mines move a half million tons of earth a day, pile it in mounds
that can rival the Great Pyramids, and drizzle the ore with the poisonous
solution for years.
The scars of open-pit mining on this scale endure.
A months-long examination by The New York Times, including tours of
gold mines in the American West, Latin America, Africa and Europe, provided
a rare look inside an insular industry with a troubled environmental legacy
and an uncertain future.
Some metal mines, including gold mines, have become the near-equivalent
of nuclear waste dumps that must be tended in perpetuity. Hard-rock mining
generates more toxic waste than any other industry in the United
States, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. The agency
estimated last year that the cost of cleaning up metal mines could reach
A recent report from the Government Accountability Office chastised
the agency and said legal loopholes, corporate shells and weak federal
oversight had compounded the costs and increased the chances that mining
companies could walk away without paying for cleanups and pass the bill
"Mining problems weren't considered a very high priority" in past decades,
Thomas P. Dunne, the agency's acting assistant administrator for solid
waste and emergency response, said in an interview. "But they are a concern
With the costs and scrutiny of mining on the rise in rich countries,
where the best ores have been depleted, 70 percent of gold is now mined
in developing countries like Guatemala
It is there, miners and critics agree, that the real battle over gold's
future is being waged.
Gold companies say they are bringing good jobs, tighter environmental
rules and time-tested technologies to their new frontiers. With the help
of the World Bank, they have opened huge mines promising development. Governments
have welcomed the investment.
But environmental groups say companies are mining in ways that would
never be tolerated in wealthier nations, such as dumping tons of waste
into rivers, bays and oceans. People who live closest to the mines say
they see too few of mining's benefits and bear too much of its burden.
In Guatemala and Peru,
people have mounted protests to push miners out. Other communities are
taking companies to court.
This month a Philippine province sued the world's fifth-largest gold
Placer Dome, charging that it had ruined a river, bay and coral reef by
dumping enough waste to fill a convoy of trucks that would circle the globe
Placer Dome, which also runs three major mines in Nevada,
answered by saying that it had "contained the problem" and already spent
$70 million in remediation and another $1.5 million in compensation.
Some in the industry have paused to consider whether it is worth the
cost - to the environment, their bottom line or their reputations - to
mine gold, which generates more waste per ounce than any other metal and
yet has few industrial uses.
The world's biggest mining company, Australia-based
BHP Billiton, sold its profitable Ok Tedi mine in Papua
New Guinea in 2001 after having destroyed more than 2,400 acres of
rainforest. Upon leaving, the company said the mine was "not compatible
with our environmental values."
After tough lessons, other companies, like Newmont Mining, the world's
largest gold producer, are paying for more schools and housing, trying
harder to ease social problems around its mines.
"I don't think any of our members want to be associated with a bad operation
- notwithstanding it would hurt their ability to open new facilities,"
said Carol L. Raulston, spokeswoman for the National Mining Association.
"News goes around the world quickly now and there is no place to hide."
Critics say corporate miners have been cloistered from scrutiny because
of their anonymity to consumers, unlike, say, oil companies, which also
extract resources but hang their name over the pump.
Last year the mine watchdog group Earthworks began a "No Dirty Gold"
campaign, marching protesters in front of fashionable Fifth Avenue storefronts,
trying to change gold mining by lobbying gold consumers.
"They just said to ask where the gold was coming from and whether it
caused social or environmental damage," said Michael E. Conroy, senior
lecturer and research scholar at the Yale University School of Forestry
and Environmental Studies. "The repercussions in the mining media were
huge - some said it was all lies, but retailers began to realize what their
Mr. Kowalski, Tiffany's chairman, has tried to stay ahead of the controversy.
He has broken new ground by buying Tiffany's gold from a mine in Utah
that does not use cyanide.
But the largest sellers of gold are not luxury outlets like his, but
rather Wal-Mart stores, and even Mr. Kowalski, a trustee of the Wildlife
Conservation Society, hesitated to call any gold entirely "clean."
Asia's Insatiable Appetite
Amrita Raj, a 25-year-old bride, was shopping for her wedding trousseau
on a recent Saturday in New Delhi. There was a "wedding set" to be bought
that day, with its requisite gold necklace, matching earrings and two sets
For the sake of family honor, the new in-laws would have to receive
gold gifts as well - a "light set" for the mother-in-law, plus a gold ring
or a watch for the bridegroom, and earrings for a sister-in-law.
"Without gold, it's not a wedding - at least not for Indians," Ms. Raj
For thousands of years, gold has lent itself to ceremony and celebration.
But now old ways have met new prosperity. The newly moneyed consumers who
line the malls of Shanghai and the bazaars of Mumbai sent jewelry sales
shooting to a record $38 billion this year, according to the World Gold
Council, the industry trade group.
Over the last year, sales surged 11 percent in China
and 47 percent in India,
a country of a billion people whose seemingly insatiable appetite for gold
- for jewelry, temples and dowries - has traditionally made it gold's largest
That kind of demand leads many in and out of the industry to argue that
gold's value is cultural and should not be questioned. The desire to hoard
gold is not limited to households in India or the Middle East, either.
The United States, the world's second-largest consumer of gold, is also
the world's largest holder of gold reserves. The government has 8,134 tons
secured in vaults, about $122 billion worth. The Federal Reserve and other
major central banks renewed an agreement last year to severely restrict
sales from their reserves, offering, in effect, a price support to gold.
That price is not simply a matter of supply and demand, but of market
psychology. Gold is bought by anxious investors when the dollar is weak
and the economy uncertain. That is a big reason for gold's high price today.
For miners that price determines virtually everything - where gold is
mined, how much is mined, and how tiny are the flecks worth going after.
"You can mine gold ore at a lower grade than any other metal," said
Mike Wireman, a mine specialist at the Denver office of the E.P.A. "That
means big open pits. But it must also be easy and cheap to be profitable,
and that means cyanide."
That kind of massive operation can be seen at Yanacocha, a sprawling
mine in northern Peru run by Newmont. In a region of pastures and peasants,
the rolling green hills have been carved into sandy-colored mesas, looking
more like the American West than the Andean highlands.
Mountains have been systematically blasted, carted off by groaning trucks
the size of houses and restacked into ziggurats of chunky ore. These new
man-made mountains are lined with irrigation hoses that silently trickle
millions of gallons of cyanide solution over the rock for years. The cyanide
dissolves the gold so it can be separated and smelted.
At sites like Yanacocha, one ounce of gold is sprinkled in 30 tons of
ore. But to get at that ore, many more tons of earth have to be moved,
then left as waste. At some mines in Nevada, 100 tons or more of earth
have to be excavated for a single ounce of gold, said Ann Maest, a geochemist
who consults on mining issues.
Mining companies say they are meeting a demand and that this kind of
gold mining, called cyanide heap leaching, is as good a use of the land
as any, or better.
Cyanide is not the only option. But it is considered the most cost-effective
way to retrieve microscopic bits of "invisible gold." Profit margins are
too thin, miners say, and the gold left in the world too scarce to mine
it any other way.
"The heap is cheaper," said Shannon W. Dunlap, an environmental manager
with Placer Dome. "Our ore wouldn't work without the heap."
But much of those masses of disturbed rock, exposed to the rain and
air for the first time, are also the source of mining's multibillion-dollar
environmental time bomb. Sulfides in that rock will react with oxygen,
making sulfuric acid.
That acid pollutes and it also frees heavy metals like cadmium, lead
and mercury, which are harmful to people and fish even at low concentrations.
The chain reaction can go on for centuries.
Many industry officials, reluctant to utter the word pollution, protest
that much of what they leave behind is not waste at all but ground-up rock.
The best-run mines reclaim land along the way, they say, "capping" the
rock piles with soil and using lime to try to forestall acid generation.
But stopping pollution forever is difficult. Even rock piles that are
capped, in an attempt to keep out air and rain, can release pollutants,
particularly in wet climates.
Cyanide can present long-term problems, too. Most scientists agree that
cyanide decomposes in sunlight and is not dangerous if greatly diluted.
But a study by the United States Geological Survey in 2000 said that cyanide
can convert to other toxic forms and persist, particularly in cold climates.
And just as cyanide dissolves gold out of the rock, it releases harmful
There have also been significant accidents involving cyanide. From 1985
to 2000, more than a dozen reservoirs containing cyanide-laden mine waste
collapsed, the United Nations Environment Program reported.
The most severe disaster occurred in Romania
in 2000, when mine waste spilled into a tributary of the Danube River,
killing more than a thousand tons of fish and issuing a plume of cyanide
that reached 1,600 miles to the Black Sea.
That spill led to calls for the gold industry to improve its handling
of cyanide. After five years of discussion, the industry unveiled a new
code this month. It sets standards for transporting and storing cyanide
and calls on companies to submit to inspections by a new industry body.
But the cyanide code is voluntary and not enforced by government. And
Glenn Miller, a professor of environmental science at the University of
Nevada, says it does not adequately deal with one of mining's most important,
unattended questions: What happens when the mine closes?
A Rocky Mountain Disaster
One answer can be found in a rural, rugged area of northeastern Montana
called the Little Rocky Mountains.
There, Dale Ployhar often comes to the high bare slopes around the abandoned
Zortman-Landusky gold mine to plant pine seedlings on a silent hillside
that has been reclaimed by little more than grasses.
"I bring lodgepole seeds and scatter them around, hoping they'll come
back," he said, looking out over the tiny town of Zortman, population 50.
Zortman-Landusky was the first large-scale, open-pit cyanide operation
in the United States when it opened in 1979. The imprint it left on the
environment, psyche and politics of Montana continues today.
What happened there - a cacophonous, multilayered disaster involving
bankruptcy, bad science, environmental havoc and regulatory gaps - foreshadowed
the risky road that gold has taken in the years since, mining experts,
government regulators and environmentalists say.
"There's a lot of bitterness left," said Mr. Ployhar, 65, a heavy equipment
operator, whose son bought some of the mine lands at a bankruptcy auction
four years ago.
Some mining experts say that Zortman-Landusky - a combination of two
open pits near Zortman and the neighboring village of Landusky - offered
a steep learning curve on how chemical mining worked, and didn't.
Others say that overly ambitious production schedules by the mine's
owner, Pegasus Gold, based in Canada, were to blame. A bonus package of
more than $5 million for top executives, announced after the company filed
for bankruptcy protection in 1998, did not help.
Mining with cyanide can be tricky even in the best conditions. At Zortman,
the company made the mistake of building their cyanide heaps atop rock
that turned acidic. The cyanide and the acid mixed in a toxic cocktail
that seeped from the mounds.
Mining stopped in 1996, and company officials insisted in their public
comments over the next year that they wanted to be responsible corporate
citizens and stay to clean up the property. But the price of gold was falling,
then below $280 an ounce, and Pegasus closed its doors.
"This became one of the worst cases in Montana," said Wayne E. Jepson,
manager of the Zortman project at the Montana Department of Environmental
Quality. "But even as late as 1990, one of the last studies for Landusky
predicted no acid in any significant amounts."
Environmental risks from hard-rock mines often turn out to be understated
and underreported, according to two recent studies.
Robert Repetto, an economist at the University of Colorado, examined
10 mines in the United States and abroad run by publicly traded companies.
All but one, he wrote in a June report, had failed to fully disclose "risks
and liabilities" to investors.
The environmental group Earthworks examined 22 mines for a report it
will publish in November. Almost all of them had water problems, leading
it to conclude that "water quality impacts are almost always underestimated"
before mining begins.
"The combination of the regulatory approach and the science is what
creates inaccurate predictions," said James R. Kuipers, a consultant and
former mining engineer, one of the authors of the study.
At Zortman-Landusky, the state wrote the environmental impact study
itself, based primarily on information from the company, Mr. Kuipers said.
Montana and other big mining states still often depend on mining companies
for much of the scientific data about environmental impact, or the money
to pay for the studies, state and federal regulators say, mainly because
government agencies generally lack the resources to do expensive, in-depth
Some mine regulators defend the practice, saying that having scientific
data supplied by companies with a financial interest in the outcome is
not necessarily bad if the review is stringent.
"What is important to make the system work is that state and federal
agencies have the wherewithal and expertise to look at the information,"
said Mr. Wireman of the Denver E.P.A. office.
But one lesson of Zortman is that good information is sometimes ignored.
In the early 1990's, an E.P.A. consultant and former mining engineer,
Orville Kiehn, warned in a memo to his bosses that not enough money was
being set aside by the mine for water treatment.
Mr. Kiehn's opinion, vindicated today, went nowhere. The environmental
agency had little legal authority then - and no more today - to protect
the public from an operating mine except by filing a lawsuit, as it did
in 1995 after Pegasus had already violated federal clean water standards.
The company settled the suit in 1996 and agreed to pay $32.3 million
mostly to upgrade and expand water treatment.
At the time, state officials rejected the idea of squeezing Pegasus
to put up more money. This spring, Montana's legislature created a special
fund for water treatment to make up for it, for the next 120 years, at
a cost of more than $19 million.
Washington is also coming to grips with the failure to plan for the
cost of mining. The Government Accountability Office, the investigative
arm of Congress, sharply criticized the E.P.A. in August for not requiring
metal mines to provide assurances that they can pay for cleanups, a failure
that it said had exposed taxpayers to potentially billions of dollars in
For Montana, the Zortman experience was chilling. In 1998, as the catastrophe
was making headlines across the state, voters approved the nation's first
statewide ban on cyanide mining, halting any new gold projects. They renewed
the ban last year.
Profit and Poverty
Today gold companies are striking out to remote corners of the globe
led by a powerful guide: the World Bank.
The bank, the pre-eminent institution for alleviating world poverty,
has argued that multinational mining companies would bring investment,
as well as roads, schools and jobs, to countries with little else to offer
than their natural resources. For the bank, which tries to draw private
investment to underdeveloped lands, the logic was simple.
"We invest to help reduce poverty and help improve people's lives,"
said Rashad-Rudolf Kaldany, head of oil, gas and mining at the bank's profit-making
arm, the International Finance Corporation.
The bank has worked both ends of the equation. At its urging, more than
100 cash-strapped governments have agreed to cut taxes and royalties to
lure big mining companies, said James Otto, an adjunct professor at the
University of Denver law school.
At the same time, the bank put up money for or insured more than 30
gold-mining projects, looking for profits.
Though mining was a small part of the bank's portfolio, it was not without
controversy as accidents mounted. In one of the worst disasters, in 1995,
a mine in Guyana
insured by the bank spilled more than 790,000 gallons of cyanide-laced
mine waste into a tributary of the Essequibo River, the country's main
By 2001, the World Bank president, James D. Wolfensohn, imposed a two-year
moratorium on mining investments and ordered a review of its involvement
in the industry.
Emil Salim, a former minister of environment of Indonesia,
led the study. "I said, up to now the International Finance Corporation
was only listening to business," he said in an interview in Jakarta. "I
said, so now let's give some voice to civil society."
Mr. Salim recommended reducing the use of cyanide, banning the disposal
of waste in rivers and oceans, and giving communities veto power over mining
But the industry complained. And developing country governments said
they liked the bank's loans to gold mines. In the end, the bank settled
on more modest goals.
It pledged to make environmental impact statements understandable to
villagers and to back only projects with broad community support. It also
urged governments to spend mining companies' taxes and royalties in the
communities near the mines.
But critics and environmental groups say the bank demands little from
the mining companies in return for its money and its seal of approval.
The bank's guidelines for arsenic in drinking water are less stringent
than those of the World Health Organization, and mercury contamination
levels are more lenient than those permitted by the E.P.A., said Andrea
Durbin, a consultant to nongovernmental groups pressing for tougher standards.
The International Finance Corporation is drafting new guidelines that
will clarify what it expects from miners, said Rachel Kyte, its director
of environment and social development.
But the draft rules give mining companies even more latitude, said Manish
Bapna, the executive director of the Bank Information Center, a group that
monitors the bank. They will make it easier for companies to evict indigenous
people and to mine in some of the globe's most treasured habitats, he said.
Despite the World Bank's two-year review, little has changed, said Robert
Goodland, a former director of environment at the bank who was an adviser
on the study. "The bank insists on business as usual," he said.
Resistance in Guatemala
The first piece of new mining business the bank invested in after its
review can be found today in the humid, green hills of western Guatemala.
Bishop Alvaro Ramazzini, a big burly man who mixes politics and religion
with ease, doesn't understand why the World Bank lent $45 million to a
rich multinational company for a gold mine in his impoverished region of
"Why not spend the money directly to help the people?" he asked.
Sprawled across a deep wooded valley, a new mine built by Glamis Gold,
a Canadian company, was chosen by the World Bank last year as a new model
for how gold mining could help poor people.
But the mine has faced protest at every turn.
At the June 2004 board meeting of the International Finance Corporation,
there was considerable skepticism about its $45 million loan to Glamis.
Members questioned why a $261 million project was creating only 160
long-term jobs and giving money to a "well capitalized" company like Glamis
at all, according to minutes of the meeting provided to The Times by a
nongovernmental group opposed to the project.
Others were worried that the I.F.C. was relying too heavily on information
from Glamis about the potential for pollution.
The World Bank had pledged to back only mines with broad local support.
But on the ground in Guatemala, opposition boiled over last December.
Angry farmers set up a roadblock to stop trailers carrying huge grinding
machines for the mine. After 40 days, and battles between police and protesters,
the equipment had to be escorted by soldiers.
To persuade the villagers of the mine's benefits, Glamis flew 19 planeloads
of farmers to a mine it runs in Honduras.
But the villagers of Sipicapa still wanted their voices heard. On a
cool Saturday morning in June, more than 2,600 men and women dressed in
their weekend best, with children in tow, crowded into the community's
yards, churches and verandas to vote in a nonbinding referendum.
"We are already regretting that our forefathers allowed the Spaniards
to buy our land for trinkets and mirrors," said Fructuoso López
Pérez, a local mayor. "So we should vote so our children will thank
us for doing right."
At that, a church full of local people raised their hands in a unanimous
show of opposition to the mine.
Much of the peasants' fury was informed by Robert E. Moran, an American
hydrogeologist, who was asked by Madre Selva, a Guatemalan nongovernmental
organization, to visit the mine and review its environmental impact statement.
Mr. Moran, who was on the advisory board of the bank's mining study,
found it badly lacking. It did not address the "very large quantities of
water" the mine would use, or give basic information on the "massive volumes"
of waste the mine would produce, he said.
Tim Miller, vice president of Central American operations for Glamis,
said the environmental impact statement had been a "working document."
In Guatemala City, the Vice Minister of Mining, Jorge Antonio García
Chiu, defended approval of the mine, saying it followed four months of
Mr. Kaldany, the I.F.C. official, said the investment and the environmental
impact statement were both sound. "We are a bank," he said. "We go on the
basis of a business development project. Then, as well, the bank asks:
Are we needed? Are we adding any value?"
Glamis had already spent $1.3 million on social programs in the villages
as part of the bank's requirements, Mr. Kaldany said.
At the mine, the grinding and churning of new machinery being tested
already echoes across the valley. Production could begin as early as November.
Mr. Miller, of Glamis, said the mine was a winner for the people, and
his company. In fact, he said, Glamis didn't need the bank, the bank came
Bank officials "were anxious to make some investments" in the region,
he said. The company is expecting to gross $1 billion over the life of
the mine, with profits of $200 to $300 million.
"That's a return of about 25 to 30 percent," he said.
Ghana: The Social Costs
The men of Binsre on Ghana's ancient Gold Coast carry on their own hunt
for gold. Nearly naked, their arms and legs slathered in gray ooze, they
sift through the muck in a large pit, using buckets and hard hats, looking
for any last scrap.
So far industrial mining has not lived up to its promise for these men
and their families. They are illegal miners who find work not inside the
highly mechanized mines of Ghana's first-world investors, but on the fringes,
scavenging the waste left behind by AngloGold Ashanti, the world's second-largest
gold company, based in South
Six miners have died in the last several years, most of them overcome
by fumes when waste from the mine gushed into the pit, said Hannah Owusu-Koranteng,
an advocate for the illegal miners. The mine tried to keep the men out.
"We used to use dogs," said AngloGold Ashanti's chief financial officer,
Kwaku Akosah-Bempah. "Then they said we were using dogs to bite them."
So the mine stopped using the dogs and the men returned.
In the nearby village of Sanso, a few men said they had lost their land
to the mine. Now they carve shafts into a mountain of waste rock, where
they haul, hammer, chip and sift.
"You wake up one day and you realize your farm is destroyed," said Assemblyman
Benjamin Annan, a local politician. "They say they will compensate but
it takes one or two years. So people are compelled to go to illegal mining,
the way our ancestors did."
Industrial-size shaft mining has existed in Ghana for 100 years, but
with the price of gold soaring, more companies are arriving now, this time
bringing open-pit cyanide mines. The investment has been greeted warmly
by the government.
Newmont is set to spend a billion dollars on a new mine next year and
on a second mine - in one of the badly deforested country's last remaining
forest preserves - in 2007.
The World Bank is here, too, preparing to lend the company $75 million.
Together, the bank and Newmont say, they aim to show how social development
and gold mining can be married.
Newmont compensated the farmers who were moved off their land. It is
offering training for new jobs, like growing edible snails and making soap.
It built new concrete and tin-roofed houses to replace homes made of mud.
But the mine will create just 450 full-time jobs. More than 8,000 people
will be displaced.
"The house is O.K.," said Gyinabu Ali, 35, a divorced mother of five
children, who recently moved into her gaily painted two-room house, with
a toilet out back, that overlooks several dozen similar units resembling
a poor man's Levittown. "I miss my land where I could grow my own food."
Near the mine of Newmont's competitor, AngloGold Ashanti, in Obuasi,
only half of the homes have an indoor bathroom, and 20 percent have running
water. With the exception of the brick villas of the company executives,
Obuasi today looks like a vast and squalid shanty town.
The chief financial officer, Mr. Akosah-Bempah, said he was offended
by the poor conditions. Most of the company's taxes and royalties had stayed
in the capital, he said, leaving the ramshackle town bereft of the benefits
of gold mining.
"Sometimes we feel embarrassed by going to Obuasi," he said. "Not enough
has gone back into the community."
The Cost of Gold | Treasure
Tangled Strands in Fight Over Peru Gold Mine
SAN CERILLO, Peru
- The Rev. Marco Arana drove his beige pickup over the curves of a dirt
road 13,000 feet high in the Andes. Spread out below lay the Yanacocha
gold mine, an American-run operation of mammoth open pits and towering
heaps of cyanide-laced ore. Ahead loomed the pristine green of untouched
Then, an unmistakable sign that this land, too, may soon be devoured:
Policemen with black masks and automatic rifles guarding workers exploring
ground that the mine's owner, Newmont Mining Corporation, has deemed the
next best hope.
"This is the Roman peace the company has with the people: They put in
an army and say we have peace," said Father Arana as he surveyed the land
where gold lies beneath the surface like tiny beads on a string.
Yanacocha is Newmont's prize possession, the most productive gold mine
in the world. But if history holds one lesson, it is that where there is
gold, there is conflict, and the more gold, the more conflict.
Newmont, which has pulled more than 19 million ounces of gold from these
gently sloping Peruvian hills - over $7 billion worth - believes that they
hold several million ounces more. But where Newmont sees a new reserve
of wealth - to keep Yanacocha profitable and to stay ahead of its competitors
- the local farmers and cattle grazers see sacred mountains, cradles of
the water that sustains their highland lives.
The armed guards are here because of what happened in the fall of 2004
at a nearby mountain called Cerro Quilish. For two weeks, fearing that
the company's plans to expand Yanacocha would mean Quilish's desecration
and destruction, thousands of local people laid siege to the mine. Women
and children were arrested, tear gas was thrown, the wounded hospitalized
after clashes with the police.
In the end, the world's No. 1 gold-mining company backed down. Father
Arana, who runs a local group formed to challenge the mine, helped negotiate
the terms of surrender. Newmont withdrew its drilling equipment from Quilish
- and the promised reserves from its books. Now, in large part because
of the loss of Quilish, the company says production at Yanacocha may fall
35 percent or more in two years.
The forced retreat, a culmination of years of distrust between the peasants
and the mine, was a chastening blow for an industry in the midst of a boom.
It underscored the environmental and social costs of the technologies needed
to extract the ever-more-valuable ore from modern mines. And it showed
how a rising global backlash against those costs was forcing mining companies
to negotiate what has come to be known as "social license" if that boom
was to go on.
But the history of Yanacocha, pieced together in a six-month examination
by The New York Times and the PBS television program "FrontlineWorld,"
is also an excursion into the moral ambiguities that often attend when
a first-world company does business in a third-world land.
Gold miners say they have no choice but to go where the ore is; they
cannot choose the governments they deal with. Yanacocha shows how one company
maneuvered in a country, Peru, dominated by a secret web of power under
a corrupt autocracy.
Newmont gained undisputed control of Yanacocha in 2000 after years of
back-room legal wrangling. Behind the scenes, Newmont and its adversaries
- a French company and its Australian ally - reached into the upper levels
of the American, French and Peruvian governments, employing a cast of former
and active intelligence officials, including Peru's ruthless secret police
chief, Vladimiro Montesinos.
Much of that arm-twisting has been dragged into the light, in secret
recordings by the spy chief. The tapes, apparently intended to blackmail
and manipulate Peru's powerbrokers, surfaced in 2000 and led to the downfall
of Mr. Montesinos and the president he served, Alberto
The tapes captured everything from plotting to fix elections to shopping
bags of money being unloaded for payoffs in Mr. Montesinos's office at
the Peruvian National Intelligence Agency.
They captured Newmont's maneuverings, too. In one audio recording, the
No. 3 Newmont executive at the time, Lawrence T. Kurlander, is heard offering
to do a favor for Mr. Montesinos.
"Now you have a friend for life," Mr. Kurlander tells the spy chief.
"You have a friend for life also," Mr. Montesinos replies.
Last year, a Justice Department investigation into whether Newmont's
victory resulted from bribing foreign officials was dropped after the Peruvian
government failed to cooperate fully and the statute of limitations expired,
according to law enforcement officials familiar with the case. The Peruvian
government investigated the Yanacocha affair without bringing charges.
Mr. Kurlander has agreed to speak out publicly about his meeting for
the first time. He says he regrets seeking out Mr. Montesinos, now in jail
charged with everything from corruption to gun running and drug trafficking.
But Mr. Kurlander and Newmont are adamant that no bribes were paid, nothing
illicit done, at least not by them or their allies.
"Everybody involved on the American side, in the American government,
that went to see him or spoke to him, asked for a level playing field,"
said Mr. Kurlander, who retired in 2002. "Not a single person asked for
him to influence the outcome of the case."
Newmont's senior executives declined repeated requests for interviews
for this article, though they did allow Times reporters to make an extensive
visit to the Yanacocha mine. But in a written statement, Newmont said of
its legal battle for the mine, "We are satisfied that the company complied
in all respects with applicable laws."
Whatever the past environmental problems, Newmont says Yanacocha now
meets all Peruvian and international standards. And the company says it
is committed to gaining and maintaining the approval of the community.
Still, to many of the local people, the continuing struggle for Yanacocha
evokes a tale of treachery nearly any Peruvian school child can recite.
In 1532, the Spanish conquistador Francisco Pizarro captured the last
Inca emperor, Atahualpa, in Cajamarca, the provincial capital 28 miles
from Yanacocha. The young Inca, a god to his people, was held for months
while he scrambled to amass a ransom: enough gold to fill a room as high
as his arm could reach.
He turned over his gold, expecting to be freed. But Pizarro killed him
Living on Water
At first, people here saw possibility in the mine. Yanacocha - "black
lake" in the indigenous Quechua tongue - sits in one of the poorest agricultural
regions of Peru.
"When Yanacocha began its operations, we would only hear about how everyone
was happy," Father Arana said. "The mine was going to bring jobs, improve
roads." No one thought much, he said, about the inevitable collisions.
The collisions began almost immediately.
In the Andean peasants' universe, water is the heart of the land. The
people depend on it - for their animals, for drinking, for bathing. Community
life is organized around it.
But the mine lives on water, too. The bits of gold here, so small they
are called "invisible gold," can be mined profitably only by blasting mountains,
then culling the gold with vast quantities of cyanide diluted with similarly
vast quantities of water.
It was not long before the peasants began to complain. Streams and canals
were drying up, they said. They were filled with murky sediment. The water
But on the ledger books, Yanacocha was a fast success.
The mine had started with 1.3 million ounces of reserves in the ground.
Within a year, it claimed over 3 million. It was the biggest foreign investment
"Everywhere we drilled and looked, there was gold," said Len Harris,
Yanacocha's first general manager.
Celebration soon gave way to strife.
A year before, a partnership had been formed to develop the mine: Newmont;
a Peruvian partner, Buenaventura; and a French government-owned company,
Bureau de Recherches Géologiques et Minières (BRGM). No partner
had a controlling interest. The World Bank's investment arm, the International
Finance Corporation, later took a 5 percent stake, hoping to promote development
in a country plagued by economic chaos and roiled by a Maoist insurgent
group, Shining Path.
With the mine expanding and the guerrilla leader captured, BRGM announced
plans to sell a large part of its increasingly valuable stake to an Australia-based
company, Normandy Poseidon. Newmont, considering the involvement of another
major mining company unacceptable, sued, arguing that the partnership agreement
gave it and Buenaventura first right of refusal on any sale.
Twice, Peruvian courts agreed. Then, in September of 1997, the Peruvian
Supreme Court issued a startling ruling, agreeing to review a case Newmont
thought it had definitively won. Stunned and suspicious, the company called
in Mr. Kurlander.
Mr. Kurlander, then 56, had spent most of his life in government, as
a prosecutor and as chief criminal-justice adviser to Gov. Mario
M. Cuomo in New York. He later moved to corporate work and was recruited
by Newmont in 1994. He had no experience in mining, but in an industry
known for its rough edges, he became a top Newmont executive, valued for
his political contacts and easy ability to walk between the halls of government
and the corporate suite.
On his arrival in Peru, Mr. Kurlander says, he was told by Newmont's
lawyers and security chief that the French were "behaving inappropriately
in the litigation."
"The mere fact that they were doing this," he said in an interview,
"was unseemly at best and corrupt at worst."
Newmont, he said, was at a distinct disadvantage: the Foreign Corrupt
Practices Act forbids American companies to pay anything of value to a
foreign official in exchange for a "result." By contrast, in 1997, most
European countries, France
included, did not prohibit paying bribes.
The French ambassador to Peru at the time, Antoine Blanca, said in an
interview that no one connected to the embassy had ever offered bribes
or otherwise acted improperly.
Still, what emerges from documents and interviews with participants
is a picture of three years of increasing pressure and intimated threats
by Normandy and the government of France.
In the Peruvian press, the French ambassador insinuated corruption of
the judiciary; French government emissaries suggested to Peruvian officials
that there would be consequences if Newmont was awarded the disputed shares.
Normandy recruited Patrick Maugein, a well-connected French businessman.
By phone, fax and letter, Mr. Maugein placed Newmont and Buenaventura on
notice that the dispute had become a "matter of state"; the French, he
warned, "had every intention of fighting it to the bitter end." Mr. Maugein
had ties to the French president, Jacques
Chirac, and soon Mr. Chirac wrote to President Fujimori, urging a Supreme
Court review and his personal intervention.
Mr. Maugein declined to be interviewed for this article, but in a letter
wrote that any allegations of illicit activity "come from people who have
been paid to make them."
From Lima, in the days after the Supreme Court agreed to take the case,
Mr. Kurlander headed to Washington to enlist help on the American side.
By the end of October 1997, Stuart E. Eizenstat, under secretary of state
for economic affairs, wrote Peru's prime minister to press for "a fair
and impartial hearing," according to documents released under the Freedom
of Information Act.
"A politically tainted decision would adversely affect U.S. investment
in Peru," he wrote
On Jan. 5, 1998, Peru's Supreme Court came back with a preliminary decision;
3 to 2 for the French, one vote shy of victory.
As the Peruvians prepared to assign two more judges to the case, Mr.
Kurlander says, he and Buenaventura's chief, Alberto Benavides, appealed
to Mr. Fujimori.
Soon after, Mr. Kurlander said, the president's office sent word about
the man to see.
Spy Chief's Favor Bank
Vladimiro Montesinos's titles never matched his stature. Officially,
he was "counselor" to Mr. Fujimori and de facto head of the National Intelligence
Service. In reality, he was the second-most-powerful man in Peru - "Rasputin,
Darth Vadar, Torquemada and Cardinal Richelieu" rolled into one, according
to an American Army intelligence report.
The National Intelligence Service was also on the payroll of the C.I.A.,
which gave Mr. Montesinos a million dollars a year for his supposed help
in combating the narcotics trade, according to former C.I.A. officials
who approved the payments.
This was the man Mr. Kurlander headed to see alone on Feb. 26, 1998.
While he says he knew that Mr. Montesinos was "an extremely bad man," he
maintains that the extent of the government's corruption and human rights
abuses were not well known at the time. There was, however, one case he
was aware of.
Not long before, the Fujimori government had seized the television station
of a Peruvian-Israeli businessman, Baruch Ivcher, after it began broadcasting
reports tying the intelligence chief to drug trafficking and corruption.
Mr. Kurlander knew that publicity about the case was threatening to become
a headache for Peru's government.
As the secret tape rolls, Mr. Montesinos says he is aware of Mr. Kurlander's
problems and is "very glad to do whatever I can for you."
Mr. Kurlander describes his own links to the intelligence community
and how he has enlisted "friends" - two former C.I.A. officials - to assist
him, because the French side "has been acting quite strangely."
Their conversation is interpreted by Grace Riggs, a lawyer and former
lover of the spy chief who had a child with him.
Soon Mr. Kurlander raises the Ivcher case. Mr. Montesinos assures him
that the pursuit of Mr. Ivcher is not an anti-Semitic "persecution," and
Mr. Kurlander offers to help by lobbying his fellow Jews in the United
States and abroad.
"Tell him I going to help him with the voting," Mr. Montesinos directs
his translator. He is well aware of the "tricky practices of the French
government," he says, making a joke about "The French Connection."
The reference, in English, gets the men laughing. Soon spy chief and
executive are pledging friendship for life.
The spy chief then proceeds to discuss with another man, who has never
been identified, the lawyers and judges who may need to be influenced.
The conversation is in Spanish, which Ms. Riggs does not translate.
Finally, she tells Mr. Kurlander that because he helps Mr. Montesinos
"without expecting anything in return," the spy chef "wants to do the same
thing for you."
"I appreciate that," Mr. Kurlander replies.
"Amor con amor se paga," Mr. Montesinos exclaims.
Love is repaid with love.
Washington Is Heard From
Still, Mr. Kurlander says, he had doubts. In the following weeks, "nothing
happened," he said. "I was very worried that we were lost." In fact, the
channel between Mr. Montesinos and the Americans was open and bustling.
Peter Romero, then assistant secretary of state for Western Hemisphere
affairs, acknowledged in an interview that he had twice called Mr. Montesinos
to show that the case was being "monitored" in Washington.
"He seemed to be a nice enough fellow," he recalled.
The "compelling reason" to get involved, he said, came from Peruvian
and American Embassy officials who confirmed the direct involvement of
President Chirac and others at the top of the French government.
"We wanted to ensure that that was neutralized," Mr. Romero said.
Two and a half years later, Mr. Romero left government and was hired
by Mr. Kurlander as a consultant on Peru for Newmont, where he remained
for 18 months.
On April 14, six weeks after the Montesinos-Kurlander meeting, the video
cameras were rolling for a visit from the C.I.A. station chief, Don Arabian.
As the meeting nears its end, Mr. Montesinos says he has been collecting
information on the French attempt to influence the case and will not let
them use "extortion, blackmail and other gangster" methods.
"I'm not working with the telephones, but we will if necessary," Mr.
Montesinos says, an apparent reference to wiretapping. "We'll sort out
the technical support." The men laugh.
Mr. Arabian, who recently retired, declined a request for an interview.
On May 8, the sixth Supreme Court justice voted in favor of Newmont
and Buenaventura. With the vote deadlocked, 3-3, the court administrator
appointed a final judge, Jaime Beltrán Quiroga. He was summoned
the next day by Mr. Montesinos.
A videotape shows the justice settled on the couch as Mr. Montesinos
talks about how, as a lawyer he, too, would normally "keep a distance"
from events. But "in these cases," he says, "one has to intervene directly."
Mr. Montesinos avoids direct pressure - "as if we are imposing on you"
- but reminds the judge that the case is a matter of national interest:
the United States is a key guarantor of coming deliberations over Peru's
border conflict with Ecuador.
There is no discussion of payoffs, but the spy chief does question the
judge about his professional ambitions. The men reminisce.
"Well, doctor, you have a friend here," Judge Beltrán says.
"My dear, Jaime, then, a pleasure to see you, brother," Mr. Montesinos
replies, assuring his guest that he will soon be transferred to Peru's
Judge Beltrán's vote was announced two weeks later: Newmont and
Buenaventura were awarded BRGM's share - at the purchase price set in 1993:
When the final transfer was negotiated a year later, the stake was valued
at more than five times that.
Today Mr. Kurlander says that whatever his reservations at the time
about meeting Mr. Montesinos, he went ahead because nearly everyone told
him, "If the French were to be stopped, he was the only one in Peru who
would dare to do it."
The transcript is "terribly unfair," Mr. Kurlander says, and leaves
out a number of his statements that all he wanted was a "level playing
Mr. Kurlander's name has been attached to the meeting and his reputation
harmed, he says, though he insists the meeting was no secret. He says his
Newmont superiors and his partners in the Benavides family were thoroughly
"It was my government who recommended - strongly - that we speak with
him," Mr. Kurlander said at his home outside Denver. "Tell me what my option
is at that point. Do I lay down and just fold, fold up and go home? Or
do I fight for what I think is right and fair and just?"
In an interview at his Lima offices, Mr. Benavides, now Buenaventura's
chief executive, insisted, "We didn't know what Mr. Kurlander was doing,"
and added that he did not learn about the Montesinos meeting until the
tape was made public several years later.
The Mercury Spill
At Yanacocha, year after year, the mine's geologists had kept striking
gold. And with every ton of earth sifted, it became ever clearer that the
mine had not just ripped up the landscape; it had remade the social architecture,
There were growing class divisions, between the many campesinos who
had received well-paying jobs - Yanacocha would eventually employ as many
as 2,200 people, two-thirds locals, full time, and up to 6,000 on shorter-term
contracts - and the tens of thousands more who had not. People migrating
to the region in pursuit of work brought overcrowding and rising crime.
In June 2000, a truck contracted to carry canisters of mercury, a byproduct
of mining, spilled 330 pounds of the poisonous metal over 25 miles of road
around Choropampa, 53 miles from the mine.
The villagers believed that the mercury was mixed with gold. They scooped
it up. Some took it home to cook on their stoves. A World Bank report later
said the mine delayed reporting the accident to the national authorities
and initially played down its seriousness to the bank.
In the end, the Peruvian government fined the mine $500,000; the company
says it has paid $18 million more. A class-action suit has been filed against
Newmont in Denver, charging that more than 1,000 people were harmed, some
The extent of that damage has been in dispute from the start. Even so,
the spill left deep psychic scars. It became common mythology that mercury
had killed newborn babies and caused cancer and other diseases, Dante Vera,
a former Peruvian Interior Ministry official hired in 2004 as an adviser
to Newmont, wrote in a report to company executives.
At Newmont, it was becoming increasingly clear that the social turmoil
was a business problem. The spill, Mr. Kurlander said in a speech a year
later, "served as a wake-up call for us."
Soon, he was headed back to Peru, to lead an environmental audit of
Newmont kept the audit's results within the company, never acknowledging
them publicly - either to its shareholders or to the local people. Mr.
Kurlander found "a high level of mistrust" of the mine.
But the 44 findings of Mr. Kurlander's audit, which was given to The
Times, also confirmed many of the villagers' specific complaints: that
fish were disappearing and that lakes, streams and canals were being contaminated,
at least one with cyanide.
One stream, Quebrada Honda, had 13 fish per kilometer in 1997, but none
by 2000, the audit said. Thousand of tons of rock not processed for gold
recovery were generating dangerous acidic runoffs.
In a letter after the audit, Mr. Kurlander says that as the mine expanded,
"we eliminated many environmental safeguards that were in the construction
and environmental management plans." In all, he wrote to Newmont's new
chief executive, Wayne Murdy, the findings were so serious that they could
jeopardize the mine's continued operation and leave senior executives subject
to "criminal prosecution and imprisonment."
Mr. Kurlander's tough words came on the heels of another memo to Mr.
Murdy about the spill: On Jan. 18, 2001, Mr. Kurlander recommended that
all the top executives, including himself and his boss, take cuts in their
bonuses, of 50 to 100 percent, and that the punishment be made public.
Mr. Kurlander singled out the company's environmental team, saying that
despite public pledges, Newmont had failed to adhere to American environmental
To his disappointment, Mr. Kurlander said, some bonuses were indeed
reduced, but without public notice and much more modestly than he had recommended.
In a letter to Mr. Kurlander three years later, Mr. Murdy said the company
had learned from the accident and the audit. Newmont, he said, spent $100
million to fix the environmental problems, including $50 million for a
water-treatment plant and $20 million on two dams to prevent sediment from
clogging streams and canals. Mercury is now shipped inside triple-sealed,
stainless-steel containers and escorted by a convoy of cars.
To Mr. Kurlander, the spill showed the folly of a company ignoring the
people, particularly the people most set against the mine. In a memo, he
warned that with the mine sunk so low in the peasants' esteem, Newmont
would never be able to mine Quilish.
"We have come to this because we have been in denial," he wrote. "We
have not heeded the voices of those most intimate with our mine - those
who live and work nearby."
It was less than a year after the audit that he retired.
The Peasants Protest
The protests began not long after people began seeing the drilling machines
up on the cone-shaped hill above Cajamarca.
Quilish had long been on Newmont's drawing boards. Last year, Newmont
mined three million ounces at Yanacocha, its most profitable single source
of gold. But the more it pulls from the ground, the more it must replace
to remain No. 1.
Back in 2000, the local government had passed an ordinance declaring
Quilish and its watershed a protected natural reserve. But Newmont had
persuaded a Peruvian court that it had the right to mine because it had
acquired the concession years before. In August 2004, the machines moved
To many people, that was the final betrayal, said Mr. Vera, the former
Newmont consultant. He quit this summer, saying his advice had been ignored.
On Sept. 2, deploying boulders, vehicles, anything they could find,
hundreds of campesinos blockaded the narrow mountain road that runs from
Cajamarca to the mine.
Several hundred armed officers, including 150 special operations police
officers from Lima, were sent in to guard the mine.
The first day was the most violent; protesters were arrested, many of
them women and old people, according to Father Arana's colleague, Jorge
Camacho. At times during the siege, the police used tear gas. One man was
shot in the leg. The company kept the gold coming out of Yanacocha, but
only by helicoptering the workers in.
On Sept. 15, there was a regionwide strike, with street demonstrations
in Cajamarca. The message, on one of the blizzard of placards in town,
was: "Listen Yanacocha. Cajamarca is to be respected."
The protests were organized by the peasants themselves, Mr. Camacho
and others say. But the 43-year-old Father Arana, son of teachers from
Cajamarca, had been nurturing the movement for many years, even before
he founded his group, Grufides, in the late 1990's. (These days, it receives
financial assistance from Oxfam.)
The campesinos call him Father Marco, and he is a devoted adherent of
liberation theology and its doctrine of social activism for the poor.
He is not the easiest of men. Last spring, he met Newmont's chief, Mr.
Murdy, on the sidelines of the company's annual general meeting in Denver.
As the priest recalls it, Mr. Murdy tried to be conciliatory, saying he
lived by his mother's motto: "We are given one mouth but two ears to listen
with." Father Marco says he rebuffed the overture, replying, "In the Bible,
there is a saying about some people have eyes that don't see and ears that
As the siege ran on at Yanacocha, the priest became a key negotiator
between Newmont, the peasants and the Ministry of Mines. It was not long
after the demonstrations in Cajamarca that the company surrendered. The
machines came down from Quilish. At Newmont's request, the ministry withdrew
its permit, too.
What remains up on the mountain is a symbolic wall of mud and straw
that the campesinos built to keep the miners at bay.
More Gold Needed
Standing down at Quilish, with its 3.8 million ounces of reserves, has
only intensified the need for new reserves.
"The pressure feels like you're laying track and knowing there's a locomotive
right behind you," said the mine's exploration manager, Lewis Teal.
So Newmont is looking elsewhere, in the highlands near San Cerillo,
where the jade-green lagoons and peaty grasses act as a store of water
for the peasants below.
Many people there worry about the effects of a new mine. Which is why,
after Quilish, Newmont is paying for the Peruvian police units protecting
the drilling team, said the mine's manager, Brant Hinze.
Even so, Mr. Hinze said, leaving Quilish was the right thing to do.
"The thing that the company did - both Newmont and Buenaventura - is listen
to the communities, and they said this is something we want you to stay
away from," he said.
Newmont's Peruvian partner, Mr. Benavides, argued that exploration of
Quilish had not been abandoned, simply suspended.
"We have the concession, and we have the land," he said. He added: "I
do not understand what social license means. I expect a license from the
authorities, from the minister of mines. I expect a license from the regional
government. I don't expect a license from the whole community."
Still, the idea of social license is at the heart of the agreement that
ended the siege: If Newmont hopes ever to mine Quilish, it first must win
the community's consent.
So to promote Yanacocha's well-being and expansion, Mr. Hinze has become
the kind of mine manager he never imagined being. He says he had asked
for the job running Yanacocha because of its sheer scale - "it's big, it's
profitable," is how he puts it. Fifty years old, silver-haired and steely
eyed, 6 foot 3 and 255 pounds, he is a man of scale himself. His idea of
recreation, he says, is riding his Harley or swimming with hammerhead sharks.
Now, he says, he spends 70 to 80 percent of his working time on social
issues. On a recent day, he ate roasted guinea pig at a lunch with a peasant
group. A few days later, he attended a ceremony celebrating a gift of $500,000
for a new road around San Cerillo.
"Modern mining can coexist with cattle, agriculture and tourism," he
told one gathering. "Today we begin a new history for communities around
Newmont says that it paid $180 million in taxes to Peru's government
last year, and that under a new law, half was returned to the Cajamarca
region. But to its frustration, the company says, the local government
has largely been unable to use the money to benefit the people - and most
of the people here remain achingly poor.
So the company, albeit ambivalently, has become something of a surrogate
government. It is contributing money for schools and clinics and building
some small water treatment plants in the villages. In all, the company
says it will spend nearly $20 million this year on social programs.
Water remains a divisive issue: Father Arana and his allies argue that
a new, every-three-weeks testing protocol is insufficiently independent.
The peasants continue to complain.
But company and local officials say there have been no environmental
accidents at Yanacocha in more than two years, and the mine says it manages
its water to ensure there is enough for the community.
But the biggest issue is the one looming over every modern industrial
gold mine: What happens when the ore that lured the miners here is gone?
Over 13 years, Newmont has moved mountains for gold - 30 tons of rock
and earth for every ounce. By the time it is through, the company will
have dug up a billion tons of earth. Much of it will be laced with acids
and heavy metals.
Three years ago, after Newmont acknowledged that 36,700 fish were missing
from a river contaminated by the mine, the World Bank hired an American
geochemist, Ann Maest, to study the streams and canals flowing from the
In the short term, she concluded, the water was safe for human use.
But long term, she said in an interview, the company's own tests show that
all the components are in place for the huge piles of rock to leak acids
that will pollute surface and groundwater.
The only preventive, she said, would be "perpetual treatment."
Mr. Hinze, who was recently appointed head of Newmont's North American
operations, insists that the company's plan for closing the mine will take
care of long-term treatment and cleanup.
"We plan on being here a very long time," he said.
Newmont has yet to put aside money for long-term treatment, though it
says it will comply with a Peruvian government requirement due to take
effect in 2007. But to pay for cleanups, the company needs to keep profits
high. To keep profits high, it needs to keep finding and mining more gold.
Yet increasingly, the unmovable reality is that to keep mining more gold,
it has to make peace with the people who will be here long after the miners
Mr. Hinze and Newmont insist that that can - in fact, must - be done,
even if some people may never be won over. "There will always be a level
of mistrust," he said. "Unfortunately, we can't please everyone."
Mr. Vera, the former Newmont consultant, is not so confident. He says
he sometimes thinks that the clash between the mine and the peasants is
so fundamental as to be beyond even the best intentions.
"Mining negatively affects the Andean cosmic vision of the unity of
nature," he said. "The conflict cannot be settled with money. Mining generates
resentments that are difficult to heal."
Recklessness in Indonesia
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der SNB in den USA", "Wiedereinführung
des Goldstandards", und "Primat
der Politik beim Verwalten der Goldreserven". Es ist dies sodann
ein aufschlussreicher & anregender Querschnitt - auch bezüglich
der sich abzeichnenden gesellschaftlichen, wirtschaftlichen & aussenpolitischen
Fragestellungen und Entwicklungen.
Und ohne den derzeitigen Mitgliedern des Bundesrates
zu nahe treten zu wollen: ich kann mir die schon wiederholt
von Ratskollegen gestellte Frage der verfassungs- und gesetzmässigen
Zuständigkeit nicht verkneifen. Nämlich wer hierzulande real
die politische Verantwortung trägt, wenigstens für's Eingemachte
Vernehmen nach sogar im Notfall), d.h. für den aussenpolitischen
& -wirtschaftlichen strategischen Einsatz unserer Goldreserven, deren
Schutz vor Erpressung und Terroranschlägen im Ausland, und für
entsprechende Umdisponierungen, welche gemäss Verfassung (Art. 54
Abs. 1, 174, 184, 185, 187 Abs. 1a), und Nationalbankgesetz (Art.
5 Abs. 3, 7 NBG)
allesamt der bundesrätlichen Domäne unterstehen soweit
sie die Aussenbeziehungen der Schweiz betreffen. Und da gemäss Art.6
NBG die Unabhängigkeit der Nationalbank sich wesentlich auf innerstaatliche
technische Fragen beschränkt, ernüchtert die Aussage des
Finanzministers im Nationalrat: "Wo diese
Goldbarren nun genau liegen, kann ich Ihnen leider nicht sagen, weil ich
es auch nicht weiss, es nicht wissen muss und es nicht wissen will."
2003 N 156; Frage Günter 04.5154).
Allzuoft noch zeichnen sich die vom Bundesrat auf
der punktierten Linie unterzeichneten Antworten auf parlamentarische Vorstösse
aus durch verwaltungs-typische Abwehrhaltungen, Engstirnigkeit & ARIGIN-Phänomena
(für: ARroganz, IGnoranz, INkompetenz). Bei der bisherigen Verarbeitung
der völkerrechtswidrigen Verarrestierung der ausgeliehenen Gemälde
des russischen Puschkin-Museums ist dies besonders deutlich zum Ausdruck
Von einem mehr als punktuell erleuchteten, zukunftsweisenden & hoffnungs-trächtigen
Heft-in-die-Hand-Nehmen durch den Bundesrat kann m.E. jedenfalls erst ausnahms-
& ansatzweise die Rede sein. Z.B. in der eben vom Bundesgericht gestützten,
und vom Postulat
Stähelin 04.3464 vorgespurten Wiederbelebung unseres
in Vergessenheit geratenen Handels-
und Niederlassungsvertrags mit Russland von 1872. Nicht aber im
Verhältnis zu den USA, wo allen Warnungen zum Trotz mehr Spiegelbilder
verfolgt als vergessene & neue Gelegenheiten wahr genommen werden (.../europa.htm
Und schon gar nicht im ebenfalls durch Verdrängung geprägten
Verhältnis zu Europa (.../europae.htm
Aber vielleicht ergeht es auch unseren Bundesräten
so: ob der allgemeinen Saturierung - und internet-technologisch noch zugespitzten
Überlastung - kommen sie, einmal im Amt, kaum mehr dazu, die
Adrenalin-Erfahrungen mit Bundesratsantworten zu berücksichtigen.
Dies lässt sich z.B. an den pre-
Vorstössen des damaligen Vertreters des Standes Appenzell A.-Rh. zur
"Verwendung der Goldreserven" aufzeigen. Aber auch an den Folgen seiner
seitherigen Abkapselung und seltener gewordenen Erleuchtung (.../merz.htm),
die trotz hartnäckiger Vorstösse aus Parlamentskreisen i.S. Goldreserven-Verwaltung
den Eindruck einer erstaunlichen und wenig Gutes verheissenden Abgehobenheit
vermitteln - wenigstens im Falle der
Kaufmann. Dies ganz im Gegensatz zu seinen vorausgegangenen Bemühungen
zur zwar diskreten aber entschieden politisch bestimmten, proaktiven Verminderung
unserer Exponierung gegenüber den traditionell
rücksichtslosen, konfiskatorischen und goldeigentums-feindlichen amerikanischen
Goldpraktiken: siehe dazu auch Henry Mark Holzer's bemerkenswert
anschauliche Studie "How
Americans Lost Their Right To Own Gold And Became Criminals in the Process"
In diesem Sinne wünsche ich Ihnen alles Gute
im Neuen Jahr, bedanke mich für das mir bisher bezeugte Vertrauen,
und stehe für weitergehende Fragen nach Kräften gerne zur Verfügung.
Anton Keller, Genf email@example.com
¦ .../a2.htm (3.1.06,
– Fragestunde. Frage. Stamm Luzi
Prüfung, ob die Goldreserven physisch vorhanden sind
lauten die zwei letzten Prüfungsdaten, an denen die von der Schweizerischen
Nationalbank (SNB) in ihrer Bilanz ausgewiesenen Goldreserven von einer
unabhängigen Drittstelle ausserhalb der SNB (z. B. Revisionsstelle
oder parlamentarische Kommission) auf ihr vollständiges physisches
Vorhandensein überprüft wurden?"
– Parlamentarische Initiative. Stamm Luzi
Stopp weiterer Goldverkäufe durch die Nationalbank
auf Artikel 160 Absatz 1 der Bundesverfassung und Artikel 107 des Parlamentsgesetzes
reiche ich folgende parlamentarische Initiative ein:
99 Absatz 3 der Bundesverfassung sei folgendermassen zu ergänzen:
wird in Gold gehalten. Die Goldreserven sind unverkäuflich.'"
– Parlamentarische Initiative. Stamm Luzi
Goldwährungsreserven der Nationalbank schrittweise erhöhen
auf Artikel 160 Absatz 1 der Bundesverfassung und Artikel 107 des Parlamentsgesetzes
reiche ich folgende parlamentarische Initiative ein:
99 der Bundesverfassung ist im geeigneten Absatz in folgendem Sinne zu
ergänzen: Bei einer Erhöhung der Währungsreserven ist der
Goldanteil mindestens beizubehalten."
- Motion. Freysinger Oskar
Woods-Nachfolgekonferenz, Währungs-Selbstschutz, SNB-Goldverkäufe
Bundesrat wird beauftragt, die Einberufung einer Bretton Woods-Nachfolgekonferenz
zu prüfen, und in Absprache mit interessierten ausländischen
Regierungen vorzubereiten. Im Interesse der Schweizer Wirtschaft ist die
Nationalbank anzuhalten, die von ihr gepflegte Praxis der faktischen Anbindung
des Schweizer Frankens an den amerikanischen Dollar unverzüglich aufzuheben.
Und es sind alle Abklärungen und Vorbereitungsmassnahmen zu treffen,
welche für eine allfällige Rückkehr zu einer beständigen
schweizerischen Realwert-Währung geeignet sein mögen, inklusive
sofortige Unterbindung aller Goldverkäufe der Nationalbank zur Stützung
der amerikanischen Währung."
– Anfrage. Freysinger Oskar
Undurchsichtige Swap-Bedingungen zur UBS-Entlastung
Nationalbank-Angaben vom 16. November 2008 gewährt die SNB der UBS
einen Kredit von 54 Milliarden US-Dollar mit einer Laufzeit von 8 bis 12
"Sie wird sich die notwendigen Devisen anfänglich bei der US-Federal
Reserve über einen Dollar-Franken-Swap beschaffen. Danach wird die
Nationalbank die entsprechenden US-Dollar-Beträge am Markt refinanzieren.
Die Verwendung von Währungsreserven ist nicht vorgesehen."
Trifft es zu, dass die auch jeder parlamentarischen Kontrolle entzogenen
Bedingungen dieses amerikanisch-schweizerischen Swap-Geschäftes unter
jedem Titel unbedenklich sind, insbesondere dass zur Absicherung dieser
amerikanischen Hilfestellung die verbliebenen Schweizer Goldreserven von
1040 Tonnen in keiner Art und Weise belastet worden sind oder werden könnten,
auch nicht bezüglich der freien Verfügbarkeit der allenfalls
noch in amerikanischen Depots liegenden Schweizer Goldreserven?
Kann der Bundesrat ausschliessen, dass die SNB weniger im nationalen, als
im vorwiegend fremden Interesse von ihren vermeintlichen oder tatsächlichen
Vorrechten und ausschliesslichen Kompetenzen zur Stützung fremder
Währungen und zur Abbremsung der Goldpreisentwicklung Gebrauch gemacht
hat oder machen wird, wobei letzteres amerikanischerseits angeblich von
der SNB als diskrete Gegenleistung für das obige Swap-Geschäft
erwartet werde und auch bereits zugesagt worden sei?
Bestätigt er die Gültigkeit von Artikel 267 des Strafgesetzbuches
für die SNB-Verantwortlichen?"
– Interpellation. Stamm Luzi
Wo liegt das Nationalbankgold?
Bundesrat wird beauftragt mitzuteilen, wo die Goldreserven der Nationalbank
gelagert sind. Zumindest sei mitzuteilen, wie viel davon sich in der Schweiz
– Postulat. Stamm Luzi
Hintergründe des Goldverkaufs der Nationalbank
Bundesrat wird beauftragt, dem Parlament einen Bericht über die Hintergründe
des Goldverkaufs der Nationalbank vorzulegen. Wer hat wann - und aus welchen
Gründen - die verschiedenen Goldverkäufe vorgeschlagen? Im Speziellen
ist die Frage zu beantworten, ob es Abmachungen mit ausländischen
Nationalbanken zum koordinierten Verkauf von Gold gibt."
– Parlamentarische Initiative. Stamm Luzi
Wahrung von Goldbeständen in der Schweiz
auf Artikel 160 Absatz 1 der Bundesverfassung und Artikel 107 des Parlamentsgesetzes
reiche ich folgende parlamentarische Initiative ein:
geeignete Gesetzesbestimmungen sei sicherzustellen, dass die Schweizerische
Eidgenossenschaft fortlaufend verpflichtet ist, das Gold zu kaufen, das
jeweils durch die Schweizerische Nationalbank verkauft wird; dies zum jeweils
geltenden durchschnittlichen Marktpreis. Ausser in schweren Krisenzeiten
ist gleichzeitig dem Bund zu verbieten, die angeschafften Goldbestände
wieder zu verkaufen."
- Fragestunde. Frage. Bührer Gerold
Will die Nationalbank weitere Goldreserven verteilen?
an der Grösse und an der Bedeutung des Schweizer Finanzsystems sind
die Währungsreserven unseres Landes sogar knapp dotiert. Es besteht
daher kein Spielraum für eine weitere Reduktion der Währungsreserven
beziehungsweise für weitere ausserordentliche Goldverkäufe der
Nationalbank." Bundesrat H.R.Merz (AB
2006 N 865)
- Fragestunde. Frage. Kaufmann Hans
Verfügungsgewalt über SNB-Gold im Ausland
- Postulat.Freysinger Oskar
Strategische Rohölreserven im Ausland
Bundesrat wird aufgefordert zu prüfen:
1. ob Rohöl sich eignet, ähnlich wie Gold, zur Sicherung und
Förderung nationaler Interessen als strategische Reserven allenfalls
auch im Ausland eingelagert zu werden,
2. ob, gegebenenfalls, ein Teil der nationalen Goldreserven zur Einrichtung
solcher strategischer Reserven im Ausland verwendet werden könnten,
z. B. durch staatsvertraglichen Erwerb von in geeigneten Partnerstaaten
liegenden Erdölfeldern, welche, wie die dagegen ausgetauschten und
weiterhin in der Schweiz liegenden Golddepots, als "jure imperii"-Güter
dem entsprechenden völkerrechtlichen Schutz zu unterstellen wären,
3. welche gesetzgeberischen Vorkehren zur Verwirklichung dieser Mehrzweckbewirtschaftung
der nationalen Goldreserven zu treffen wären.
des Bundesrates vom 18.05.2005
1. Rohöl eignet sich aus folgenden Gründen nicht, um als strategische
Reserve von nennenswertem Nutzen zu sein:
Die vorhandenen Lagerkapazitäten für Rohöl bei den beiden
schweizerischen Raffinerien sind für den laufenden Bedarf, nicht aber
für die Lagerung von zusätzlichen strategischen Reserven an Rohöl
ausgelegt. Die Erstellung von zusätzlichen Tanklagern für Rohöl
wäre sowohl aus finanziellen als auch aus raumplanerischen sowie umweltschutzrechtlichen
Gründen kaum möglich und gegebenenfalls nur mit unverhältnismässig
hohem Aufwand überhaupt realisierbar.
Der überwiegende Teil des schweizerischen Bedarfes an Erdöl wird
heute zuverlässig mittels Importen an Fertigprodukten sichergestellt.
Die aktuellen Raffineriekapazitäten sind nicht darauf ausgerichtet,
um in einer Krise strategische Rohölreserven innert nützlicher
Frist zu Fertigprodukten zu verarbeiten. Die Kapazitäten reichen lediglich
aus, um rund die Hälfte des schweizerischen Bedarfes an Erdölprodukten
Aufgrund der aktuellen Bedrohungslage wurden mit der Pflichtlagerpolitik
2004 bis 2007, welche im Oktober 2003 vom Bundesrat zur Kenntnis genommen
worden ist, die Pflichtlager an Erdölprodukten auf 4,5 Monaten Durchschnittsverbrauch
belassen. Gegen die Haltung strategischer Rohölreserven im Ausland
sprechen die Unsicherheit politischer und wirtschaftlicher Entwicklungen
in den möglichen, erdölfördernden Partnerstaaten. Es ist
auch zu beachten, dass die Versorgungslogistik und -infrastruktur im Ausland
als auch im Inland immer stärker optimiert wird. Dies führt aber
dazu, dass die logistischen Kapazitäten zusehends knapper werden und
die Anfälligkeit auf Störungen steigt.
2. Das Nationalbankgold erfüllt einen anderen Zweck als die im Postulat
vorgeschlagene strategische Reserve in Form von allenfalls auch im Ausland
Das Gold bildet zusammen mit den Devisenreserven die Währungsreserven
der Schweizerischen Nationalbank (SNB). Diese Aktiven der Nationalbank
erfüllen wichtige geld- und währungspolitische Funktionen. Die
Nationalbank kann jederzeit Devisenreserven gegen Franken verkaufen, um
den Aussenwert des Frankens zu stützen. Der monetäre Goldbestand
der Nationalbank trägt dazu bei, dass die Schweiz in Notlagen gegenüber
dem Ausland zahlungsfähig bleibt. Aus Diversifikationsgründen
lagert die SNB das Gold im In- und Ausland.
Der Abbau der Goldbestände der Nationalbank zugunsten einer Ölreserve
würde die Notenbank in ihrer geld- und währungspolitischen Aufgabe
behindern. Der Bankrat der SNB hat die Höhe der Währungsreserven
am 22. Oktober 2004 überprüft und kam dabei zum Schluss, dass
die SNB nach der Ausgliederung der 1300 Tonnen Gold und nach dem Abbau
der Glättungsreserve insgesamt über angemessene Währungsreserven
verfügt, um ihren gesetzlichen Auftrag heute und in Zukunft erfüllen
Infolge der Ablehnung des Postulates wird Punkt 3 gegenstandslos.
des Bundesrates vom 18.05.2005 Der Bundesrat beantragt
die Ablehnung des Postulates.
- Interpellation. Freysinger Oskar
weil seit mehr als zwei Jahren hängig.)
Primat der Politik beim Verwalten der Goldreserven
Nationalbankgesetz (SR 951.11) bestimmt die Aufgaben, Kompetenzen und Vorrechte
der Nationalbank. Im Gesamtinteresse des Landes führt sie die Geld-
und Währungspolitik und gewährleistet die Preisstabilität
unter Berücksichtigung der konjunkturellen Entwicklung (Art. 5 Abs.
den auswärtigen Beziehungen, deren Handhabung gemäss Bundesverfassung
dem Bundesrat untersteht (Art. 54 Abs. 1, 174, 184, 185, 187 Abs. 1a),
ist die Nationalbank in der Wahrnehmung ihrer Aufgaben gehalten, mit dem
Bundesrat zusammenzuarbeiten (Art. 5 Abs. 3 NBG). Zur Wirtschaftslage,
zur Geld- und Währungspolitik sowie zu aktuellen Fragen der Wirtschaftspolitik
des Bundes erfüllt die Nationalbank ihre Pflicht zur Rechenschaftsablegung
und Information durch regelmässige Kontakte mit dem Bundesrat. Und
"vor Entscheidungen von wesentlicher wirtschaftspolitischer und monetärer
Bedeutung" unterrichten sich der Bundesrat und die Nationalbank gegenseitig
(Art. 7 NBG).
in Artikel 6 NBG umschriebene Unabhängigkeit der Nationalbank beschränkt
sich demnach auf innerstaatliche technische Fragen. Im Sinne des verfassungsmässigen
Gesetzgebers vermindert diese technische Unabhängigkeit keineswegs
die Informations- und Konsultationspflichten der Nationalbank gegenüber
dem Bundesrat in einschlägigen politischen, vor allem aussenpolitischen
Fragen. Dazu gehören nicht zuletzt die Wahl, die fortlaufende Beobachtung
und die politische Einschätzung der ausländischen Standorte,
sich daraus allenfalls ergebende Standortwechsel sowie insgesamt die Verwaltung
und Aufteilung der Goldreserven auf die in- und ausländischen Depotorte.
bundesrätliche Antwort auf meine Frage vom 7. März scheint die
Auskunft eines Nationalbanksprechers zu bestätigen, wonach sowohl
der derzeitige Vorsteher des Eidgenössischen Finanzdepartementes als
auch sein Vorgänger nicht einmal informiert worden sei, geschweige
denn seine Zustimmung dazu gegeben habe, wo welche Teile der im Ausland
liegenden Schweizer Goldreserven wann aufzustocken oder abzubauen sind.
Daraus erhellt, dass die Nationalbank es bisher offenbar unterliess, den
Bundesrat in Sachen ausländischer Golddepots pflichtgemäss zu
informieren und zu konsultieren. Und dass sodann Handlungsbedarf besteht
zur Wahrnehmung des politischen Primates des Bundesrates, auch und nicht
zuletzt in der Frage der Beurteilung und Handhabung der Risiken, welche
angesichts erhöhter Terrorismus- und politischer Erpressungsgefahren
mit der treuhänderischen Lagerung von Teilen des schweizerischen Volksvermögens
im Ausland verbunden sind.
der Bundesrat die Erkenntnis, dass der verfassungsmässige Gesetzgeber
der Nationalbank weitestgehende Unabhängigkeit einräumte in technischen
Fragen der Geld- und Währungspolitik, jedoch ohne Einschränkung
des Primates der Politik und der besonderen Verantwortung des Bundesrates
in einschlägigen aussenpolitischen Belangen, Risikoabwägungen
und besonders in Fragen der Bewirtschaftung der im Ausland unterhaltenen
NR Freysinger (AB
2005 N 964)
- Fragestunde. Frage. Günter Paul
Wo ist unser Gold?
- Postulat. Grüne Fraktion
Begrenzte Ölvorräte. Szenarien
- Fragestunde. Frage. Scherer Marcel
Stopp des Goldverkaufes aus den Währungsreserven der SNB
- Fragestunde. Frage. Günter Paul
Schweizer Gold in den USA
- Interpellation. Abate Fabio
Nationalbankgold für Eisenbahn-Grossprojekte?
- Petition. Hirt Walter
Goldverkäufe der SNB sind einzustellen
- Parlamentarische Initiative. Dupraz John
Goldreserven der Nationalbank. Ausgewogene Verteilung
- Interpellation. Steiner Rudolf
Fehlende Depeschen im EDA
- Motion. Merz Hans-Rudolf
Verwendung der veräusserten Goldreserven
- Interpellation. Merz Hans-Rudolf
Verwendung der Goldreserven nach dem 22. September 2002
- Einfache Anfrage. Baumann J. Alexander
Verunstaltung des schweizerischen Hoheitszeichens
- Motion. Riklin Kathy
100 Millionen Franken zur Beschleunigung der Bildungsoffensive im
- Motion. Freisinnig-demokratische Fraktion
E-Switzerland. Gesetzesänderungen, Zeitplan und Mittel
- Motion. Zisyadis Josef
Eidgenössische Pensionskasse für die Landwirtschaft
Interpellation. Guisan Yves
Stiftung solidarische Schweiz. Wie weiter?
- Interpellation. Stamm Luzi
Kritik an der Bergier-Kommission
- Interpellation. Gusset Wilfried Ernest
Goldreserven der SNB in den USA
- Interpellation. Schlüer Ulrich
Der Bundesrat und das Völkerrecht
- Interpellation. Hollenstein Pia
Aufklärung bezüglich Mobutugelder
- Petition. Wahl Edouard
Revision aller Todesurteile sowie Revision aller weiteren existenzbrechenden
Strafurteile wegen Landesverrat sowie Petition für die Revision des
Washingtoner Abkommens von 1946
- Einfache Anfrage. Gusset Wilfried
Einsatz der Nationalbank-Währungsreserven für die Grossbanken
- Fra. Schmied Walter.
Golddeckung des Frankens
- Interpellation. Sozialdemokratische
Raubgold und die Schweiz
- Interpellation. Felten Margrith
- Interpellation. Spielmann Jean
Nutzung des Nationalbankvermögens
- Interpellation. Aguet Pierre
Verschlechterung des Image der Schweiz und der Schweizer Wirtschaft.
Rolle der Banken
- Einfache Anfrage. Dardel Jean-Nils
Gestohlenes Gold aus Südafrika
- Dringliche Einfache Anfrage. Rechsteiner
Die Schweiz und das Raubgold
- Interpellation. Tschopp Peter
Währungsreserven. Änderung der Politik
- Fra. Ziegler Jean.
Kriegskasse der P-26
- Fra. Hafner Rudolf.
Einlösungspflicht für Banknoten
- Einfache Anfrage. Weder Hansjürg
Amerikanisches Abhörzentrum Shakarchi?
- Interpellation. Salvioni Sergio
Entgegennahme von Geldern zweifelhafter Herkunft
- Interpellation. Oehen Valentin
Wiedereinführung des Goldstandards
- Motion. Bürgi Jakob
Finanzplatz Schweiz. Förderung
Von Claude Baumann
Zuerst die schlechte
Nachricht: Die Goldreserven der Schweiz werden zu einem fast lächerlichen
Preis verkauft. Und nun die noch schlechtere: 300 Tonnen sollen nicht mehr
dort sein, wo sie sein müssten. Von Claude Baumann (Text) und Dirk
Würde man alles Gold zusammenschmelzen, das
je gefördert wurde und in Tempeln und Tresoren, in Museen und auf
dem Meeresboden liegt, entstünde ein Würfel mit einer Kantenlänge
von gerade mal zwanzig Metern. Man könnte ihn in einem Öltanker
versorgen oder unter den Eiffelturm schieben, wie die Deutsche Bank errechnet
hat. So dicht und so knapp ist Gold.
Der Würfel hätte ein Gewicht von 150 000 Tonnen und wäre
zu aktuellen Preisen etwa 3750 Milliarden Franken wert. Einen kleinen Teil
davon besitzt die Schweiz: 1290 Tonnen. Dieses Gold im Wert von derzeit
rund 32 Milliarden Franken gehört zu den Währungsreserven der
Schweizerischen Nationalbank (SNB) und gibt aktuell wieder Anlass für
heftigste Kontroversen. Denn in den vergangenen fünf Jahren hat sich
der Goldpreis fast verdreifacht. Während dieser Zeit verkaufte die
SNB die Hälfte ihrer Goldreserven und löste dafür zwanzig
Milliarden F ranken. Damit wollte sie allfälligen Klumpenrisiken in
ihrer Bilanz vorbeugen. Eine fragwürdige Spekulation, wie sich herausgestellt
hat, denn inzwischen wäre dieses Gold gut dreissig Milliarden Franken
Ungeachtet dessen erschallen bereits neue Forderungen,
die Goldreserven zu beschneiden. Unlängst sprach die Geschäftsprüfungskommission
des Nationalrats davon, eine weitere Tranche dieses Staatsschatzes zu veräussern.
Letzte Woche plädierte der Lausanner Wirtschaftsprofessor Thomas von
Ungern-Sternberg einmal mehr dafür, das gesamte Gold der Eidgenossenschaft
zu verkaufen und den Erlös in lukrativere Anlagen zu investieren.
Und im nächsten September kommt eine Volksinitiative (Kosa) zur Abstimmung,
die einen Teil der Nationalbank-Gewinne - und damit auch des Goldes - in
die Kassen der AHV überweisen will. Das alles ist paradox, denn die
meisten Auguren gehen davon aus, dass der Goldpreis in den nächsten
Jahren noch erheblich steiler ansteigen wird.
Den Schatz in der Heimat hüten
Viele Schweizerinnen und Schweizer gehen davon aus,
dass unser Gold noch immer im amerikanischen Fort Knox im Bundesstaat Kentucky
gelagert sei, wo während des Zweiten Weltkriegs zahlreiche europäische
Staaten ihre Goldvorräte in Sicherheit brachten. Andere Vermutungen
gehen dahin, dass das Gold in einem unterirdischen Bunker in New York liegt.
Doch die Nationalbank, so haben Recherchen der Weltwoche ergeben, baute
in den letzten Jahren ihre Goldbestände in jenen Ländern ab,
wo der Schutz von Staatsguthaben nicht mehr gesichert ist. Dazu zählen
auch die USA. Das dortige Rechtsverständnis wird wegen seiner Unwägbarkeiten
als Risikofaktor betrachtet - «weil es eine Realität des amerikanischen
Systems ist, dass ein Richter einfach kommen und aufgrund einer Klage irgendwelche
Vermögenswerte konfiszieren kann», sagt ein hoher Mitarbeiter
der SNB. Mehrheitlich repatriierten die Notenbanker das Gold, wie inoffiziell
eingeräumt wird: «Der grosse Teil unseres Goldvolumens lagert
nun an verschiedenen Orten in der Schweiz.» Und: «Von den informierten
Kreisen geht niemand mehr davon aus, dass Schweizer Gold in den USA liegt.»
Den kleinen Teil, der sich noch im Ausland befindet, hat die SNB in sogenannte
Triple-A-Länder transferiert. Gemeint sind damit Länder, in denen
ein historisch gewachsenes Rechtsverständnis existiert, das Staatsguthaben
zuverlässig schützt. Dazu zählen vor allem Kanada und Grossbritannien,
wie es bei der SNB intern heisst.
Das ist ein Paradigmenwechsel: Über Jahrzehnte
hinweg verliess sich die Schweiz auf die Dienste der USA. Heute, in einer
Welt mit veränderten geopolitischen Akzenten, ist das nicht länger
der Fall. «Wenn irgendwo auf der Welt etwas passiert, das unsere
Goldbestände tangiert, rufen wir die Vorräte ab, schicken sie
anderswohin oder bringen sie heim», lautet nun die Devise der SNB.
Oder mit anderen Worten: Die Schweiz will ihren Goldschatz nicht länger
dem latenten Zugriffsrisiko amerikanischer Richter aussetzen.
Offiziell macht die SNB dazu keine Angaben - «aus
Sicherheitsgründen», wie Nationalbank-Sprecher Werner Abegg
anfügt. Ein Staatsgeheimnis? Selbst dem eher besonnenen früheren
Bundesrat Kaspar Villiger platzte einmal im Nationalrat deswegen der Kragen.
Entnervt erklärte er: «Wo diese Goldbarren
nun genau liegen, kann ich Ihnen leider nicht sagen, weil ich es auch nicht
weiss, es nicht wissen muss und es nicht wissen will.»
Wie gross der Schweizer Goldschatz nun tatsächlich
ist, darüber gehen die Meinungen auseinander. Offiziell besitzt die
Schweiz 1290 Tonnen. Mit einem Wert von rund dreissig Milliarden Franken
machen sie einen Drittel der SNB-Aktiven aus. Ob das Gold aber auch physisch
vorhanden ist, bleibt umstritten. «Zwischen den ausgewiesenen und
den tatsächlich vorhandenen Goldbeständen besteht keine Differenz»,
sagt Werner Abegg. Manche bezweifeln dies. In der Vergangenheit waren das
vor allem die sogenannten Goldbugs. Jene Leute also, die das gelbe Edelmetall
seit Jahr und Tag vergöttern, viele Goldbarren in ihren Tresoren horten
und sich an die Zeiten erinnern, als die Welt noch in Ordnung war, weil
alle wichtigen Währungen mit Gold gedeckt sein müssten und die
Notenbanken nur so viel Papiergeld drucken konnten, wie sie dafür
Gold zur Deckung hatten.
Heute ist das passe; selbst die Schweiz hob mit
einem Parlamentsbeschluss von 1999 die Goldbindung des Frankens auf. Der
im vergangenen Jahr verstorbene Zürcher Privatbankier Ferdinand Lips
zählte bis zu seinem Tod zu den Verfechtern des Goldstandards, weil
er davon ausging, dass das Papiergeld dereinst wertlos werden würde.
Umso wichtiger seien daher hohe und gesicherte Goldbestände. Lips'
Publikationen gelten heute als Offenbarung für viele Goldbugs, die
davon besessen sind, dass ein Grossteil der Reserven der Zentralbanken
gar nicht mehr vorhanden ist.
Anfang Jahr nun erhielten sie überraschend
Sukkurs vom französischen Finanzkonzern Credit Agricole, der mit einer
56-seitigen Studie für Aufsehen sorgte: Darin heisst es, dass die
westlichen Zentralbanken - und damit auch die schweizerische - heute nachweislich
10 000 bis 15 000 Tonnen Gold weniger besitzen als die offiziell gemeldeten
31 000 Tonnen. Autor der Studie ist der britische Metall- und Minenexperte
Paul Mylchreest von Cheuvreux, einem Brokerhaus, das zum Credit Agricole
gehört. Für seine Berechnungen stützte er sich auf historische
Daten, er untersuchte die Aktivitäten mit Derivaten aus den Berichten
der Bank für Internationalen Zahlungsausgleich (BIZ), und er besorgte
sich Ein- und Ausfuhrzahlen von Goldtransfers von und nach Grossbritannien,
einer der wichtigsten Drehscheiben für das gelbe Metall. Tiefere Goldbestände
hätten die Zentralbanken deshalb, weil sie einen Teil davon fahrlässig
ausgeliehen haben, sagt Mylchreest. Als der Goldpreis zwischen 1980 und
1999 von 850 auf 250 Dollar pro Unze absackte, hätten zahlreiche westliche
Notenbanken einen Teil ihrer Reserven gegen eine bescheidene Kommission
(rund ein Prozent) an grosse Geschäftsbanken wie JP Morgan, UBS, Goldman
Sachs oder die Deutsche Bank ausgeliehen. So Hesse sich das Gold rentabler
bewirtschaften, als wenn es in den Tresoren lag, argumentierten die Zentralbanker.
Die Geschäftsbanken verkauften das Gold weiter an andere Finanzinstitute
oder an Schmuckhersteller und legten den Erlös in besser rentierende
Staatsanleihen zu etwa vier Prozent an. Das war leicht verdientes Geld,
solange der Goldpreis tief blieb oder sank. Sobald die Finanzinstitute
ihren Verbindlichkeiten gegenüber den Zentralbanken nachkommen mussten,
beschafften sie sich das benötigte Gold zu tieferen Preisen am Markt.
So funktionierte der Gold-Carry-Trade, wie Experten diese Transaktion nennen.
Nach dem Börsenkrach von 2001 und 2002 veränderte
sich die Ausgangslage jedoch drastisch, da der Goldpreis nachhaltig zu
steigen begann. Viele Investoren entdeckten im Gold eine Anlagealternative
zu den Aktien. Gleichzeitig begannen asiatische Zentralbanken, Edelmetall
zu kaufen, um ihre Währungsreserven aus der Abhängigkeit des
Dollars zu befreien. Für die im Gold-Carry-Trade involvierten Banken
hatte das ungeahnte Folgen. Sie konnten sich nicht mehr am Markt zu günstigeren
Preisen mit dem benötigten Gold eindecken. Und das effektiv ausgeliehene
Gold hatten die Schmuckhersteller längst zu Ringen und Halsketten
verarbeitet, oder es lagerte in den Tresoren der Käufer. Mit dem weiteren
Anstieg des Goldpreises in den letzten drei Jahren hat sich die Situation
so zugespitzt, dass die Geschäftsbanken den Zentralbanken bis zu 15
000 Tonnen Gold schulden. Zu viel, als dass sie es jemals physisch wieder
zurückbezahlen könnten, resümiert Paul Mylchreest.
Zu ähnlichen Schlussfolgerungen kommt auch
der Zürcher Publizist und Finanzexperte Walter Hirt in Bezug auf die
Schweizerische Nationalbank. Er geht davon aus, dass die physischen Goldreserven
der SNB nicht 1290 Tonnen betragen, sondern bis zu 300 Tonnen tiefer sein
könnten - was immerhin einer Differenz von aktuell 7,5 Milliarden
Franken entspräche. Walter Hirt stützt seine Annahmen auf Hinweise
in den Geschäftsberichten der SNB, wonach mehrere hundert Tonnen Gold
Selbst heute, nachdem die Gold-Carry-Trades aller
Zentralbanken aufgrund des gestiegenen Goldpreises massiv rückläufig
sind, weist die SNB per Ende 2005 immer noch 135 Tonnen Gold aus, das physisch
an in- und ausländische Finanzinstitute ausgeliehen ist. Ein Risiko?
Als Sicherheit habe die SNB dafür «Effekten» - gemeint
sind erstklassige Obligationen - erhalten, sagt Nationalbank-Sprecher Werner
Tiefere Reserven, explodierende Preise
Walter Hirt, der bereits 2002 mit einer Petition
das Parlament in Bern auch dazu aufrief, die Goldverkäufe der SNB
einzustellen, weist indessen daraufhin, dass sowohl die deutsche wie auch
die britische Zentralbank als Folge von Carry-Trades in den letzten Jahren
die Höhe ihres ausgeliehenen Goldes nachträglich korrigieren
mussten. Das ist brisant. «Wenn sich die Erkenntnis weiter durchsetzt,
dass die Goldreserven westlicher Zentralbanken tatsächlich tiefer
sind, wird der Preis explodieren», sagt Marc Gugerli. Der vierzigjährige
Zürcher zählt in der Schweiz zu den profundesten Kennern der
Materie. Mit seinem Know-how berät er so renommierte Finanzhäuser
wie die Bank Julius Bär, die Zürcher Kantonalbank oder Lombard
Odier Darier Hentsch. Daneben betreibt er mit einigen Partnern einen eigenen
Goldfonds. Insgesamt verwaltet er eine Milliarde Franken, die in physisches
Gold (Barren) und in Goldminenaktien investiert ist.
Als sich Marc Gugerli vor bald zehn Jahren «aus einem Bauchgefühl
heraus» für das Edelmetall zu interessieren begann, kostete
die Unze 250 Dollar. In den Neunzigern habe sich niemand für Gold
interessiert, erinnert er sich. Die Welt stand im Bann der New Economy
und des Aktienbooms. Er fand aber, dass eine Anlageklasse wie Gold, die
jahrhundertelang als Gegenwert für Papiergeld gedient hatte, nicht
einfach verschwinden konnte. Darum machte sich der UBS-Banker selbständig.
Inzwischen ist Gugerli überzeugt, dass der Preis für eine Unze
Gold in den nächsten Jahren «auf 1000, 2000, möglicherweise
sogar auf 5000 Dollar» steigen wird. Wenn er das sagt, wirkt er so
gelassen, dass seinen Projektionen etwas Selbstverständliches anmutet.
Derzeit kostet die Unze Gold knapp 600 Dollar, umgerechnet etwa 750 Franken.
«Gold ist extrem knapp», sagt Gugerli.
«Der globalen Nachfrage von jährlich knapp 4000 Tonnen steht
ein Angebot von 2500 Tonnen gegenüber. Bisher konnte die Lücke
durch die Ausleihungen und Verkäufe der Zentralbanken grösstenteils
ausgeglichen werden. Doch je stärker die Nachfrage zunimmt, desto
weniger wird das möglich sein.» Von der Angebotsseite ist auch
nicht viel zu erwarten, da viele Explorationsfirmen es versäumten,
neue Vorkommen zu fördern. Aufgrund des tiefen Preises lohnte sich
das gar nicht mehr. «Das Fehlen neuer grösserer Goldfunde wird
darum auch künftig den Preis stark beeinflussen», bestätigt
SNB-Direktor Philipp Hildebrand.
Gold, lange verschmäht, avanciert damit vom
Rohstoff zum hochlukrativen Investment. An der Börse hat sich das
noch kaum niedergeschlagen. Die existierenden Reserven, inklusive offizieller
Bestände der Zentralbanken (31 000 Tonnen), machen heute 1,4 Prozent
der globalen Marktkapitalisierung aller Finanzprodukte aus. Zum Vergleich:
Im Jahr 1934 machte das Gold gut 20 Prozent der weltweiten Börsenkapitalisierung
aus, 1982 waren es sogar 25 Prozent. Auch der Wert aller Goldminenfirmen
ist mit rund 200 Milliarden Dollar ein Klacks. Er entspricht gerade einmal
jenem eines Blue-Chip-Unternehmens wie Shell oder Toyota.
Gold als heisseste Anlage der Zukunft? Selbst wenn
die Volatilität wie bei allen anderen Rohstoffen überdurchschnittlich
hoch ist und es dadurch auch immer wieder zu Kurseinbrüchen kommt,
zweifeln die Experten kaum am langfristigen Kurspotenzial des Edelmetalls.
Der Amerikaner Jim Rogers, der in den siebziger Jahren als Finanzpartner
von Investor George Soros ein Vermögen machte, geht davon aus, dass
sich die Welt erst am Anfang einer fünfzehn- bis zwanzigjährigen
Rohstoffhausse befindet. Einmal mit dem Motorrad und später mit einem
umgebauten Mercedes reiste er um die Welt und verschaffte sich einen Eindruck
vom riesigen Rohstoffbedarf in den Schwellenländern. Weil der Aufbau
neuer Förderanlagen noch Jahre in Anspruch nehme, dauere der Rohstoffboom
länger als jede andere Hausse, betont Rogers. «Dass sich der
Ölpreis wieder abschwächt, erwartet ja auch niemand.»
Der Amerikaner John C. Hathaway von der Firma Tocqueville
Asset Management zählt zu jenen Menschen, die als Fondsmanager täglich
grösste Mengen Gold bewegen. Auch er geht von einem Unzenpreis in
vierstelliger Höhe aus. Seine Gründe für den Anstieg: «Im
globalen Finanzsystem mit seinen vielen Derivaten stecken mittlerweile
enorme Risiken. Auch die Höhe der Verschuldung amerikanischer Haushalte
und die Blase im Immobiliensektor beunruhigt», sagt Hathaway. Als
weiteren Unsicherheitsfaktor wertet er die Tatsache, dass mehr als vierzig
Prozent der amerikanischen Staatsanleihen von ausländischen Schuldnern,
darunter zahlreiche asiatische Zentralbanken, gehalten werden. Besinnen
sich nur wenige Notenbanker darauf, dieses Dollar-Engagement zu reduzieren
und stattdessen in Gold zu investieren, wie das in den vergangenen Jahren
der Fall war, steigt der Unzenpreis weiter.
Als das Gold im vergangenen Mai auf 730 Dollar kletterte,
verglichen zahlreiche Auguren diese Entwicklung mit dem Höchststand
von 1980, als es bis auf 850 Dollar gestiegen war - auch damals in einer
Zeit, die von Inflationsängsten, politischen Konflikten und einem
hohen Ölpreis geprägt war. Was allerdings viele Marktbeobachter
vor Monatsfrist nicht berücksichtigten: Relativ gesehen entsprächen
die 850 Dollar von damals einem heutigen Wert von 1700 Dollar. So besehen
hat der Goldpreis noch viel Potenzial. Darum erstaunt es kaum, wenn Analyst
Paul Mylchreest seinem Goldreport den Titel gab: «Start Hoarding!»
- (Fangt an zu horten!)
Angesichts steigender Preise hat auch die Finanzwelt
in den letzten Jahren reagiert und eine Unmenge von Produkten und Indizes
lanciert. Weit verbreitet sind sogenannte Exchange-Traded-Funds (ETF).
Dabei werden mehrere Goldminenaktien zusammengefasst und gemäss einem
Börsenindex angelegt. Bezogen sich solche ETF Ende 2003 noch auf rund
zwanzig Tonnen Gold, haben sie heute die Grenze von fünfhundert Tonnen
überschritten. Das belegt, welcher Nachfrage sich das Edelmetall bei
Anlegern bereits erfreut.
Verkaufen? Reines Wunschdenken
Nachdem die Schweizerische Nationalbank die Hälfte
ihres Goldes verkauft hat, kommt den verbliebenen Reserven eine umso grössere
Bedeutung zu. Schliesslich geht es bei den Goldreserven um eine Art Notgroschen
unseres Landes, selbst wenn der Schweizer Franken heute nicht mehr durch
das Edelmetall gedeckt sein muss. Die 1290 Tonnen entsprechen einem Anteil
am Bruttoinlandprodukt von 12,5 Prozent. Im internationalen Vergleich liegt
die Schweiz damit im Mittelfeld, gemeinsam mit Dänemark etwa. Allerdings
besitzt der skandinavische Staat keinen bedeutenden Finanzplatz wie die
Schweiz. «Deshalb entbehrt die Auffassung jeglicher Grundlage, wir
verfügten noch über <überschüssige> Währungsreserven»,
sagt Hansueli Raggenbass, Präsident des Bankrats der SNB. Umso unverständlicher
ist es, wenn Politiker von SP bis SVP weitere Gold verkaufe suggerieren.
Der Bundesrat und die SNB haben sich davon distanziert. «Weitere
Verkäufe sind reines Wunschdenken», sagt SNB-Direktor Philipp
Mehr Sorge bereitet den Währungshütern
die im September zur Abstimmung gelangende Kosa-Volksinitiative. Sie fordert,
dass Gewinne der Nationalbank der AHV zugeführt werden. Allerdings
gehen die Initianten von einem gleichbleibenden Gewinn der SNB aus, der
in den letzten Jahren gerade dank der Goldverkäufe überdurchschnittlich
hoch ausfiel. Um solch einen weiterhin zu garantieren, müsste die
SNB ihre Aktiven riskanter bewirtschaften. Damit verlöre sie aber
ihre Unabhängigkeit und würde zum Spielball politischer Begehrlichkeiten.
In einer Zeit, in der sich geopolitische Akzente verschieben und sich manche
Staaten veranlasst sehen könnten, Restriktionen beim Goldbesitz zu
erlassen, weil kein anderer Rohstoff in der Menschheitsgeschichte eine
längere Beständigkeit besitzt, kann sich die SNB das nicht leisten.
Wie haushälterisch man mittlerweile mit dem Gold umgeht, beweist die
Zürcher Kantonalbank (ZKB). Vor kurzem lancierte sie einen ETF, der
sich darauf beschränkt, in physisches Gold zu investieren. Mit anderen
Worten: Jede Einzahlung in den Fonds wird mit Goldbarren unterlegt, so
dass der Investor sein Investment jederzeit in Bargeld oder auch in physischem
Gold zurückfordern kann. Damit hat der Anleger die Gewähr, dass
er seine Einlage, selbst wenn es weltweit zu einschneidenden Restriktionen
im Goldhandel käme, zurückfordern kann.
Für die ZKB setzt das voraus, dass sie für
den finanziellen Gegen wert des Fonds laufend neues Gold am Markt, namentlich
in Zürich, London und New York, beschaffen muss. Darum fährt
auch regelmässig ein gepanzerter Lieferwagen am Hauptsitz der ZKB
an der Zürcher Bahnhofstrasse vor und liefert neue Barren ein. So
stapelt sich das Gold in den Tresoranlagen der Zürcher Staatsbank.
Bleibt zu hoffen, dass dafür nicht bei der Schweizerischen Nationalbank
auf der anderen Strassenseite einige Tonnen im Tresor fehlen.
Peter L. Bernstein:
Die Macht des Goldes. Finanzbuch, 2005.454 S., Fr. 69.40
Ferdinand Lips: Die
Gold-Verschwörung. Kopp, 2003.382 S., Fr. 33.60
Robert Nef, Walter Hirt:
Eigenständig. Die Schweiz - ein Sonderfall. Moderne Industrie, 2002.
362 S., Fr. 45.60
Jim Rogers: Investment
Biker. Börsenmedien, 1998.497 S., Fr. 74.50
Petition gegen Goldverkäufe:www.walterhirt.ch/gold—snb.html
Gold-Studie von Cheuvreu
im Internet: www.gata.org/CheuvreuxGoldReport.pdf
BNS: 250t d'or à vendre!
Goldbürgerstreich II: SNB will weitere 250t Gold
Email an die Mitglieder der Eidgenössischen Räte
Sehr geehrtes Ratsmitglied,
"Die Schweizerische Nationalbank passt die Struktur
ihrer Währungsreserven an. Sie wird bis Ende September 2009 250
Tonnen Gold verkaufen und ihre Devisenreserven entsprechend
aufstocken." So gemäss SNB-Direktionsmitglied Thomas Jordan
anlässlich des SNB-Pressegsprächs
vom 14.Juni 2007.
Cher Membre des Chambres fédérales,
"La Banque nationale suisse adaptera la structure
de ses réserves monétaires. Jusqu'à fin septembre
2009, elle vendra 250 tonnes d'or et
accroîtra ainsi ses réserves de devises." (spns). Décision
communiquée à l'occasion de la Conférence
de presse de la BNS du 14 juin 2007 par Thomas Jordan, Membre de la
Der hierzulande gemäss Verfassung und SNB-Gesetz
für solche Verfügungsentscheidungen über das Eingemachte
zuständige Bundesrat hat vor einem Jahr - also noch vorder
erhöhten Einstufung der Gefahr von systemischen Riskikenals
Folge von Hedge Funds- & anderen prädatorischen Operationen -
in der Fragestunde vom 12.6.06 Herrn NR Bührer wie folgt geantwortet:
an der Grösse und an der Bedeutung des Schweizer Finanzsystems sind
die Währungsreserven unseres Landes sogar knapp dotiert. Es besteht
daher kein Spielraum für eine weitere Reduktion der Währungsreserven
beziehungsweise für weitere ausserordentliche Goldverkäufe der
2006 N 865)
Inzwischen sind im Mittleren
Osten mehrer Krisenherde in bürgerkriegsähnliche Wirrnisse umgekippt,
und weist einiges darauf hin, dass wir mit einem grösseren und unmittelbar
vorausstehenden (Nuklear-)Waffengang gegen den Iran
rechnen müssen. Allen voran die USA, aber auch Russland, China, Japan
und die arabischen Staaten sind dementsprechend daran, ihre Papierwerte
in Goldreserven umzuwandeln. Fehlte also nur noch, dass die Nationalbank
von einem Hedge Fund übernommen werden könnte, und auch deren
blauäugige Manager gegen die Attraktivitätskraft von goldenen
Fallschirmen sich als zuwenig wiederstandfähig erweisen würden.
Bei dieser bedenklichen Sachlage
gebietet sich ein unverzügliches Machtwort seitens der verfassungsmässigen
Hüter der nationalen Goldreserven, sowie eine Überprüfung
der einschlägigen Praktiken, Strukturen und Kompetenzen der Nationalbank.
Mit freundlichen Grüssen
und besten Wünschen für eine erholsame Sommerpause.
Sekretär, Schweiz. Investorenschutz-Vereinigung
PS: Zum CH/USA-Rechtshilfeabkommen (06.069)
empfehle ich Ihnen angemessene begleitende
Massnahmen zu beschliessen, z.B. in Form der Reaktivierung der "Beratenden
Kommission" zum verlässlicheren Schutz der "Souveränität,
Sicherheit oder ähnlicher wesentlicher Interessen" der Schweiz. Dies
in Anlehnung an die entsprechende Formulierung im CH-USA Vertrag von 1850,
wonach Rechtshilfegesuchen in Strafsachen u.a. nur dann stattgegeben werden
mögen, wenn sie "genügend
begründet und durch die nöthigen Aktenstücke unterstüzt"
sind. Womit auch endlich der PUK-Kritik einer selbstschädigenden und
Haltung" unserer Behörden insbesondere gegenüber den USA
Nachachtung verschafft, und die Lehren aus den Aerospatiale-,
Rich-, und CIA-Überflugs-Affairen
gezogen würden. Und womit den mahnenden Worten von Carlo Schmid nachgelebt
USA sind im Moment kein Rechtsstaat nach unserem Standard. Von daher muss
man aufpassen, was man macht. Es ist ein heikles Thema, ein heikles Gebiet.
Die USA dehnen ihre Kompetenzen enorm aus und fahren die Rechte der Betroffenen
enorm zurück. Hier sind wir mit unserer Auffassung natürlich
noch 'altmodisch', und daher ist die Aufsicht über dieses ganze Thema
von extremer Bedeutung."
2004 S 174:
FEBRUARY 11, 2009, 11:02 P.M. ET
Let's go back to the gold standard.
Needs a Sound-Money Foundation
Let's give the Fed some competition. Abolish legal
tender laws and see whose money people trust.
By JUDY SHELTON
Let's go back to the gold standard. If
the very idea seems at odds with what is currently happening in our country
-- with Congress preparing to pass a massive economic stimulus bill that
will push the fiscal deficit to triple the size of last year's record budget
gap -- it's because a gold standard stands in the way of runaway government
Under a gold standard, if people think the paper money printed by government
is losing value, they have the right to switch to gold. Fiat money -- i.e.,
currency with no intrinsic worth that government has decreed legal tender
-- loses its value when government creates more than can be absorbed by
the productive real economy. Too much fiat money results in inflation --
which pools in certain sectors at first, such as housing or financial assets,
but ultimately raises prices in general.
Inflation is the enemy of capitalism, chiseling away at the foundation
of free markets and the laws of supply and demand. It distorts price signals,
making retailers look like profiteers and deceiving workers into thinking
their wages have gone up. It pushes families into higher income tax brackets
without increasing their real consumption opportunities.
In short, inflation undermines capitalism by destroying the rationale
for dedicating a portion of today's earnings to savings. Accumulated savings
provide the capital that finances projects that generate higher future
returns; it's how an economy grows, how a society reaches higher levels
of prosperity. But inflation makes suckers out of savers.
If capitalism is to be preserved, it can't be through the con game of
diluting the value of money. People see through such tactics; they recognize
the signs of impending inflation. When we see Congress getting ready to
pay for 40% of 2009 federal budget expenditures with money created from
thin air, there's no getting around it. Our money will lose its capacity
to serve as an honest measure, a meaningful unit of account. Our paper
currency cannot provide a reliable store of value.
So we must first establish a sound foundation for capitalism by permitting
people to use a form of money they trust. Gold and silver have traditionally
served as currencies -- and for good reason. A study by two economists
at the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis, Arthur Rolnick and Warren Weber,
concluded that gold and silver standards consistently outperform fiat standards.
Analyzing data over many decades for a large sample of countries, they
found that "every country in our sample experienced a higher rate of inflation
in the period during which it was operating under a fiat standard than
in the period during which it was operating under a commodity standard."
Given that the driving force of free-market capitalism is competition,
it stands to reason that the best way to improve money is through currency
competition. Individuals should be able to choose whether they wish to
carry out their personal economic transactions using the paper currency
offered by the government, or to conduct their affairs using voluntary
private contracts linked to payment in gold or silver.
Legal tender laws currently favor government-issued money, putting private
contracts in gold or silver at a distinct disadvantage. Contracts denominated
in Federal Reserve notes are enforced by the courts, whereas contracts
denominated in gold are not. Gold purchases are subject to taxes, both
sales and capital gains. And while the Constitution specifies that only
commodity standards are lawful -- "No state shall coin money, emit bills
of credit, or make anything but gold and silver coin a tender in payment
of debts" (Art. I, Sec. 10) -- it is fiat money that enjoys legal tender
status and its protections.
Now is the time to challenge the exclusive monopoly of Federal Reserve
notes as currency. Buyers and sellers, by mutual consent, should have access
to an alternate means for settling accounts; they should be able to do
business using a monetary unit of account defined in terms of gold. The
existence of parallel currencies operating side-by-side on an equal legal
footing would make it clear whether people had more confidence in fiat
money or money redeemable in gold. If the gold-based system is preferred,
it means that people fully understand that the purpose of money is to facilitate
commerce, not to camouflage fiscal mismanagement.
Private gold currencies have served as the medium of exchange throughout
history -- long before kings and governments took over the franchise. The
initial justification for government involvement in money was to certify
the weight and fineness of private gold coins. That rulers found it all
too tempting to debase the money and defraud its users testifies more to
the corruptive aspects of sovereign authority than to the viability of
Which is why government officials should not now have the last word
in determining the monetary measure, especially when they have abused the
The same values that will help America regain its economic footing and
get back on the path to productive growth -- honesty, reliability, accountability
-- should be reflected in our money. Economists who promote the government-knows-best
approach of Keynesian economics fail to comprehend the damaging consequences
of spurring economic activity through a money illusion. Fiscal "stimulus"
at the expense of monetary stability may accommodate the principles of
the childless British economist who famously quipped, "In the long run,
we're all dead." But it shortchanges future generations by saddling them
with undeserved debt obligations.
There is also the argument that gold-linked money deprives the government
of needed "flexibility" and could lead to falling prices. But contrary
to fears of harmful deflation, the big problem is not that nominal prices
might go down as production declines, but rather that dollar prices artificially
pumped up by government deficit spending merely paper over the real economic
situation. When the output of goods grows faster than the stock of money,
benign deflation can occur -- it happened from 1880 to 1900 while the U.S.
was on a gold standard. But the total price-level decline was 10% stretched
over 20 years. Meanwhile, the gross domestic product more than doubled.
At a moment when the world is questioning the virtues of democratic
capitalism, our nation should provide global leadership by focusing on
the need for monetary integrity. One of the most serious threats to global
economic recovery -- aside from inadequate savings -- is protectionism.
An important benefit of developing a parallel currency linked to gold is
that other countries could likewise permit their own citizens to utilize
it. To the extent they did so, a common currency area would be created
not subject to the insidious protectionism of sliding exchange rates.
The fiasco of the G-20 meeting in Washington last November -- it was
supposed to usher in "the next Bretton Woods" -- suggests that any move
toward a new international monetary system based on gold will more likely
take place through the grass-roots efforts of Americans. It may already
be happening at the state level. Last month, Indiana state Sen. Greg Walker
introduced a bill -- "The Indiana Honest Money Act" -- which would, if
enacted, allow citizens the option of paying in or receiving back gold,
silver or the equivalent electronic receipt as an alternative to Federal
Reserve notes for all transactions conducted with the state of Indiana.
It may turn out to be a bellwether. Certainly, it's a sign of a growing
feeling in the heartland that we need to go back to sound money. We need
money that works for the legitimate producers and consumers of the world
-- the savers and borrowers, the entrepreneurs. Not money that works for
Ms. Shelton, an economist, is author of "Money Meltdown: Restoring
Order to the Global Currency System" (Free Press, 1994).
May 7 2009 03:00
of gold sales has cost Europe's central banks $40bn
By Javier Blas
Europe's central banks are $40bn (Â£26.4bn) poorer than
they might have been after they followed a British move taken 10 years
ago todayto shrink the Bank of England's gold reserves, analysis by the
Financial Times has shown.
London's announcement on May 7 1999 that it would sell a large share
of the Bank's gold reserves in favour of assets offering a return, such
as government bonds, was the high water mark of so-called "anti-gold" sentiment
among European central banks.
Many of these banks, such as those in France, Spain, the Netherlands
and Portugal, decided later in 1999 to follow Britain and sell off their
reserves. At that time, gold was worth about $280 an ounce, less than a
third of its current level of more than $900.
European banks eventually sold about 3,800 tonnes of gold, reaping about
$56bn, according to calculations from official sales data and bullion prices.
Taking into account the likely returns from the investments in bonds,
the banks have gained another $12bn. But because today's gold prices are
far higher, they are about $40bn poorer than if they had kept their reserves.
The biggest loser is the Swiss National Bank, which sold 1,550 tonnes
over the decade and at today's gold prices is $19bn poorer, followed by
the Bank of England, which is $5bn poorer.
The Treasury yesterday defended its decision to sell gold as a way to
diversify reserves and cut risk. "As a result of the programme, a one-off
reduction in risk of approximately 30 per cent was achieved," it said.
The Swiss National Bank declined to comment other than to say that it did
not plan to sell
However, central bankers are confident that over the long run their
move out of gold and into bonds will pay off and reduce the volatility
of their portfolios, people familiar with their thinking said. Analysts
also argue that because some banks had more than 90 per cent of their assets
in gold, some
disposals were warranted.
The proportion of European reserves held as gold remains extremely large
even after years of sales, at an average of about 60 per cent, compared
with the world average of 10.5 per cent.
After 10 years of steady sales, Europe's gold sales are set to slowto
their lowest levels since 1999, while central banks outside Europe have
already become net buyers of gold. The US, the world's biggest holder of
gold, decided not to follow Europe's move. Germany and Italy are the only
European central banks that did not follow the UK, mostly because of
domestic disputes about what to do with the proceeds.
Die Welt online
20. Oktober 2009
Goldstandard verschärfte die Krise 1929
Von D. Eckert und H. Zschäpitz
Krise nach dem Schwarzen Freitag im Oktober 1929 war vermeidbar. Damals
wurden schwerwiegende Fehler gemacht. Dazu gehörten auch die Bindung
der wichtigen Währungen an das Gold – so Ökonom Liaquat Ahamed
bei WELT ONLINE. Doch die Saat für die damalige Krise wurde viel früher
Der exklusivste Club der Welt" - so wurden in den Zwanziger Jahren die
Notenbank-Chefs der vier wichtigsten Wirtschaftsnationen der Welt genannt:
Montagu Norman von der Bank of England, Benjamin Strong von der New York
Fed, Emile Moreau von der Banque de France und Hjalmar Schacht von der
In fast schon konspirativer Art lenkten die vier die Geschicke der Weltwirtschaft
und der Finanzmärkte. Mit fatalen Folgen. Denn am Ende lösten
ihre Entscheidungen den Crash von 1929 und die Große Depression aus.
In "Lords of Finance" schildert Liaquat Ahamed, Ökonom und Investmentmanager,
das Wirken der vier Notenbanker, die die Welt "in die Pleite trieben" (wie
es im englischen Titel hieß). Das 534-seitige Werk über die
Macht und Ohnmacht der Geldhüter gehört zu den klügsten
Wirtschaftsbüchern des Jahres.
WELT ONLINE: Herr Ahamed, Sie haben vier Jahre an einem Buch über
Protagonisten und Hintergründe der Großen Depression geschrieben
und das Werk just zu dem Zeitpunkt auf den Markt gebracht, als sich eine
neue Weltwirtschaftskrise anzubahnen schien. Das nennen wir tolles Timing.
Hatten Sie eine Vorahnung?
Liaquat Ahamed: Dass das Buch mitten in der Finanzkrise herauskam, war
Glück. Kein Glück hingegen war die Wahl des Themas. Mir war schon
lange bewusst, dass uns so etwas bevorsteht, und seit der Asien- und Russlandkrise
vor elf Jahren habe ich mich intensiv mit weltwirtschaftlichen Verwerfungen
und ihren Gründen auseinandergesetzt. Mich hat fasziniert, warum die
Katastrophe 1998 abgewendet werden konnte, 1929 aber nicht - mit verheerenden
Folgen. So fiel mein Blick unweigerlich auf das Krisenmanagement.
WELT ONLINE: Wie lautet Ihr Verdikt über die aktuelle Krise?
Ahamed: Die Parallelen zu 1929 waren wirklich groß. Nach der Lehman-Pleite
im Herbst standen wir am Abgrund. Aber die Entscheider haben die richtigen
Lehren gezogen. Damals wie heute gab es eine riesige Spekulationsblase,
ausgelöst durch lockere Geldpolitik und Verschuldung, und dann eine
großflächige Bankenkrise, die durch Ungleichgewichte in der
Weltwirtschaft verschärft wurde. Vom Handel über die Industrie
bis hin zum Aktienmarkt war der Absturz ebenso dramatisch wie damals.
WELT ONLINE: Menschen machen den Unterschied?
Ahamed: Definitiv. Von den handelnden Personen an der Spitze hängt
enorm viel ab, die Entscheidungen von Notenbankern und Politikern können
das Schlimmste abwenden oder die Welt in eine Depression stürzen.
Der Chef der Federal Reserve, Ben Bernanke, hat nach anfänglichem
Zögern schnell und beherzt die Zinsen gesenkt und dann zu weiteren
kreativen Mitteln gegriffen, um den Bankensektor zu stabilisieren. Bernanke
kam zugute, dass er sich als Wissenschaftler intensiv mit der Großen
Depression auseinandergesetzt hat.
WELT ONLINE: Welche Fehler wurden vor 80 Jahren gemacht?
Ahamed: Damals verordneten die Notenbanker einem stark geschwächten
Patienten einen Aderlass: Zum Beispiel ließen die Regierungen angeschlagene
Kreditinstitute zu Hunderten pleite gehen, noch mitten im Abschwung erhöhten
die Notenbanken bereits wieder die Leitzinsen, gleichzeitig wurden die
Verbraucher auch noch mit höheren Steuern belastet.
WELT ONLINE: Wohl eher ein Giftcocktail als Medizin für den Patienten?
Ahamed: Damals galten unter Ökonomen andere Glaubenssätze.
Eine unheilvolle Rolle spielte der Goldstandard, dem sich vor allem Montagu
Norman von der Bank of England verschrieb. Diesen hatten sich die Notenbanken
ursprünglich selbst auferlegt, um den Wert des Geldes zu sichern.
Vor dem Ersten Weltkrieg hatte die Edelmetall-Bindung der Währung
auch gut funktioniert. Doch Ende der Zwanzigerjahre erwies sich der Goldstandard
als geldpolitische Zwangsjacke. Die amerikanische Zentralbank musste 1930
die Zinsen erhöhen, um Goldabflüsse zu verhindern.
WELT ONLINE: Das müssen Sie erklären ...
Ahamed: Wenn Anleger das Vertrauen in Dollar, Pfund oder Mark verloren,
ließen sie sich den Gegenwert in Gold auszahlen. Damit schmolzen
die Edelmetall-Reserven dahin. Um die Abflüsse zu vermeiden, musste
das Land höhere Zinsen bieten. Doch mitten in der Depression belastete
das die Wirtschaft zusätzlich.
WELT ONLINE: Sie schreiben, dass der Goldstandard eine internationale
Kooperation verhinderte, anstatt sie zu unterstützen.
Ahamed: Ja, das ist ein Aspekt. Statt das internationale Währungssystem
damit zu stabilisieren, nutzten die Notenbanker ihr Gold für politische
Zwecke. Für Emile Moreau waren die großen Edelmetallreserven
der Banque de France eine Art Druckmittel gegen die Bank of England. Den
Franzosen behagte die ganze Finanzarchitektur nicht, weil sie sie als angelsächsische
Verschwörung gegen ihr Land ansahen.
WELT ONLINE: Waren das die Nachwirkungen des Ersten Weltkriegs?
Ahamed: Die Saat für Dauerkonflikte war durch den Versailler Vertrag
gelegt worden: Darin waren Deutschland immense Reparationen von den Alliierten
auferlegt worden. In heutigem Geld wären das 1,6 Billionen Euro. Engländern
und Franzosen wiederum pochten kompromisslos auf deren Erfüllung,
weil sie aus der Zeit von 1914 bis 1918 ihrerseits hoch bei den USA verschuldet
waren. Und die Amerikaner zeigten keine Bereitschaft, auf ihre Forderung
zu verzichten. Das sollte in den ganzen Zwanzigerjahren das politische
Klima vergiftet und das internationale Finanzsystem extrem krisenanfällig
WELT ONLINE: Aber dafür konnten doch die Notenbanker nichts.
Ahamed: Die Reparationsforderungen waren nur der erste der schwerwiegenden
Fehler, die in die Große Depression mündeten. Vieles hing an
den Notenbankern. Der Brite Montagu Norman etwa wollte das Pfund unbedingt
zum alten, nunmehr viel zu hohen Umtauschkurs ans Gold koppeln. Der Amerikaner
Benjamin Strong verstarb 1928, ein Jahr vor dem Börsencrash. Seine
Nachfolger hatten nicht seine Statur. Hätte Strong noch gelebt und
hätte er das Krisenmanagement an sich gerissen, wäre die Große
Depression möglicherweise abgewendet worden. In Deutschland trat Hjalmar
Schacht 1930 zurück, weil er an seine Reputation dachte und nicht
für die schmerzlichen Entscheidungen, die nötig waren, verantwortlich
gemacht werden wollte.
WELT ONLINE: Wenn Notenbanker einen solchen Einfluss auf die Weltwirtschaft
haben, sollte man sie dann nicht besser kontrollieren?
Ahamed: Ich bin entschieden dafür, dass die Geldpolitik transparenter
wird. Wir müssen stets wissen, was die Währungshüter tun
und welche Ziele sie verfolgen. Allerdings bin ich strikt dagegen, dass
sich die Notenbanker jede Entscheidung von einem Parlament absegnen lassen
müssen. Sie brauchen den Handlungsspielraum, um in brenzligen Situationen
rasch eingreifen zu können.
und 2008 - Ökonomen erklären Krisen | Der
Crash war der Anfang - Der Schwarze Freitag und seine Folgen
September 26 2010 20:23
Value locked in
By Javier Blas and Jack Farchy in London
gold standard: from Newton to a floating world
Since 1717, when Sir Isaac Newton almost by accident created the first
gold standard in the UK – as master of the Mint, he gave the guinea a statutory
valuation of 21 shillings – bullion has been closely linked to central
banks, writes Javier Blas.
The link was refined in 1816 when the Coinage Act declared the new gold
sovereign, valued at £1, to be the sole standard of value and unlimited
legal tender, according to a study by Timothy Green, a gold market historian.
From 1870-1900, all main countries other than China switched to the gold
standard, linking their fiat currencies to the price of bullion. Bimetallism
– the gold-and-silver standards that some had used – were all but abandoned.
Soon afterwards, in 1919, the UK dropped the gold standard after the first
world war ravaged Europe. The country would not return until 1925 and would
drop out again in 1931.
But after 1944, the gold standard returned to the UK and the rest of the
world as a result of the Bretton Woods conference. The meeting set the
basis of the postwar monetary system, linking gold to the US dollar at
$35 per troy ounce. The system came under extreme pressure from 1968 and
on August 15 1971 Washington suspended the convertibility of gold into
dollars, in effect ending the gold standard.
By 1973, most industrialised countries adopted floating exchange rates,
breaking more than 300 years of formal links to gold.
It was a gold rush – but in reverse. For nearly 20 years the world’s
central banks, from Canada to Switzerland and Belgium to Australia, were
hustling to sell their once prized gold bars. Around the turn of the millennium
the selling became so intense that traders joked about “the new miners”,
comparing central banks with the Californian prospectors whose 19th century
gold rush flooded the market.
What’s driving gold? - Sep-24
central banks halt gold sales - Sep-26
ETFs - Gold shines among the favoured - Sep-12
depth: Gold - Sep-28
we trust for that element of insurance - Aug-07.
.Bullion, which for centuries enjoyed a near-mythical importance as
a symbol of monetary stability, had become deeply unfashionable, considered
a non-yielding relic. Central bankers wanted sovereign debt with its steady
returns rather than coffers full of 400-ounce bars, which incur storage
and insurance costs and carry no promise of a reliable yield.
Fast forward 10 years, add the financial crisis and growing concerns
about rising sovereign debt levels, and that anti-gold philosophy has been
turned on its head. “For two decades, the only question for central banks
was how much and how soon should they sell their gold,” says George Milling-Stanley
of the World Gold Council, a producers’ lobby group. “Increasingly, the
question is how much and how soon should they buy.”
The policy about-face from central banks – not only the most cautious
of market participants but also those in command of the most information
– underscores how the crisis has transformed the global market landscape.
guide: behind the gold price
The key moments in gold’s
history, plus: what’s driving the recent price-spike?
..Amid a broad loss of confidence in the financial system, from Wall
Street titans to governments, gold has gained traction for a simple reason
that has afforded it a central place as a store of value for more than
2,000 years: it is nobody’s liability. At the same time, the metal’s ascent
reflects widespread fears that the central banks’ own unprecedented monetary
policy moves will lead to the debasement of paper currencies and runaway
inflation, making hard assets the only reliable store of value.
For the gold market, the reversal of the trend of central bank selling
is one of the most important developments in recent history. As a vote
of confidence in gold, it has given investors, from billionaires with Swiss
vaults to pensioners with a few coins, the confidence to buy bullion. More
importantly, it has removed a large source of supply from the market.
Evy Hambro, manager of BlackRock’s Gold & General fund, says the
change in central banks’ behaviour is “one major factor supporting” prices.
John Levin, head of precious metals sales at HSBC, simply calls the shift
a “game changer”. It has propelled gold prices to an all-time high of $1,300
a troy ounce, touched last Friday. Adjusted for inflation, however, the
yellow metal is a long way from its 1980 peak of more than $2,300.
The change – which today will be a main topic of discussion at the London
Bullion Market Association annual conference in Berlin, the industry’s
main gathering – is partly the result of a natural end to European sales
after all the years of large disposals. But it also reflects the shifting
global power map: as Asian economies’ might grows, their central banks
and sovereign wealth funds are stocking up on bullion.
The clearest sign of the new trend is Beijing’s announcement last year
that it had almost doubled its gold reserves: with 1,054 tonnes, it has
become the world’s fifth-biggest holder of the metal. More recently, India,
Saudi Arabia, Russia and the Philippines have announced big additions to
their official gold reserves, while others, from Sri Lanka to Bangladesh,
have made smaller purchases. Traders and bankers say further countries
and their sovereign wealth funds are also quietly buying gold.
GFMS, a consultancy, estimates that central banks as a group will be
buyers of gold this year for the first time since 1988. On a net basis,
the purchases are forecast to be small, at around 15 tonnes. Large official
purchases of gold – in the hundreds of tonnes – have not been seen since
1965, prior to the collapse of the Bretton Woods system of fixed exchange
rates linked to the gold price.
But since the early 1990s, a steady flow of unco-ordinated sales from
central banks contributed to a relentless drop in gold prices. The final
blow for the market – and the credibility of bullion as an asset – came
when the UK Treasury in May 1999 publicly announced that it would be selling
half of Britain’s gold reserves. The shock sent prices to a 23-year low,
at just above $250 an ounce.
The move by London was profoundly symbolic. The Bank of England had
for centuries supported the development of the bullion market; the first
gold standard was set in 1717. Even though it abandoned that mechanism
decades ago, London remained then, as now, the centre of the industry.
Investors worried that if Britain was selling, others would soon join in.
They were right. Countries such as Spain halved their gold holdings
in a new rush to sell; France started a programme of large disposals. From
1990 until last year, central banks around the world sold about 7,500 tonnes
of gold. Over the last decade, they have dumped 442 tonnes each year on
average, more than the annual output of China, the world’s biggest producer,
and equal to about 10 per cent of annual demand, according to GFMS.
The effect on the market was such that, in order to halt the precipitous
slide, Europe’s central banks from 1999 have capped their annual gold sales.
The agreement was renewed last year, but selling from European central
banks has all but dried up. In the first year of the new agreement, which
ended on Sunday, the 19 signatories sold less than 10 tonnes.
Will the new buying trend continue, or even accelerate? The gold industry
is split. Some argue that gold accumulation by Asian central banks will
escalate, but others see this year’s purchases as an aberration, with a
return to the net selling that characterised the last 20 years.
Among those who see an escalation, in demand, one statistic in particular
has the “gold bugs” rubbing their hands. The proportion of bullion as a
percentage of official reserves in the Bric countries – Brazil, Russia,
India and China – averages just 5 per cent, compared with more than 50
per cent in the US and most European countries. That means developing nations
are thought likely to buy gold to diversify the risk in their reserves.
Recent buying by India and Russia, which is purchasing its entire domestic
mine output, and suspected purchases by China in its domestic market indicate
that the theory could be proved right.
But there are reasons for caution. The gold market cannot accommodate
large buying by central banks without sending prices through the roof:
the entire global gold supply is worth less than $200bn a year, compared
with global foreign exchange reserves of $8,500bn. Central bankers joke
that gold is similar to what the Norwegian krone is on the foreign exchange
market: too small for diversification.
At best, developing countries may therefore increase the proportion
of bullion in their official reserves over time by a few percentage points.
Take China. After a decade of strong accumulation of assets, Beijing
holds 1.6 per cent of its $2,500bn reserves in gold, with the rest mostly
in US Treasuries, sovereign debt and other foreign exchange instruments.
If the country was to increase the proportion of gold in its reserves to
the world average of 10.7 per cent, it would need to buy some 7,000 tonnes
– equal to three times last year’s global mine output.
Yi Gang, the head of the State Administration of Foreign Exchange, the
entity that manages China’s reserves, has all but ruled out such a large-scale
Philip Klapwijk of GFMS says that on-market purchases by China would
immediately push the gold price too high. “As such, it is more likely that
some discreet buying could take place quietly in the domestic market via
purchasing either local mine production or scrap available in the market,”
But he cautions against dismissing potential buying because of its difficulty,
noting that by buying for instance 100-150 tonnes from the domestic market
each year, central banks in certain emerging nations could in due course
achieve a meaningful adjustment.
While there are good reasons why developing countries’ central banks
may continue buying gold in the future, there is a strong rationale, too,
for anticipating further selling by developed countries, particularly in
Even after two decades of heavy selling, the proportion of gold in some
countries’ reserves is way too high, according to some consultants and
bankers. Portugal is one of the most extreme cases – Lisbon holds more
than 80 per cent of its reserves in gold. On average, the member states
of the eurozone hold 58 per cent of their official reserves in gold, according
to official statistics.
The proportion is well above the de facto target set by the European
Central Bank of about 15 per cent of its reserves in bullion. As soon as
the financial crisis ends, bankers and advisers believe European central
banks that are overweight in gold will start selling again, profiting from
current record prices. “I would be willing to bet that in the next five
years central banks on a net basis will be gold sellers again,” says Terrence
Keeley of Sovereign Trends, an advisory firm.
All the same, the universal rush to dump bullion of the late 1990s is
unlikely to be repeated any time soon. With nerves still jangling in Europe,
the region’s central bankers are leery of appearing to be forced sellers.
In the near term, bankers and analysts see little prospect of any gold
sales from the official sector once the International Monetary Fund completes
a 400-tonne disposal at some point next year. In general, most believe
that the next decade would not see much buying or selling.
Mr Keeley says that central bankers have been stung by criticism for
poor market timing on gold. The UK, for example, sold its gold at the bottom
of the market in 1999 and other European central banks have disposed of
it at prices below $500 an ounce.
“Central bankers abhor controversial headlines. When it comes to gold
especially, they’d rather do nothing than stand accused of doing something
wrong,” he says.
This is one case, though, where the effect of doing nothing is profound.
The Wall Street Journal
October 28, 2010
vs. the Fed: The Record Is Clear
There were no world-wide financial crises of major
during the Bretton Woods era from 1947 to 1971
BY CHARLES W. KADLEC .
When it meets next week, the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) is
widely expected to signal its desire to increase the rate of inflation
by providing additional monetary stimulus. This policy is based on a false
-- and dangerous -- premise: that manipulating the dollar's buying power
will lead to higher employment and economic growth. But the experience
of the past 40 years points to the opposite conclusion: that guaranteeing
a stable value for the dollar by restoring dollar-gold convertibility would
be the surest way for the Federal Reserve to achieve its dual mandate of
maximum employment and price stability.
From 1947 through 1967, the year before the U.S. began to weasel out
of its commitment to dollar-gold convertibility, unemployment averaged
only 4.7% and never rose above 7%. Real growth averaged 4% a year. Low
unemployment and high growth coincided with low inflation. During the 21
years ending in 1967, consumer-price inflation averaged just 1.9% a year.
Interest rates, too, were low and stable -- the yield on triple-A corporate
bonds averaged less than 4% and never rose above 6%.
What has happened since 1971, when President
Nixon formally broke the link between the dollar and gold?
Higher average unemployment, slower growth,
greater instability, and a decline in the economy's resilience. For the
period 1971 through 2009, unemployment averaged 6.2%, a full 1.5 percentage
points above the 1947-67 average, and real growth rates averaged less than
3%. We have since experienced the three worst recessions since the end
of World War II, with the unemployment rate averaging 8.5% in 1975, 9.7%
in 1982, and above 9.5% for the past 14 months. During these 39 years in
which the Fed was free to manipulate the value of the dollar, the consumer-price
index rose, on average, 4.4% a year. That means that a dollar today buys
only about one-sixth of the consumer goods it purchased in 1971.
Interest rates, too, have been high and highly
volatile, with the yield on triple-A corporate bonds averaging more than
8% and, until 2003, never falling below 6%. High and highly volatile interest
rates are symptomatic of the monetary uncertainty that has reduced the
economy's ability to recover from external shocks and led directly to one
financial crisis after another. During these four decades of discretionary
monetary policies, the world suffered no fewer than 10 major financial
crises, beginning with the oil crisis of 1973 and culminating in the financial
crisis of 2008-09, and now the sovereign debt crisis and potential currency
war of 2010. There were no world-wide financial crises of similar magnitude
between 1947 and 1971.
At the center of each of these crises were
gyrating currency values—either on foreign-exchange markets or in terms
of real goods and services. As the dollar's value gyrates it produces windfall
profits and losses, feeding speculation and poor judgment. The housing
bubble was fed in part by 40 years of experience with a dollar that lost
purchasing power every year. Today, individual investors are piling into
gold and other commodities in hopes of finding a safe haven from the FOMC's
intention to decrease the buying power of the dollar and reduce the value
of our savings.
And what of the seductive promise that a floating
dollar would make American labor more competitive and improve the nation's
trade balance? In 1967, one dollar could buy the equivalent of approximately
2.4 euros (based on the pre-euro German mark) and 362 yen. Over the succeeding
42 years, the dollar has been devalued by 72% against the euro and 75%
against the yen. Yet net exports have fallen from a modest surplus in 1967
to a $390 billion deficit equivalent to 2.7% of GDP today.
The members of the FOMC, like their predecessors,
are trying to do the best they can, but they are not really sure what it
is that needs to be done. They have kept the federal-funds rate near zero
for almost two years, but small businesses find it difficult to get loans
and savers suffer from the lost income brought by artificially low interest
rates. Now they're about to advocate higher inflation—i.e., less price
stability—in hopes of spurring economic growth.
Economists and pundits may disagree on why
the gold standard delivered such superior results compared to the recurrent
crises, instability and overall inferior economic performance delivered
by the current system. But the data are clear: A gold-based system delivers
higher employment and more price stability. The time has come to begin
the serious work of building a 21st-century gold standard for the benefit
of American workers, investors, and businesses.
Mr. Kadlec is a member of
the Economic Advisory Board of the American Principles Project, an author,
and founder of the Community of Liberty.
November 1, 2010 11:41am
the world go back to the gold standard?
Update: This post was written before Robert
Zoellick, World Bank president, argued that leading economies should consider
readopting a modified global gold standard to guide currency movements.
During any period of monetary disorder — the
1970s, for example, or today — a host of people calls for a return to the
gold standard. This is not the only free-market response to the current
system of fiat (or government-made) money. Other proposals are for privatising
the creation of money altogether. (See, on this, Leland Yeager, professor
emeritus at the University of Virginia and Auburn University, in the latest
issue of the Cato Journal.) But the gold standard is the classic alternative
to fiat money.
It is not hard to understand the attractions
of a gold standard. Money is a social convention. The advantage of a link
to gold (or some other commodity) is that the value of money would apparently
be free from manipulation by the government. The aim, then, would be to
The argument in favour of doing so is that
in the long-run governments will always abuse the right to create money
at will. Historical experience suggests that this is indeed the case.
So why choose gold? It is, after all, an impossibly
inconvenient means of exchange. But gold has a lengthy history as a widely-accepted
store of value. If one is looking to reinstate a pre-modern monetary, gold
is the obvious place to start.
After the experience of the last three decades
the monetarism of Milton Friedman is no longer a credible alternative.
It was abandoned for two simple reasons: first, it proved impossible for
monetarists to agree on what money is; and, second, the relation between
any given monetary aggregate and nominal income proved unstable.
Again, recent experience suggests that we
can no longer be so confident that delegation to independent central banks
protects against severe monetary instability. That system permitted a gigantic
increase in credit, relative to gross domestic product. It is equally clear
that governments do not wish to see this edifice collapse, for understandable
reasons. This being so, the ultimate solution may be to increase nominal
incomes, via inflation. Indeed, several economists recommend this. If that
did happen, it would support those who argue for abandonment of the modern
experiment with fiat money.
So would the gold standard be the answer?
We would need to start by asking what a return to the “gold standard” might
The most limited reform would be for the central
bank to adjust interest rates in light of the gold price. But that would
just be a form of price-level targeting. I can see no reason why one would
want to target the gold price, rather than the price of goods and services,
The opposite extreme would be a move back
into a world of metallic currency. But money in circulation will continue
to be predominantly electronic, with a small quantity of paper, as today.
That is the only convenient way to run a modern economy.
Finally, a return to the Bretton Woods system,
in which the US promised to convert dollars into gold, at a fixed price,
but only for other governments, would lack any credibility, since there
would then be no direct link between gold stocks and the domestic money
With these possibilities eliminated, the obvious
form of a contemporary gold standard would be a direct link between base
money and gold. Base money — the note issue, plus reserves of commercial
banks at the central bank (if any such institution survives) — would be
100 per cent gold-backed. The central bank would then become a currency
board in gold, with the unit of account (the dollar, say) defined in terms
of a given weight of gold.
In a less rigid version of such a system,
the central bank might keep an excess gold reserve, which would allow it
to act as lender of last resort to the financial system in times of crisis.
That is how the Bank of England behaved during the 19th century, as explained
by Walter Bagehot in his classic book, Lombard Street.
So what would be the objections to such a
system? There are three: difficulties with the transition; instability;
and lack of credibility.
The biggest transition problem is the mismatch
between the value of official gold holdings and the size of the monetary
system. The value of gold held by central banks is apparently about $1,300bn,
while global deposits of the banking system were about $61,000bn in 2008,
according to the McKinsey Global Institute. To survive the slightest financial
panic, the ratio of gold to bank money would need to be perhaps an order
of magnitude higher.
One obvious objection is that this would generate
huge windfall gains to holders of gold. More important, if policymakers
set this initial price wrong, as they certainly would, they could unleash
either deflation or inflation: the latter is far more likely, in fact,
because private holders would start selling their gold to the central banks
at such a high price. Apparently, about 90 per cent of gold is now privately
held. So the expansion in the monetary base could be enormous.
Moreover, gold reserves are distributed quite
erratically around the world. So some currencies would have to experience
inflation and others severe deflation. A similar problem explains why it
was impossible to recreate the gold standard after the First World War:
too much of the world’s gold reserves were then held by the US.
What, then, about the problems of the steady
state? One obvious point is that we would be back to the world in which
the balance of payments would be settled by physical shipment of gold or,
as it was later, by movements within central bank vaults. That would, at
the least, be absurd.
A far more important problem is that of financial
stability. Economists of the Austrian school wish to abolish fractional
reserve banking. But we know that this is a natural consequence of market
forces. It is wasteful to hold a 100 per cent reserve in a bank, if depositors
do not need their money almost all of the time. Banks have a strong incentive
to lend some of the money deposited with them, so expanding the aggregate
supply of money and credit.
The government might seek to impose narrow
banking: banks would have to back any deposits with notes or reserves at
the central bank. But entrepreneurs could then create quasi-banks (let
us call them “shadow banks”). These would hold deposits in the safe narrow
banks and offer higher returns to customers, because they lend out surplus
reserves for profit.
Such a system is unstable. In good times,
credit, deposit money and the ratio of deposit money to the monetary base
expands. In bad times, this pyramid collapses. The result is financial
crises, as happened repeatedly in the 19th century. To prevent this one
would have to move into the world of limited purpose banking recommended
by Larry Kotlikoff, in which no financial institution would be allowed
to promise redemption at par unless it held matching assets.* If so, the
pure gold standard would require abandonment of the current banking system
A further danger is that the response to all
shocks would have to come via nominal wage and price flexibility. A less
obvious point is that the gold standard does not guarantee price stability.
Depending on the supply conditions for gold, the price level might move
up or down. In the long-run, however, the price level would probably tend
to fall (because the supply of gold fails to keep pace with global activity).
Such a world of trend deflation is liable to depressions if or when the
equilibrium real rate of interest is less than the rate of deflation.
Another and, in my view, even more serious,
threat to the stability of any gold standard regime is international. A
peg to gold may prove radically destabilising for any currency if other
significant countries failed to sustain domestic monetary and financial
stability. There could then be floods of gold into or out of a currency
that is well managed. The monetary and financial consequences could be
dramatic, with severe deflation one obvious threat. This is precisely what
happened in the interwar years, with the chaos emanating mainly from the
Finally, there is the fundamental problem
of credibility - or rather lack of it. As Bennett McCallum of Carnegie
Mellon University also notes in the Cato Journal, the forces that now demand
inflation from time-to-time would demand a change in the gold weight of
the currency as happened in the 1930s. “Historically”, he notes, “the gold
standard provided a reasonable degree of price level stability over long
spans of time because the population at large had at that time a semi-religious
belief that the price of gold should not be varied but should be maintained
That faith has perished. Moreover, everybody
knows it has perished. So whenever the economy was in difficulty, the only
question would be how soon the gold price would be changed or the link
In short, we cannot and will not go back to
the gold standard. As L.P. Hartley wrote, “The past is a foreign country:
they do things differently there.” We cannot live in the 19th century.
It is foolish to pretend that we can.
* Jimmy Stewart Is Dead:
Ending the World’s Ongoing Financial Plague with Limited Purpose Banking
November 7, 2010
G20 Must Look Beyond Bretton Woods II
By Robert Zoellick
With talk of currency wars and disagreements over the US Federal Reserve's
policy of quantitative easing, the summit of the Group of 20 leading economies
in Seoul this week is shaping up as the latest test of international co-operation.
So we should ask: co-operation to what end?
When the G7 experimented with economic co-ordination in the 1980s, the
Plaza and Louvre Accords focused attention on exchange rates. Yet the policy
underpinnings ran deeper. The Reagan administration, guided by James Baker,
the then Treasury secretary, wanted to resist a protectionist upsurge from
Congress, like the one we see today. It therefore combined currency co-ordination
with the launch of the Uruguay Round that created the World Trade Organisation
and a push for free trade that led to agreements with Canada and Mexico.
International leadership worked with domestic policies to boost competitiveness.
As part of this "package approach," G7 countries were supposed to address
the fundamentals of growth -- today's structural reform agenda. For example,
the 1986 Tax Reform Act broadened the revenue base while slashing marginal
income tax rates. Mr Baker worked with his G7 colleagues and central bankers
to orchestrate international co-operation to build private-sector confidence.
History moved on after the huge changes of 1989 and the experience of the
1980s is still being debated, but this package approach was significant
for its combination of pro-growth reforms, open trade and exchange rate
What might such an approach look like today?
First, to focus on fundamentals, a key group of G20 countries should
agree on parallel agendas of structural reforms, not just to rebalance
demand but to spur growth. For example, China's next five-year plan is
supposed to transfer attention from export industries to new domestic businesses
and the service sector, provide more social services, and shift financing
from oligopolistic state-owned enterprises to ventures that will boost
productivity and domestic demand.
With a new Congress, the US will need to address structural spending
and ballooning debt that will tax future growth. President Barack Obama
has also spoken of plans to boost competitiveness and revive free-trade
The US and China could agree on specific, mutually reinforcing steps
to boost growth. Based on this, the two might also agree on a course for
renminbi appreciation, or a move to wide bands for exchange rates. The
US, in turn, could commit to resist tit-for-tat trade actions; or better,
to advance agreements to open markets.
Second, other major economies, starting with the G7, should agree to
forego currency intervention, except in rare circumstances agreed to by
others. Other G7 countries may wish to boost confidence by committing to
structural growth plans as well.
Third, these steps would assist emerging economies to adjust to asymmetries
in recoveries by relying on flexible exchange rates and independent monetary
policies. Some may need tools to cope with short-term hot money flows.
The G20 could develop norms to guide these measures.
Fourth, the G20 should support growth by focusing on supply-side bottlenecks
in developing countries. These economies are already contributing to half
of global growth, and their import demand is rising twice as fast as that
of advanced economies. The G20 should give special support to infrastructure,
agriculture and developing healthy, skilled labour forces. The World Bank
Group and the regional development banks could be the instruments of building
multiple poles of future growth based on private sector development.
Fifth, the G20 should complement this growth recovery programme with
a plan to build a co-operative monetary system that reflects emerging economic
conditions. This new system is likely to need to involve the dollar, the
euro, the yen, the pound, and a renminbi that moves toward internationalisation
and then an open capital account.
The system should also consider employing gold as an international reference
point of market expectations about inflation, deflation, and future currency
values. Although textbooks may view gold as the old money, markets are
using gold as an alternative monetary asset today.
The development of a monetary system to succeed "Bretton Woods II,"
launched in 1971, will take time. But we need to begin. The scope of the
changes since 1971 certainly matches those between 1945 and 1971 that prompted
the shift from Bretton Woods I to II. Serious work should include possible
changes in International Monetary Fund rules to review capital as well
as current account policies, and connect IMF monetary assessments with
WTO obligations not to use currency policies to remove trade concessions.
This package approach to economic co-operation reaches beyond the recent
G20 dialogue, but the ideas are practical and feasible, not radical. And
it has clear advantages. It supplies a growth and monetary agenda that
parallels the G20 financial sector reforms. It could be built upon prompt
incremental actions, combined with credible steps to be pursued over time,
allowing for political dialogue at home. And it could help rebuild public
and market confidence, which will remain under stress in 2011. Perhaps
most importantly, this package could get governments ahead of problems
instead of reacting to economic, political and social storms.
Drive or drift? How the G20 decides could determine whether multilateral
co-operation can achieve a strong economic recovery.
November 7, 2010
seeks gold standard debate
By Alan Beattie in Washington
Leading economies should consider readopting a modified global gold
standard to guide currency movements, argues the president of the World
Writing in the Financial Times, Robert Zoellick, the bank’s president
since 2007, says a successor is needed to what he calls the “Bretton Woods
II” system of floating currencies that has held since the Bretton Woods
fixed exchange rate regime broke down in 1971.
Mr Zoellick, a former US Treasury official, calls for a system that
“is likely to need to involve the dollar, the euro, the yen, the pound
and a renminbi that moves towards internationalisation and then an open
capital account”. He adds: “The system should also consider employing gold
as an international reference point of market expectations about inflation,
deflation and future currency values.”
His views reflect disquiet with the international system, where persistent
Chinese intervention to hold down the renminbi is blamed by the US and
others for contributing to global current account imbalances and creating
capital markets distortions.
This week’s meeting of government heads in South Korea is likely to
see yet more exchange rate conflict. A US plan for countries to sign up
to current account targets has run into widespread opposition.
Wolfgang Schäuble, Germany’s finance minister, has raised the temperature
by describing the US economic model as being in “deep crisis” and criticising
the US Federal Reserve’s decision to pump an extra $600bn into financial
markets. “It is not consistent when the Americans accuse the Chinese of
exchange rate manipulation and then steer the dollar exchange rate artificially
lower with the help of their [central bank’s] printing press.”
FT In depth: Unilateral currency interventions and manipulation threaten
to raise tensions
..Although there are occasional calls for a return to using gold as
an anchor for currency values, most policymakers and economists regard
the idea as liable to lead to overly tight monetary policy with growth
and unemployment taking the brunt of economic shocks.
The original Bretton Woods system, instituted in 1945 and administered
by the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank’s sister institution,
comprised fixed but adjustable exchange rates linked to the value of gold.
Controls to restrict destabilising shifts of capital from one economy to
another buttressed it.
“The scope of the changes since 1971 certainly matches those between
1945 and 1971 that prompted the shift from Bretton Woods I to II,” Mr Zoellick
writes. “Although textbooks may view gold as the old money, markets are
using gold as an alternative monetary asset today.”
November 8 2010 18:03
call on gold standard dismissed
Solid value: a rapid rise in gold prices in recent
years reflects fears
that unconventional central bank policies could lead
By Robin Harding in Washington
Reactions to World Bank president Robert Zoellick’s suggestion that
gold might be used as part of a package of measures to reconstruct the
international system ranged from the lukewarm to the bewildered.
Writing in the Financial Times on Monday, Mr Zoellick called for a “co-operative
monetary system that reflects emerging economic conditions”. He said that
system “should also consider employing gold as an international reference
point of market expectations about inflation, deflation and future currency
“Although textbooks may view gold as the old money, markets are using
gold as an alternative monetary asset today,” Mr Zoellick wrote.
Fred Bergsten, director of the Peterson Institute for International
Economics in Washington, said that Mr Zoellick’s overall approach was “very
sensible” but that the idea of using gold was “minor and really irrelevant”.
The world does need new international “rules of the game” as it evolves
towards a system that uses multiple reserve currencies rather than just
the dollar, Mr Bergsten said, but gold should not be part of it.
“I happen to think that gold is a very poor reference point because
it fluctuates so widely,” he said.
Gold prices have risen from close to $200 a decade ago to almost $1,400
today. The rapid rise in recent years reflects fears that unconventional
central bank policies – such as last week’s move by the US Federal Reserve
to expand its balance sheet by another $600bn – could lead to inflation.
But inflation rates in most industrialised countries have fallen since
the start of the financial crisis. Other measures of inflation expectations,
such as surveys and the yields on inflation-protected bonds, do not suggest
a surge in inflation is likely.
“I think [Mr Zoellick] is living in the past, in particular in the period
from 1980-92, when there was a periodic flirtation with gold,” said Edwin
Truman, senior fellow at the Peterson Institute. “It’s not constructive
and it’s inappropriate.”
Jean-Claude Trichet, president of the European Central Bank, said that
central bankers meeting in Basel had not discussed the use of gold. “We
did not discuss the gold standard,” he said. “In my memory such an idea
was mentioned a long time ago by Jim Baker when he was a [US] secretary
of the Treasury in the 1980s. I have no particular comment.”
A return to the use of gold as a backing for money has support from
some economists and investors who particularly fear inflation, because
a central bank cannot create more of it. But Mr Zoellick’s comments brought
out a host of criticisms of the gold standard that have rarely been aired
since the 1930s.
“The last thing that the world economy needs right now is another source
of deflation in a financial crisis,” wrote Bradford DeLong, professor of
economics at the University of California, Berkeley, on his blog. “Attaching
the world economy’s price level to an anchor that central banks cannot
augment at need is another source of deflation – we learned that in the
15 years after world war one.”
Edel Tully, an analyst at UBS, reprised a 19th century argument about
the gold standard. “Any reserve currency needs a supply that can grow as
rapidly as global trade. Gold supply falls significantly short of this
basic requirement,” she wrote in a report.
November 8 2010 18:36
digging at the World Bank
Long before he helped set up the World Bank, John Maynard Keynes pronounced
the gold standard “a barbarous relic”. Relics rarely cease to inspire devotion.
Expect a revival in gold worship after Robert Zoellick, World Bank president,
gave a nod in its direction.
In a comment piece in Monday’s FT, Mr Zoellick called for a new, co-operative
monetary system, which should “consider employing gold as a reference point
of market expectations about inflation, deflation and future currency values”.
It is beyond doubt that the world’s current monetary arrangement is not
serving us as well as it should. What should replace it – and what exactly
Mr Zoellick envisages in its place – is less clear. The World Bank has
been coy about giving more detail, preferring instead to emphasise that
Mr Zoellick’s gold teaser belongs to a package of proposals for the Group
of 20 to lift growth rates and thereby make the “currency wars” more tractable.
digging at the World Bank - Nov-08
Price of gold - Nov-08
call on gold standard dismissed - Nov-08
Changing standards - Nov-08
View: Debate on a gold standard - Nov-08
Wolf: Return to gold standard? - Nov-01
..Still, it is instructive to ask what useful role gold can play in
today’s world economy. The answer is probably none at all.
In monetary policy, pegging the monetary base to gold would be a (very
impractical) way to target prices. But the gold price is hardly the most
useful price to fix. Unlike a broad price index, it is unrepresentative
of the economy. Buffeted as its price is by private demand and supply,
gold’s stabilising properties are also largely mythical.
Could a gold standard help international currency co-ordination? In
theory it could, if states were willing to accept the restrictions on national
monetary policy and the current account adjustments that a gold standard
entails. But if such political will can be found, there are better anchors
than gold; until then, gold will not work.
Mr Zoellick points out that “markets are using gold as an alternative
monetary asset”. But there is no sign that confidence in central banks
is about to collapse: bond prices show that inflation expectations remain
well-anchored. The challenge is to find tools that countries will agree
to use to rebalance the world economy. Fascination with gold should not
eclipse more practical ideas, such as US Treasury secretary Tim Geithner’s
ill-fated proposal to target current account balances directly.
Maybe Mr Zoellick just wants to draw the G20’s attention to policies
helpful for the other 167 members of the World Bank. Or perhaps he hopes
to open the space for a discussion of radical global monetary reform. Both
are excellent goals – so long as his questions are not mistaken for answers.
November 8, 2009
the Global Gold Frenzy
By NELSON D. SCHWARTZ, MENDRISIO, Switzerland
HERE, in a corner of Switzerland where Italian is spoken and roughly
one-third of the world’s gold is refined into bars and ingots, business
is booming. Every day, bangles, bracelets and necklaces arrive in plastic
bags — from souks in the Middle East, from pawn shops in Asia and from
corner jewelers in Europe and North America.
“It could be your grandmother’s gold or the gift of an ex-boyfriend,”
said Erhard Oberli, the chief executive of Argor-Heraeus, a major refiner
here that processes roughly 400 tons of gold a year. “Gold doesn’t disappear.”
Amid a global frenzy fed by multibillion-dollar hedge funds, wealthy
speculators and governments all rushing to stock up on the precious yellow
metal, the price of gold briefly surpassed $1,100 an ounce on Friday, a
Long considered the ultimate refuge for nervous investors, gold has
climbed as the dollar has steadily weakened, budget deficits have expanded
in the United States and Europe, and central banks have continued to pump
trillions of dollars into weak economies, creating fears of another asset
bubble that will ultimately pop.
“It’s not that gold has changed, but gold buyers have changed,” said
Suki Cooper, a precious-metals strategist for Barclays Capital. “It’s a
structural shift we’re seeing on the investing side, from Asian central
banks right down to individual investors buying ingots and coins.”
“Gold’s appeal has broadened,” added Ms. Cooper, who predicts that it
will hit $1,140 an ounce by the second quarter of next year.
Indeed, last month, Harrods, the 160-year-old London department store,
began selling coins as well as gold bullion ranging from tiny 1-gram ingots
to the hefty, 12.5-kilogram, 400-Troy-ounce bricks that are so often featured
in movies and stocked inside the vaults of Fort Knox. Harrods’s lower ground
floor, where the gold is peddled, has been packed with interested shoppers.
“The response has been astounding,” said Chris Hall, head of Harrods
Gold Bullion. “Bars are definitely more popular than coins. The 100-gram
is the most popular.”
IN the United States, ads promising high prices for gold are regular
fodder for late-night television spots, while buyers are setting up tables
at shopping malls or hosting gold-buying gatherings at private homes —
like recession-era Tupperware parties.
“Everyone and their grandmother has a sign out saying, ‘We buy gold,’
” said Ron Lieberman, the owner of Palisade Jewelers in Englewood, N.J.
He estimates that 10 times as many people come into his store to sell gold
now as when the metal was selling for $300 an ounce at the beginning of
the decade. “I hear people come in and say gold is going to $2,000.”
Jewelry store shoppers aren’t the only ones forecasting lofty prices.
Jim Rogers, an investor who has made his name investing overseas and in
commodities, predicted to Bloomberg Television last week that gold might
reach $2,000 an ounce — prompting a rebuke from Nouriel Roubini, an economist
who gained attention for his early warnings about the global economic crisis.
At a conference in New York on Wednesday, Mr. Roubini described Mr. Rogers’s
forecast as “utter nonsense,” saying that there aren’t any inflationary
or economic pressures that would drive the price of gold to $2,000 an ounce.
Even the most bullish of gold lovers were surprised last week when the
Reserve Bank of India stepped in and bought 220 tons of gold from the International
Monetary Fund for $6.7 billion, a sign that other central banks might move
away from dollar-denominated assets like Treasury bonds in favor of the
precious metal. India’s huge purchase means that gold will now account
for about 6 percent of India’s $285.5 billion of foreign exchange reserves
— up from the previous level of about 4 percent.
“We have money to buy gold,” said Pranab Mukherjee, India’s finance
minister. “We have enough foreign exchange reserves.”
On Thursday, Sri Lanka’s central bank disclosed that it, too, was buying
gold, in a trend that could hurt the United States over time because it
needs foreign bond buyers, especially central banks, to finance its growing
debt. Gold closed at $1,095.10 an ounce on Friday, down from its intraday
high but up nearly 5 percent for the week.
Adjusting for inflation, gold would have to top $1,885 to set an all-time
China has already doubled its gold reserves over the last six years,
but the Indian move underscored how even the most traditional investors
are shifting a portion of their assets into bullion.
“I have never been a gold bug,” Paul Tudor Jones, the prominent hedge
fund manager, told his investors last month. “It is just an asset that,
like everything else in life, has its time and place. And now is that time.”
Over all, in the second quarter of 2009, consumption of gold for jewelry
plunged 20 percent, while investor demand for gold increased 51 percent,
according to the World Gold Council.
THE Harrods gold line is made by PAMP, a rival Swiss refiner down the
road here from Argor-Heraeus, in the nearby town of Castel San Pietro.
And demand for bars weighing 100 ounces or less for individual investors
is up 80 percent, said Marwan Shakarchi, the chairman of MKS Finance, a
Geneva company that owns PAMP.
Inflows of old gold jewelry and individual investor sales are especially
strong in the United States and Western Europe, a new phenomenon for MKS,
Mr. Shakarchi said. In the past, hoarding gold as an investment was much
more popular in the Middle East and Asia. “Europe and the United States
are our emerging markets,” Mr. Shakarchi said.
In addition to high anxiety about the future, recent political trends
may also be playing a part in the global gold fever. With a crackdown on
tax havens worldwide and Swiss bankers handing over the names of wealthy
American clients to authorities, some experts say rich people now prefer
an investment that can easily be hidden from the prying eyes of tax collectors.
“In Europe, people want physical gold to store themselves, with no documents,”
said Bernhard Schnellmann, director for precious-metal services at Argor-Heraeus.
Often, the company doesn’t know the ultimate destination of the bars it
makes, only the identity of the bank in Zurich or London that is handling
The region surrounding Mendrisio has dominated gold refining for decades,
profiting from its close proximity to northern Italy — which has a long
tradition of jewelry-making and cheap labor — as well as from Switzerland’s
own reputation for financial stability and discretion. The Swiss government
has also nurtured the business, guaranteeing gold assays for purity and
carefully regulating the industry.
One of the 100-gram bars that is produced here just about fits in the
palm of your hand, with a satisfying metallic coldness that belies its
$3,500 price tag. The standard 12.5-kilo, 400-ounce brick, on the other
hand, is a monster, straining the wrist as well as the imagination: just
one of these thick bars commands a higher price than a studio apartment
Although India is now a far bigger consumer than Italy of gold for jewelry,
the region around here has retained its distinctive status as the gold
workshop of the world, with ore arriving from South Africa along with the
old bracelets and necklaces destined for the crucible.
“If you give somebody a ton of gold, you don’t have to worry about it
in Switzerland,” said Mr. Oberli, the Argor-Heraeus chief executive. Efficiency,
another Swiss virtue, and speed are of the essence in the gold business,
because prices change quickly and buyer and seller want to lock in their
order quickly, Mr. Oberli explained.
“Everything that comes in has to go out,” he said. “It’s not our material.”
Perhaps as a result, the gold-refining fraternity is secretive, with
verbal discretion as much a part of the culture as the high concrete walls
that surround Argor-Heraeus and the metal detectors workers pass through
when they go home for the day.
“Everybody is afraid someone else is chasing their customers,” said
Mr. Oberli. “The banks don’t want us to know.”
Mr. Oberli is wary of walk-in clients and accepts orders from mines
only when he can vouch for the origin of the ore, fearing “conflict gold”
from rebel-held areas in Africa and elsewhere.
ARGOR-HERAEUS makes sure that even the tiniest amount of the precious
metal doesn’t disappear during refining. Gold dust from the soles of workers’
and visitors’ shoes is scooped up on special mats when they leave. And,
annually, the overalls that employees wear during manufacturing are burned
to recover the smallest fleck.
At the airport in Zurich, where there are special vaults to hold gold,
shipments of jewelry arrive daily on early morning flights before making
their way here via a twisty, three-hour journey through the mountains on
tightly guarded trucks. After the jewelry is unloaded, gold ingots, bars
and other forms of bullion — already stacked like cordwood along the sooty
corridors of Argor-Heraeus — are sent back to Zurich in the same trucks.
“The truck never drives back empty,” said Mr. Oberli. “Time is so important
because the value of the material is so high.”
Mr. Oberli is also confident that he is running a business that, even
in the middle of one of the worst economic downturns of the last century,
is relatively recession-proof and always of interest to investors.
“Gold has been around as an investment for 6,000 years,” Mr. Oberli
said. “When there is no alternative, it’s there.”
The Wall Street Journal
November 9, 2010
Dollar, Zoellick's Gold
An unlikely pair elevate the monetary policy debate..
It would be hard to find two more unlikely
intellectual comrades than Robert Zoellick, the World Bank technocrat,
and Sarah Palin, the populist conservative politician. But in separate
interventions yesterday, the pair roiled the global monetary debate in
complementary and timely fashion.
The former Alaskan Governor showed sound political
and economic instincts by inveighing forcefully against the Federal Reserve's
latest round of quantitative easing. According to the prepared text of
remarks that she released to National Review online, Mrs. Palin also exhibited
a more sophisticated knowledge of monetary policy than any major Republican
this side of Wisconsin Representative Paul Ryan.
Stressing the risks of Fed "pump priming,"
Mrs. Palin zeroed in on the connection between a "weak dollar—a direct
result of the Fed's decision to dump more dollars onto the market"—and
rising oil and food prices. She also noted the rising world alarm about
the Fed's actions, which by now includes blunt comments by Germany, Brazil,
China and most of Asia, among many others.
"We don't want temporary, artificial economic
growth brought at the expense of permanently higher inflation which will
erode the value of our incomes and our savings," the former GOP Vice Presidential
nominee said. "We want a stable dollar combined with real economic reform.
It's the only way we can get our economy back on the right track."
Mrs. Palin's remarks may have the beneficial
effect of bringing the dollar back to the center of the American political
debate, not to mention of the GOP economic platform. Republican economic
reformers of the 1970s and 1980s—especially Ronald Reagan and Jack Kemp—understood
the importance of stable money to U.S. prosperity.
On the other hand, the Bush Administration
was clueless. Its succession of Treasury Secretaries promoted dollar devaluation
little different from that of the current Administration, while the White
House ignored or applauded an over-easy Fed policy that created the credit
boom and housing bubble that led to financial panic.
Misguided monetary policy can ruin an Administration
as thoroughly as higher taxes and destructive regulation, and the new GOP
majority in the House and especially the next GOP President need to be
alert to the dangers. Mrs. Palin is way ahead of her potential Presidential
competitors on this policy point, and she shows a talent for putting a
technical subject in language that average Americans can understand.
Which brings us to Mr. Zoellick, who exceeded
even Mrs. Palin's daring yesterday by mentioning the word "gold" in the
orthodox Keynesian company of the Financial Times. This is like mentioning
the name "Palin" in the Princeton faculty lounge.
Mr. Zoellick, who worked at the Treasury under
James Baker in the 1980s, laid out an agenda for a new global monetary
regime to reduce currency turmoil and spur growth: "This new system is
likely to need to involve the dollar, the euro, the yen, the pound and
a renminbi that moves toward internalization and then an open capital account,"
he wrote, in an echo of what we've been saying for some time.
And here's Mr. Zoellick's sound-money kicker:
"The system should also consider employing gold as an international reference
point of market expectations about inflation, deflation and future currency
values. Although textbooks may view gold as the old money, markets are
using gold as an alternative monetary asset today." Mr. Zoellick's last
observation will not be news to investors, who have traded gold up to $1,400
an ounce, its highest level in real terms since the 1970s, as a hedge against
the risk of future inflation.
However, his point will shock many of the
world's financial policy makers, who still think of gold as a barbarous
relic rather than as an important price signal. Lest they faint in the
halls of the International Monetary Fund, we don't think Mr. Zoellick is
calling for a return to a full-fledged gold standard. His nonetheless useful
point is that a system of global monetary cooperation needs a North Star
to judge when it is running off course. The Bretton Woods accord used gold
as such a reference until the U.S. failed to heed its discipline in the
late 1960s and in 1971 revoked the pledge to sell other central banks gold
at $35 an ounce.
One big problem in the world economy today
is the frequent and sharp movement in exchange rates, especially between
the euro and dollar. This distorts trade and investment flows and leads
to a misallocation of capital and trade tensions. A second and related
problem is the desire of the Obama Administration and Federal Reserve Chairman
Ben Bernanke to devalue the dollar to boost exports as a way to compensate
for the failed spending stimulus.
As recently as this week in India, Mr. Obama
said that "We can't continue situations where some countries maintain massive
[trade] surpluses, other countries have massive deficits and never is there
an adjustment with respect to currency that would lead to a more balanced
If this isn't a plea for a weaker dollar in
the name of balancing trade flows, what is it? The world knows the Fed
can always win such a currency race to the bottom in the short run because
it can print an unlimited supply of dollars. But the risks of currency
war and economic instability are enormous.
In their different ways, Mrs. Palin and Mr. Zoellick
are offering a better policy path: More careful monetary policy in the
U.S., and more U.S. leadership abroad with a goal of greater monetary cooperation
and less volatile exchange rates. If Mr. Obama is looking for advice on
this beyond Mr. Zoellick, he might consult Paul Volcker or Nobel laureate
Robert Mundell. A chance for monetary reform is a terrible thing to waste.
NOVEMBER 26, 2010
Gold's New Glister: Miners' Big Bet on a Fund
By LIAM PLEVEN and CAROLYN CUI
The innovation that opened gold investing
to the masses and helped spur this year's record-breaking bull market
was hatched in an act of desperation by a little-known gold-mining
The World Gold Council, created to promote
gold, was fighting for survival. Its members—global gold-mining companies—were
frustrated with the council's inability to stem two decades of depressed
prices and find buyers for a growing glut of the yellow metal. Eight
years ago, they were considering withdrawing funding from the trade
group, a move that would have effectively shut it down.
Gold Council executives Jim Ross, Aram Shishmanian and James Burton celebrated
GLD's 5th anniversary in November 2009.
The revolution that opened gold
investing to the masses and helped spur a record-breaking bull market
was hatched in an act of desperation by an obscure gold-mining trade
Emma Moody explains SPDR Gold Shares.
Chris Thompson, the group's chairman, figured
the council needed to expand the pool of gold buyers, particularly
in the U.S. The idea of trading gold on an exchange had been floating
around for years, but various hurdles had prevented it from taking
off in America.
What the council eventually managed to create
in those dark days surpassed its wildest dreams: SPDR Gold Shares,
the exchange-traded fund launched in November 2004. The fund, known
by its ticker symbol GLD, has ballooned into a $56.7 billion behemoth.
Today, GLD is the fastest-growing major investment
fund ever, according to research company Lipper Inc., and one of
the most active gold traders in the market. Its presence has helped
gold—which settled down 0.33% in New York trading Wednesday, at $1,372.90
a troy ounce—triple in price in recent years to fresh all-time highs
As the world's largest private owner of bullion,
GLD is soaking up $30 million of gold daily, stored in a London vault
that now holds the equivalent of about six months' worth of the world's
entire gold-mining production.
GLD has won fans who say it has democratized
the gold market, paving the way for investors of all stripes to get
direct exposure to the precious metal. Its nearly 1 million investors
include ordinary individuals, institutions like Northern Trust Corp.
and billionaire hedge- fund managers like John Paulson.
But skeptics argue GLD could become a Godzilla-like
beast if the gold rally reverses sharply. They say its buying has
already turbo-charged gold prices, exposing the market, and legions
of small investors, to a rapid fall. Smaller copycat funds add to
"We tell our clients to watch out for it,
because it's there, and it's a real risk," said Jeffrey Christian,
founder of CPM Group, which advises major investors worldwide on
The questions come as ETFs in general are
coming under heightened scrutiny about whether they distort markets.
ETFs are wildly popular and growing fast, spanning stocks, bonds
and hard assets. But they have made it possible for far more money
to rush in and out of previously illiquid markets.
GLD shares trade on the New York Stock Exchange,
as well as in Tokyo, Hong Kong, Singapore and Mexico City. Each share
represents one-tenth of an ounce of gold. That, in effect, gives
shareholders the right to their share of proceeds from selling a
full bar, minus fees. Before GLD issues new shares, it takes in the
necessary gold to back them. On days when there are more sellers
than buyers of GLD shares, the fund offloads some of its gold.
SPDR Gold Shares has quickly become one of
the world's biggest gold holders
Created under the auspices of the World Gold
Council, the fund relies on a number of partners. It is marketed
under the banner of State Street Global Advisors, which has fund-selling
expertise. HSBC PLC stores and protects the gold bars. Bank of New
York Mellon Corp. handles daily operations, such as calculating the
fund's net asset value. For all its size and breadth, fund managers
say, it's relatively simple to operate. BNY Mellon, for instance,
needs roughly a dozen employees to run the fund day-to-day.
That has helped make it a windfall for all
involved. The gold council, which spent $14 million developing the
fund, has reaped about $150 million from its inception through Sept.
30. Its revenue is a percentage of net asset value, set at 0.15%.
State Street has the same terms and also collected about $150 million
in that time. Both are on track to bring in more than $80 million
in the coming year if GLD stays at today's size.
The success owes much to timing. The council
launched the fund as interest in gold was picking up, first because
of inflation worries and then as a safe-haven against financial disasters.
Since then gold prices have more than tripled from $444.80, setting
a record high—though not adjusted for inflation—of $1,409.80 on Nov.
recent rally has been driven by many factors, of which GLD is just
one. The U.S. dollar has steadily lost value, so some investors have
bought gold as a hedge against the greenback. Tapping new ore veins
is getting harder. Gold has benefited at once from fears of economic
stagnation after the financial crisis and concern that government
spending on the recovery will trigger inflation. GLD, though, is widely
seen as amplifying those trends.
Buying fund shares is easier and cheaper than
investing in gold futures or buying coins. And GLD has now locked
up nearly 1,300 metric tons of the world's gold supply, making the
market tighter. The fund's impact has won it a following in the gold
industry. "It's got the gold price up," said Nick Holland, chief executive
of Gold Fields Ltd., a major mining company and a member of the gold
council. "That's got to be good."
Calculating the impact of GLD and its brethren
is far from an exact science. But industry observers including Mr.
Christian and Philip Klapwijk of GFMS Ltd. estimate gold-backed ETFs
have probably added about $100 to $150 an ounce to the price of gold
as a result of the incremental increase in demand.
Translated, that would mean gold-backed ETFs
have increased the value of the bullion that gold miners will produce this
year by up to $9 billion.
Many investors believe gold has much further
to rise. But after a 10- year, one-way ride, others worry there could be
a violent reversal down the road. The gold market hasn't been severely
tested since GLD and similar, but far smaller, bullion-backed funds
And many GLD investors aren't experienced
in gold investing. Between 60% and 80% of GLD investors had never
bought gold before, estimates Jason Toussaint, managing director
of the council. No one knows how those newcomers might react in a
If GLD shareholders get spooked by drops in
the gold price and sell en masse, the fund would have to dump metal
to meet redemptions, possibly accelerating declines by prompting
others to sell even more. Because GLD trades on an exchange, any
selloff would be immediately visible, unlike typically opaque bullion
"We are more concerned about these issues
than we were initially," said Scott Malpass, chief investment officer
for University of Notre Dame Asset Management, which started buying
GLD shares in 2005 and now has about $70 million invested. "It can
turn on a dime. It can happen very quickly." For now, Mr. Malpass
thinks the advantages of investing in gold outweigh the risks and
the fund is properly managed.
In the fund's planning stages, the world's
miners had modest ambitions.
Gold prices were just starting to stir from
a 20-year bear market and many companies were struggling to break
even. Hurdles to gold abounded. It was hard to purchase, store and
insure. Some investors chose to own stocks of gold miners.
The council had long focused on gold jewelry,
which represented over 80% of demand but exposed the industry to
economic downturns. In 2002, after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks,
jewelry demand for gold dropped 11%.
Attracting investors, the industry concluded,
was the way to go. Mr. Thompson, the chairman, wanted a CEO for the
council who would have credibility with American investors to help
implement the vision. He zeroed in on James Burton, who at the time
headed the California Public Employees' Retirement System, one of
the biggest institutional investors in the world. Calpers had no
direct investments in gold.
In July 2002, Mr. Burton flew to meet Mr.
Thompson in London. Mr. Burton was skeptical, but curious. Their
discussions lasted 12 hours— including talks over a round of golf, two
rounds of beers and meals. Mr. Thompson gave an overview of the gold
market, and a pitch for why the moment was ripe to attract retail
investors. By the end, Mr. Burton was hooked.
In August 2002, Mr. Burton, who had left Calpers,
took over the gold council and immediately slashed 60% of the 108-person
staff, closed half of the 22 offices and set about creating what
The gold council wanted a product that ordinary
investors could buy and sell just like a stock. The challenge was
to make shares track the gold price, much like an index fund. The
eventual solution was to create a trust to serve as the legal owner
of GLD's gold bars.
Products were launched in Australia and the
U.K. But getting a U.S. version took longer than the council expected.
The mining community backed the idea, but
worried it might cannibalize demand for gold-mining stocks. Since
it was to be the first U.S. fund entirely backed by a physical commodity,
regulators also sought to understand how the concept would work.
The Securities and Exchange Commission spent months seeking information
about the product and the gold market, say Mr. Burton and Mr. Thompson.
The gold council also needed to hire assorted
players—a trustee, a marketing agent and a vault operator. That process
wasn't seamless, either.
Barclays PLC worked for months on the project,
then withdrew and built its own fund, the iShares Gold Trust, which
also holds bullion. Barclays sold the iShares exchange-traded fund
business to BlackRock in June 2009, and its smaller gold fund has
since become an intense competitor.
The council also wasn't sure how successful
the fund would be, and paid UBS Securities $4 million for underwriting
the first 2.3 million shares of GLD, according to regulatory filings.
UBS declined to comment.
"I thought it would take a lot more marketing
effort to convince people to buy gold in a securitized form," said
But as GLD opened, the pent-up investor demand
erupted. The fund hit $1 billion in assets in three trading days,
and $10 billion in just over two years.
"It grew pretty quickly," said Jim Ross, head
of exchange-traded funds for State Street. The firm manages 120 exchange-traded
funds, as of Sept. 30, and the SPDR S&P 500 fund is the only
one larger than GLD. "The fact that's our second-most successful
product is still surprising to me, frankly," Mr. Ross said.
The sniping at GLD also began early. Some
gold investors questioned whether the fund held as much bullion as
it said it did, eventually prompting the council to post on its website
audit reports by an independent firm, Inspectorate International
Ltd., which conducts two counts each year of GLD's gold bars in London.
A segment of the gold-investing community
still prefers to secure a personal stash. Some want to be able to
get their hands on their bullion in a hurry, particularly in the
event of a severe crisis. Gold-vault operators are cutting fees to
lure such investors.
Rivals also highlight worst-case scenarios
the fund could face. Ben Davies, chief executive of London-based
Hinde Capital, which oversees a gold fund, noted that GLD's bullion
isn't insured. If the gold "is lost, damaged, stolen or destroyed,"
the trust "may not have adequate sources of recovery," according
to the prospectus.
Mr. Toussaint said the council believes HSBC's
security measures and the bank's other liability coverage provide
protection. "That's the whole reason we put it in a vault in the
first place," he said.
Despite GLD's success, even those involved
in the fund acknowledge the rally will eventually end. "We don't
believe gold is always going to go up," said State Street's Mr. Ross.
"No investment does."
in den USA auf dem Weg zurück zum beliebten Zahlungsmittel.
Utah führt Gold wieder als Zahlungsmittel ein
und Hyper-Inflation? Die Geldpolitik der Notenbank sorgt in den USA für
Kritik. Im Bundesstaat Utah werden darum Gold und Silber als Zahlungsmittel
wieder zugelassen werden. Weitere Staaten wollen folgen.
In den USA wird das Rad der Geschichte zurückgedreht:
Das Parlament im Bundesstaat Utah hat kürzlich eine Vorlage verabschiedet,
welche Gold und Silber wieder als Zahlungsmittel erlaubt. Die jeweilige
Kaufkraft der geprägten Münzen soll sich nach dem effektiven
Marktwert richten. Noch hat Utahs Gouverneur das Gesetz nicht unterschrieben.
Doch wird dies weit herum erwartet. Damit wäre der Weg frei für
die Wiedereinführung des Goldstandards.
Utah ist nicht der einzige Staat, der neben
dem Dollar eine eigene Währung haben will: Entsprechende Vorlagen
werden auch in Colorado, Indiana, Iowa, Georgia, Missouri, Montana, New
Hampshire, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Vermont und Washington
Über 200 Jahre nach der Einführung
des Dollars in den USA als Hauptwährung, wenden sich die Gliedstaaten
nun wieder von ihm ab. Lokale Politiker nennen dafür zwei Gründe:
Erstens sollen Staat und Bürger vor einem möglichen zukünftigen
Kollaps des Dollar als offizielle Währung geschützt werden. Zweitens
biete die Wiedereinführung von Gold und Silber als Zahlungsmittel
einen Schutz vor einer möglichen Hyperinflation und der Vernichtung
Bernanke: "Gold ist kein Universalheilmittel"
Gold und Silber haben im Zuge der lockeren
Geldpolitik von US-Notenbankchef Ben Bernanke in den letzten zwölf
Monaten laufend neue Höchstnotierungen erreicht. Die Unze Feingold
kostet zurzeit 1418 Dollar. Bernanke hält nichts vom Ausscheren der
Gliedstaaten und von einer möglichen Wiedereinführung des Goldstandards.
"Gold ist nicht das Universalheilmittel",
sagte er kürzlich. Es sei zwar richtig, dass Gold über lange
Perioden für stabile Preise sorgen kann. "Kurzfristig kann es aber
aufgrund Veränderungen im Gleichgewicht von Angebot und Nachfrage
zu heftigen Preisschwankungen kommen". Die USA könnten gar nicht zum
Goldstandard zurückkehren, da es nicht genug Gold gäbe, um den
Dollar zu unterlegen.
Die USA haben den Goldstandard 1971 einseitig
aufgegeben. Der damalige Präsident Richard Nixon brauchte zusätzliche
Mittel, um den Vietnam-Krieg zu finanzieren. Danach war es allein an den
Zentralbanken, über Zinsen und Geldvergabe zu entscheiden. Das Gold
der USA schlummert seither in Fort Knox in Kentucky.
Utah will den Dollar zwar nicht aufgeben,
aber seinen Bürgern die Wahl ermöglichen, auf Gold oder Silber
als Zahlungsmittel umzuschwenken. Die Gesetzesvorlage erlaubt es Detailhändlern
und Dienstleistern, die Edelmetalle als Zahlungsmittel anzunehmen. Auch
Steuern und Gebühren könnten so bezahlt werden.
Goldfranken: Ein epochales Projekt
Von Thomas Jacob, Zürich
Die am 8. März dieses Jahres von Nationalrat Ulrich Schlüer
eingereichte parlamentarische Initiative «Schaffung
eines Goldfrankens» [11.407]
könnte weitreichende Folgen haben.
Eine einfache, politisch zunächst harmlos erscheinende Idee könnte
Folgen auslösen, deren Gewicht heute noch niemand wirklich abzuschätzen
sich anschickt. Als Beispiel wählen wir den in der Initiative angesprochenen
neuen Goldfranken mit einem Gehalt von 0,1 Gramm Gold pro Münze.
Die Umsetzung dieses Vorhabens ist problemlos denkbar. Produzieren und
verkaufen dürften diese von der Schweiz offiziell garantierten Goldmünzen
private Schweizer Banken und Institutionen, welche vom Bund dafür
eine Lizenz bekommen. Einzige Bedingung für den Erhalt einer Lizenz
ist ein guter Ruf.
Eine Goldmünze mit 0,1 Gramm Gold ist eine sogenannte Bimetallmünze,
d.h. eine normale Münze mit einer entsprechenden Menge Gold im Zentrum.
Eine solche Münze ist technisch problemlos machbar, die 0,1 Gramm
Gold im Zentrum bleiben gut erkennbar. Eine Münze mit z.B. einem halben
Gramm Gold würde ähnlich aussehen wie heute die Euros, einfach
mit Gold im Zentrum. Eine Münze mit zehn Gramm Gold würde ganz
aus Gold bestehen.
Das Aussehen, also die Prägung der Goldmünze, wird ebenfalls
vom Bund definiert. Auf der einen Seite soll sich die Goldfranken-Münze
an den heutigen Schweizer Franken anlehnen. Sie muss zeigen, welches Gewicht
an Gold die Münze enthält. Auf der Hinterseite der Münze
darf der lizenzierte Herausgeber der Goldmünze sein Firmenlogo zeigen.
Dies sichert den lizenzierten Schweizer Banken eine einmalige Plattform
für weltweite Bekanntheit.
Die von der Schweiz garantierte Goldmünze bringt drei wichtige
Neuerungen auf den heutigen Goldmarkt.
Der Preis der Goldmünze ist gleich dem Goldpreis. Die Münze
mit 0,1 Gramm Gold – z.B. als «Gold-Einfränkler» zu bezeichnen
– wäre heute für rund vier Franken fünfzig zu haben. Die
günstigsten heutigen Goldmünzen kosten dagegen rund hundert Franken,
denn selbst die kleinste Münze enthält gut zwei Gramm Gold. Die
Goldmünzen wären künftig wie Fremdwährungen bei allen
Wechselstuben und selbst durch Wechselautomaten erhältlich und überall
gleich teuer. Heutige Münzen dagegen sind je nach Prägung bei
gleichem Gewicht verschieden teuer, der Goldkauf ist so zu einer Frage
von Vertrauen und Fachwissen geworden.
«Gramm» und «Franken» sind vertraut und brauchen
keine Erklärung. Der heutige Goldhandel dagegen misst in Unzen und
besteht aus Sammlermünzen, Goldbarren und Zertifikaten. Diese Handelsformen
erfordern Fachwissen. Das «Handelsgeld» eignet sich kaum als
Auch ist der Goldhandel heute unbehindert und steuerfrei. Das kann sich
jederzeit ändern. Selbst die jüngste Geschichte gibt dazu drastische
Beispiele: Als die amerikanische Regierung 1933 glaubte, dass das Volk
mit privatem Goldhandel ihre Geldpolitik behindern könnte, verbot
sie jeglichen Besitz von Gold durch Privatpersonen praktisch über
Nacht. Die drastischen Strafen auf Goldbesitz blieben in den USA Gesetz
Die Goldmünze gibt dem Gebrauch von Gold darum völlig neue
Perspektiven. Im Alltag können von der Schweiz offiziell garantierte
Goldmünzen als kleines Geschenk oder auch als «Notgroschen»
sowohl in der Schweiz als auch auf der ganzen Welt neue Märkte erobern.
Eine Fangemeinde, aber auch Krisenregionen werden die Goldmünzen als
Tauschmittel verwenden; und selbst als Fluchtwährung kann der Goldfranken
den «normalen» Franken entlasten.
Der Schweizer Goldfranken wäre als Goldmünze rechtlich geschützt
und von Steuern befreit. Er wird damit zur attraktivsten Form für
langfristige Wertanlagen. Es wäre denkbar, einen Teil der Pensionskassen-
und Altersrenten in Goldmünzen zu halten, ebenso Lebensversicherungen.
Man darf spekulieren über das sich weltweit eröffnende Geschäftspotential!
Die Pionierfunktion auf diesem Gebiet wird den Schweizer Finanzinstitutionen
einen Vorsprung einräumen für Innovationen wie Zahlungsverkehr,
Checks und Kreditkarten in Goldmünzen. Für später ist die
Schaffung selbst von Banknoten und Goldrappen-Münzen denkbar – wobei
diese Noten und Münzen zu hundert Prozent durch in der Schweiz gelagerte
Goldmünzen gedeckt sein müssen. Kreditschöpfung in Goldmünzen
bleibt strikte verboten.
Zusammenfassend bringt die von der Schweiz garantierte Goldmünze
ganz einfach die Normierung und dadurch die Vereinfachung des Goldhandels
plus dessen Schutz vor Beschränkung und Besteuerung. Der Erfolg der
Parlamentarischen Initiative hängt nun ab von der politischen, also
publizistischen und finanziellen Unterstützung.
Geld hat sich über Jahrtausende evolutionär entwickelt als
ein Teil des freien Marktes. Autonome staatliche Geldmonopole, ohne jeden
Bezug zu einem Marktgut, bestehen seit 1973. Da drängt sich die Frage
auf: Ist dieser «Geldsozialismus» der Weisheit letzter Schluss
– oder eine Sackgasse wie der Sozialismus in anderen Bereichen?
Geld entstand aus dem Bedürfnis der Menschen, den Tauschhandel
durch indirekten Tausch zu vereinfachen. Der Markt hat schliesslich Metallmünzen
gewählt als das beste bekannte Tauschgut: Haltbar, teilbar, transportfähig,
wertvoll und leicht erkennbar.
Banknoten entstanden erst vor wenigen Jahrhunderten aus dem Bedürfnis,
den Transport grosser Mengen von Metallgeld zu vereinfachen. Depotbanken
waren zuerst ganz einfach Lagerhäuser für Geld, die ersten Banknoten
waren Billette zum Bezug des deponierten Goldes («Pound Sterling»).
Eine unheilige Allianz zwischen diesen Banken und der Justiz führte
im 19. Jahrhundert zur Legalisierung des sogenannten Teilreservesystems.
Dieses System erlaubt den Depotbanken, mehr Lagerquittungen zu drucken,
als dass sie Metallgeld gelagert haben (eine Praxis, welche überall
sonst in der Wirtschaft als Betrug verfolgt wird). Dieses «aus der
Luft» geschaffene Papiergeld darf die Bank gegen Zins verleihen und
einen Teil der Zinsen an die Einleger verteilen. Die Profiteure kennen
ihren Profit; wer die Opfer sind, ist weniger klar. Bezahlt werden die
Privilegien indirekt und verzögert einerseits durch Geldentwertung
und andererseits womöglich durch Fehlinvestitionen und Wirtschaftszyklen.
Gleichzeitig ist das Teilreservesystem instabil. Jedesmal wenn viele
Notenbesitzer gleichzeitig Metallgeld auslösen wollen, kann die davon
betroffene Bank pleite gehen. Meist löst sie dabei gleich noch einen
«Run» auf andere Banken aus. Angeblich zur Verhinderung solcher
Krisen wurden zuerst Kartelle und Notenbanken geschaffen, und zuletzt ein
weltweites System namens «Bretton Woods». Doch selbst Bretton
Woods krachte 1973 zusammen, weil die ausstehenden «Eurodollars»
die Goldreserven der USA bei weitem überstiegen.
Seither gibt es auf der Welt erstmals in der Geschichte der Menschheit
ausschliesslich kreditbasierte Tauschmittel ohne irgendeine direkte Bindung
zu Marktgütern. Notenbanken schaffen seither, wie die Finanzkrise
eindrücklich illustriert, beliebig viel Geld «aus dem Nichts»:
Sie decken diese Geldschöpfung durch Schuldverschreibungen von Geschäftsbanken,
kaufen fremde Währungen und öffentliche Schuldscheine (euphemistisch
«Währungsreserven» genannt). Geschäftsbanken wiederum
schaffen Kreditgeld ebenfalls «aus dem Nichts» und decken diese
Kredite durch Schulden und Hypotheken aus der Privatwirtschaft. Die einzige
Limite dieser Geldschöpfung besteht in Reservevorschriften, und diese
Reserven bestehen aus Nationalbankgeld und -krediten. Das Resultat ist
wenig überraschend: Eine historisch einmalige Tendenz zu weltweiter
Verschuldung, Geldschöpfung und Geldentwertung, gespickt mit periodischen
Hyperinflationen: Das sind die «Errungenschaften» des derzeit
Die neue «Goldfranken»-Münze ist im Grunde ein Warengeld
aus Gold. Sie entspricht aus historischer Perspektive einer Art «Reformation»
im Geldwesen. Hierin liegt gleichzeitig die grösste Herausforderung
für ihre Realisierung: Das Weltbild vieler heutiger Ökonomen
ist beschränkt auf das Kreditgeldsystem, und seine Hinterfragung grenzt
für viele an Ketzerei.
Das Originelle am Projekt der Schweizer Goldmünze aber ist ihre
Einführung als Parallelwährung, denn in dieser Form geht von
ihr keinerlei Gefährdung des bestehenden Geldsystems aus, solange
und soweit die Menschen dem heutigen Geld vertrauen. Sollte dies plötzlich
nicht mehr der Fall sein (was wir nicht hoffen), so ist die Goldmünze
die bestmögliche, sofort verfügbare, vertraute und real existierende
Alternative zum Chaos, das entsteht nach einem Währungskollaps.
«Nur in Freiheit, nur durch einen Parallelstandard kann es je
eine gerechte Währungsreform geben», meinte 1984 der renommierte
Ökonom Hans Sennholz in einer Rede. Nationale und internationale Ökonomen
sind überzeugt, dass die Schweiz einzigartige Voraussetzungen und
damit geradezu eine Art moralische Verpflichtung zur Verwirklichung alltagstauglicher
Goldmünzen besitzt. Gesucht sind nun visionäre Unternehmer, Stiftungen
und Gönner, die sich dieses historischen Projekts annehmen, zum Wohle
der Schweiz und der Menschen überhaupt, weltweit.
– Parlamentarische Initiative
Schaffung eines Goldfrankens
Eingereicht von Schlüer Ulrich
Eingereicht im Nationalrat
Stand der Beratung Im Plenum noch nicht
Gestützt auf Artikel 160 Absatz 1 der Bundesverfassung
und Artikel 107 des Parlamentsgesetzes reiche ich folgende parlamentarische
Die Bundesverfassung sei wie folgt zu ergänzen:
Art. 99 Abs. 2 (neu) (die bisherigen Abs. 2 bis
4 werden zu den Abs. 3 bis 5)
Der Bund schafft einen offiziellen Schweizer
Goldfranken mit einem Satz von Münzen mit je fixiertem Gehalt an Gold.
Er regelt die Konzessionierung der zu dessen steuerfreien Herausgabe berechtigten
1. Beim heutigen Goldpreis von rund 45 000 Franken
pro Kilogramm wird es Kleinsparern ungebührlich erschwert, Teile ihres
Vermögens Schritt für Schritt in Gold anzulegen und damit vor
befürchteter Entwertung abzusichern. Dieser, einer Diskriminierung
nahekommende Missstand muss beseitigt werden, indem ein offizieller Schweizer
Goldfranken mit einem Satz von Münzen geschaffen wird, die für
jedermann erschwinglich sind. Eine Münze mit 0,1 Gramm Goldgehalt
würde heute rund Fr. 4.50, jene mit 1 Gramm Gold rund Fr. 45.- kosten.
2. In Zeiten internationaler Währungsturbulenzen
wird der Schweizerfranken oft Fluchtwährung, woraus nicht selten eine
markante Aufwertung des Frankens resultiert mit den bekannten Wettbewerbs-Erschwernissen,
insbesondere für Exportwirtschaft und Tourismus. Sobald die Schweiz
einen offiziellen Goldfranken schafft, bietet sich dieser Goldfranken als
attraktive Fluchtwährung an - was schwer zu bewältigende Kurssteigerungen
des Schweizerfrankens in Grenzen hält.
3. Wenn der Bund Konzessionen für die Ausgabe
von Schweizer Goldfranken allein an Schweizer Banken vergibt, erhöht
sich die Attraktivität des Finanzplatzes Schweiz markant. Der Schweizer
Goldfranken hat mit den in Gold gehaltenen Währungsreserven der Nationalbank
nichts zu tun. Die zur Ausgabe von Schweizer Goldfranken konzessionierten
Banken beschaffen sich das für dessen Herstellung benötigte Gold
auf dem freien Markt - in dem Umfang, als Nachfrage von Kunden besteht.
4. Der Bund hat im Rahmen der Konzessionierung
der zur Goldfranken-Herausgabe berechtigten Banken zu überwachen,
dass der Goldgehalt der Goldfrankenmünzen strikt eingehalten wird,
damit der Bund den Goldgehalt der offiziellen Goldfrankenmünzen garantieren
Reimann LukasStamm Luzi