Archive for the ‘Ecology’ Category

The Australian Nugget 1 ounce

Monday, December 16th, 2013

The Australian Gold Nugget is a popular series of Gold bullion coins issued by the Perth Mint. They
have legal tender status in Australia and are one of the few legal tender bullion coins to change
their design every year, the most notable other being the Chinese Panda.


Australian Nugget 1 ounce

Australian Nugget 1 ounce

Australia issued its first Gold Nugget coins in 1986. From 1986 to 1988, the reverse of  these coins featured images of various Australian Gold nuggets, hence the name. From 1989, the design changed to feature different Kangaroos, a more world-recognised symbol of Australia. The coins are sometimes referred to as Kangaroos but the name

Nugget seems to have stuck. The coins up to 1 Toz change design each year. Each year, a Proof edition is issued and that design becomes the bullion coin design for the following year.

The coins have a unique market niche for two reasons; a “two-tone” frosted design effect and individual hard plastic encapsulation of each coin. Provided they remain as they came from the mint, the quality is maintained and thus premium.

The initial sizes offered were 1/20 Toz, 1/10 Toz, 1/4 Toz, 1/2 Toz and 1 Toz. In 1991, the 2 Toz, 10 Toz and 1 Kg sizes were added. These were created with the intention of using economies of scale to keep premiums low. The face values of the two larger coins were lowered in 1992 in order to bring them more in line with the smaller sizes.

In October 2011, the Perth Mint created a one tonne Gold coin to break the record for the biggest and most valuable, previously held by the Royal Canadian Mint. It is approximately 80 cms diameter and 12 cms thick. The face value is A$1 million but at the time of minting, the Gold price made it worth over A$53 million.

As mentioned, the reverse of the coin features in the early years a Gold nugget and thereafter a Kangaroo. It states the year of the coin, the weight and Gold fineness.

There is also a mintmark ‘P’ which signifies the Perth Mint.

The obverse features a profile view of Queen Elizabeth II designed by Ian Rank-Broadley. The portrait is surrounded by her name, the denomination of the coin and the word AUSTRALIA.

The Australian Gold Nugget coins should not be mistaken for the Australian Lunar Gold Bullion coins. Both coins are minted by Perth Mint and have 999.9‰ fineness but Lunar coins use different animals from the Chinese calendar instead of the Kangaroo.

Investment Advice

There are various grading systems in use around the world. However, the British system is as follows:

All Nugget coins are issued as pure Gold finewness, 999.9‰ and in theory have a low premium just above the value of the Gold.

However, their intrinsic beauty makes them very collectable and they attract good premiums.

As with any coin, the best quality grades will attract the best premiums. The three early years in particular will be those with the highest premium. Although the coins

were issued in Proof form, many were unpacked and have thus been damaged and are at lower gradings. The mintage figures for all sizes of Nuggets are in general quite low, thus every coin will have numismatic premium value also. All round, the Nugget is both a collectable and investable product.


The Half-Vera Valor, an accessible gold coin investment

Wednesday, May 22nd, 2013

Half-Vera Valor - Obverse

Have you heard about a Half- Sovereign? …. or a Half-Napoleon? …. maybe even a US $10 gold coin? Here we would like to present you a completely new gold product for investment.: the Half-Vera Valor. An investment quality, pure gold coin made from Clean Extraction source that is adapted to suit all budgets.

“Clean Extraction” gold

The gold used to mint the half Vera Valor conforms with the criteria of the Clean Extraction charter because it is pure gold  (999 ‰) that has been recycled from excess components of the Swiss watchmaking industry.

Unlike silver which is complicated and onerous to recycle, gold can be recycled an infinite number of times.

The recycling of the Half Vera Valor gold complies with the Clean Extraction charter in that it actively and strongly encourages the reduction of emissions that are harmful to the planet. Recycled gold helps preserve the environment because it reduces the need to rely on methods of mining and extraction that are often carried out in the most difficult conditions and give rise to toxic pollutants.

No heavy machinery or pollutants are used and there are no extraction processes required with recycled gold and any harmful products associated are strictly limited. Recycled gold has considerably less impact (if any) on the environment compared to the normal mining operations required for extraction.

Recycling of gold is like having an above ground deposit that today provides more than half of the gold required by industry in order to manufacture jewellery and investment gold products such as bars and coins.

As a reminder, in order to extract 1 ounce of pure gold from the ground normally; takes 75000 litres of water, emits 600 Kilos of CO2, 25 Kilos of Sulphur Dioxide, consumes 220 litres of fuel and produces 30 tonnes of mining waste.

Recycling gold is one way to combat the problem of ever-rarer and diminishing sources of gold. Mining production is stagnating and yet year on year demand for gold never ceases to increase.

Recycling gold is the only real solution to keeping gold prices reasonable and thus avoiding the need to use more and more invasive, difficult and destructive mining practices which would have detrimental effect on the environment.

Gold is THE clean precious metal of the future as it can be recycled at infinitum!

Quality partners and LBMA recognition

Partners chosen to participate in the conception and production of the Half Vera Valor:

Allgemeine (part of the German group Umicore), therefore the hallmark is recognised by the LBMA, they produce the “blanks” for the Half-Vera Valor (round blank discs of pure gold that are future Half Vera Valor and are ready for minting).

Huguenin is the Swiss private mint responsible for the minting of the coins.

More than just a smaller version

Careful, the Half-Vera Valor is more than just a half of a Vera Valor; it’s the “half sister” with its own unique identity. It is not merely a sub-division of the one ounce Vera Valor.

The fact that it is made from recycled gold is one point but also the method and technique of manufacture by striking only is different, even if the same DNA runs through its veins!

Still produced exclusively by and, the Half-Vera Valor is smaller and more intricate to mint. The complexity of its manufacture arising from its smaller size, follows in the footsteps of similar illustrious coins such as: Half Sovereign, Half Napoleon and $10 US… which all have an elevated premium compared to their larger format.

Because they are smaller and less expensive, they are in effect the type of coins that are always in demand during periods of crisis and therefore their premium can rise significantly. This makes them excellent products for investment with an incomparable leverage effect.


Based on its characteristics and specification, the Half Vera Valor qualifies as investment quality gold which is exempt from VAT throughout the European Union.

The Half Vera Valor is considered as bullion bar-coin because it bears the required markings of a piece of Good Delivery bullion and is struck as “money”* into a coin.

The Half Vera Valor is therefore an ideal coin to save as protection against crisis, a coin that can be easily resold whenever you need, without VAT and the integrity of being an ethical gold product.

*refers to the orientation of the strike and between the faces of the coin.

Half Vera Valor - Reverse


The Half Vera Valor possesses some seductive qualities and apart from being beautiful, it is a dense coin with a very pure fineness.

Weight: ½ ounce or 15.55175g

Diameter: 26mm

Thickness: 1.6mm

Fineness: 999‰ pure gold

Hallmark : Allgemeine

Striking tool orientation : 6 o’clock, struck as money

Edge: reeded

Mint quality: High proof

Taxation type: investment quality bullion, VAT exempt


–          A beautiful product that has every chance to follow its predecessor the Vera Valor which has become the most sold 1 Oz gold coin in France since Dec 2011.

–          Unforgeable – the QR code struck into the reverse of the coin plus the laser engraved serial number on the obverse make this product  extra secure and even more attractive to investors seeking certainty of product quality.

–          An ethical gold investment that avoids any negative effects on people or environmental

–          VAT exemption is an attribute

–          A format easy to hold in the hand, a value readily accessible to all and easily imaginable in daily use day should it become necessary.



Monday, April 29th, 2013

livre3DReview by Mark Rogers

Gold, A Different Point of View by Paul McGowan

With a Preface by Bill Bonner

Published by Ferrington in association with

Following the drop in the price of gold a few weeks ago, record sales of gold coins were reported (see here, and here for a rise in its price). The publication of this little book is therefore timely and pertinent.

There may be many people who would like to hold some gold but are dissuaded by the thought of large and expensive ingots. But bullion is not the only way in which to invest in or purchase gold. Yet as the author states: “Gold is not just ingots. The common response to gold is that it is only for the wealthy: those heavy bars, alluring though they may be, are simply unaffordable.”

This book argues that this view of gold is misguided and misinformed: there are affordable routes to investment in gold.

Although short the book contains a wealth of information. There is an introductory chapter giving a brief history of gold’s 6,000 history, which includes its denigration by politicians and academics in the twentieth century; Keynes for example thought it a “barbarian relic”. Proudhon, Marx, Lenin, Hitler all denigrated it, and to this day it troubles the likes of Ben Bernanke and George Soros.

Gold’s function as a stabiliser of value and its use over time as actual currency coin in circulation suggest that gold is today an alternative currency, and this first chapter ends with a comparison of gold with modern economies, noting that the latter are not working, while attempts to remonetize gold are afoot in, for example, Utah.

There is also discussion of the vexed problem of clean extraction with some useful information about the certificating process that reassures investors that their gold has been mined under the highest standards.

Chapter Two, “Gold, the last bastion of individual freedom”, examines the role that gold may play in hedging one’s investment portfolio, as well as its potential as a regulating device, controlling the whims of politicians and central bankers. This chapter contains a concise guide to the problems of paper currency unsecured against tangible value, with the inevitable consequence that savings are eroded and destroyed and more and more paper is required to purchase fewer and fewer goods. In other words, paper currencies are a direct attack on people’s individual control of their lives, rendering it harder and harder for them to provide for themselves, their families and their futures. We have been here so many times in history, with the latest example being the eurocrisis, that it is nothing short of scandalous that the political and academic classes cannot see the lessons to be so plainly learned.

Gold on the other hand “observes a constancy. With one ounce of gold you can almost buy today the same quantity of basic goods as at the time of the Roman Empire or Egyptian civilization. Inder the Pharaoh Tutmosis III, one needed the equivalent of 2 ounces of gold to buy an ox. Today, 2.5 ounces would be needed. Inflation has been rather weak in 4,000 years!”

This is a salutary reminder of gold’s stabilising power, which is just the very thing that the modern politician resents about it.

A strong bullish potential

The importance of gold in the contemporary world is underlined by an examination of those countries which invest heavily in it, both at the national as well as the individual level. Russia, China and India are at the forefront of this investment, with others, such as Vietnam, making significant moves in this direction. There is a useful digest of information about these countries, the role gold has traditionally played in them and how they are managing their portfolios at present. This analysis clearly establishes trends which are not going to vanish: China indeed buys enormous quantities of it, even though she also produces it.

These markets ought to assure the potential gold investor that while prices do indeed fluctuate, bullish potential is always there in gold, and has been for most of human history. Any falls in the market have identifiable causes – for example, the wedding season in India sees a rise in prices. Indeed, this analysis is testimony to the fact that we have had 6,000 years to observe people’s behaviour with gold and make it one of the easiest assets to manage.

An Investment Portfolio

Nevertheless, the author does not argue that gold should be the sole asset in one’s portfolio, far from it. Instead it should be looked on as the preserver of a portfolio’s value, that depending on the scale of one’s other investments a relevant proportion should always be kept in gold to support the rest of the portfolio.

There is a very useful chapter on investments other than gold, such as arable land and forestry, fine art and fine wines. These all have valuable potential (after all, we all need to eat), but each has significant drawbacks which are clearly and carefully spelled out. Gold’s position as being free of such drawbacks means that it is essential to invest in it, as a hedge against the dormant disasters in the rest of one’s investments.

And gold enjoys an enormous potential over any other investment, including in things such as diamonds that might seem to share some of gold’s economic potential. Gold is superbly versatile. Cut a diamond, and much of it is waste; melt an ingot of gold, and you still have the same amount of gold.

Gold Coins

The heart of the book is in its last chapter which really gets down to brass tacks – or gold coins! Coins represent gold at its most versatile, allowing even those who do not have huge fortunes to start saving in gold. While one ingot is beyond the reach of most, a single coin, perhaps purchased at the rate of no more than one a year, is a realistic and feasible option.

The book contains a wealth of information on tax regimes; storage; what to do and what not to do in actually physically handling coins and how to transport them; what to look out for as enhancing a rare numismatic coin’s value and what depletes it – all fascinating information in itself, and eminently practical.

“If we had to state only three reasons to buy: gold is a recognized and accepted safe haven throughout the world, demand from the emerging countries is strong and the total demand over the mid to long term is reliably forecast as being higher than the supply.”

The book is available on Amazon in a Kindle version (price: £5.14). Those readers who would like the printed version, should send a cheque for £12.50 (includes p+p) made out to: Ferrington, and send it to: Ferrington, Bookseller & Publisher, 24 Shipton Street, London E2 7RU. The book is also available as Buy It Now on eBay.


Sunday, July 22nd, 2012

By Charles Sannat, Resident Economist at Au Coffre

The first in a summer series of articles on the great economists

Thomas Robert Malthus was born near Guildford (Surrey) on the 13th of February 1766 and died in Bath (Somerset) on the 29th of December 1834 (at the age of 68);  he was a British economist of the Classical School as well an Anglican priest.

He is known in particular for his work on the relationship between the dynamics of population growth and production, analyzed from a “pessimistic” perspective, in full opposition to the Smithian concept of harmonious and stable equilibrium.

His name gave rise to a new adjective in common parlance, “Malthusian”, often viewed with negative connotations (describing a somewhat conservative frame of mind, anti-investment or fearful of scarcity) and a doctrine, Malthusianism, which includes an active birth control policy to control population growth.

In 1798, he published anonymously An Essay on the Principle of Population, which was hugely successful as well as controversial. Malthus then committed himself to deepening his research and travelled the continent, visiting Denmark, Sweden and Russia. In 1803, he published a new edition of his Essay, much expanded, and signed it by name. The repercussions were significant. In 1809, the fourth edition of the Essay was translated into French, in Geneva.

He met David Ricardo for the first time in 1811, the two men subsequently maintained an extensive correspondence which enabled him to develop new methods of analysis of demand.

He wrote other works, in particular Principles of Political Economy, published in 1820.

He died in 1834 and was buried at Bath Abbey, in Somerset.

Malthus and the relationship between population and production

The works of Adam Smith and David Hume soon attracted him toward political economy. He attempted to apply the theories of William Godwin, an 18th century rationalist, influenced by the thought of Jean-Jacques Rousseau and Condorcet, who believed in a perfectible society. The priest Malthus was charged with assistance to the poor in his community; the poor harvests from 1794 to 1800 resulted in misery and distress, and struck a chord.

In 1796 he wrote an essay on the crisis which England was undergoing, an essay which adopted a position in favour of social justice and proposing to expand the system of public assistance to the poor, but he did not publish it.

However, the student of Godwin rebelled against his teacher upon reading Social Justice (1793). In this utopian work, Godwin described a society where an increasing population will encounter prosperity and justice. The gap between Godwin’s ideas and the brutal reality that he observed lead Malthus to radically alter his perception.

His Essay on the Principle of Population, published in 1798, was a lampoon reacting against these ideas.

In opposition to the “moral” reformers who blamed the government for the ills of society, Malthus wanted to demonstrate that they actually arise from natural and inescapable laws. He adopted a theory put forward by Joseph Townsend in A Dissertation on the Poor Laws in 1786 or by the Italian Giammaria Ortes.

An Essay on the Principle of Population

Malthus mathematically predicts that without barriers, population grows in an exponential or symmetrical manner (for example: 1, 2, 4, 8, 16, 32…) while resources grow only in an arithmetical manner (1, 2, 3, 4,5, 6…). He thus concludes that demographic catastrophes are inevitable by nature, unless population growth is prevented.

He also advocated the ceasing of all help to the needy, in opposition to the Speenhamland laws (a precursor of the modern welfare state, which produced many of the problems that we now experience) and the proposals of William Godwin who sought to expand assistance to the poor.

Policies of population control influenced by Malthus are known as “Malthusian”.  His fears revolved around the theory that population growth is faster than the increase in resources, resulting in impoverishment of part of the population. As the old regulators of population (wars and epidemics) were no longer playing their parts, he imagined new barriers, such as restricting the size of families and the deferring the legal age of marriage. These proposals are only currently applied in  the People’s Republic of China, which indeed views itself as being forced [not neutral] to severely restrict its population.

Malthus’s pessimistic prediction was set back, as the world experienced a large increase in resources and agricultural production (the “green” revolution),  new international means of exchange of subsistence goods and the emigration of part of the excess population to the United States or the colonies, where modern agricultural methods created new resources.

We thus went from two thirds of the world’s inhabitants suffering from malnutrition in 1950, to one in 7 by the year 2000, while over the same period the global population grew from  two and a half billion to over six billion.

Nonetheless, natural constraint re-emerged from 2009 onwards: the green revolution has resulted in the depletion of soils and groundwater aquifers.

The prospect of an exhaustion of fossil fuels in the short and medium terms is considered by many increasingly likely, particularly as a consequence of a large increase in the production of goods and services.

However, it is interesting to compare two historical cases:

1960: 3 billion inhabitants, 2 billion suffering from malnutrition (i.e. 66%).

2000: 6 billion inhabitants, 800 million suffering from malnutrition (i.e. 13.3%).

Malthus’ pessimistic predictions were promptly set back by the industrial revolution and the green revolution. Whether his analysis remains structurally valid in the long term remains to be seen.

Under the conditions as set out by Malthus, mathematically, it is maintained that it will not be possible for the global population to increase constantly and that governments will eventually have to  intervene, one way or another – demographic transition being less painful, but requiring two or three generations.

In Malthus  we find the idea that infinite growth in a finite world… could end.


Monday, January 30th, 2012

Earlier this month on, we looked at hazardous gold mining operations in South America (Unclean Gold). The context was the Peruvian economist, Hernando de Soto’s findings that the vast majority of the world’s poor operate in economies that give them no access to title and other capital-realizing legal arrangements. There will be a great deal more to say about these insights, but here I want to address an important distinction that needs to be made about eco-crisis and the environment. This is to clear up some of the misapprehensions voiced by critics of capitalism and free trade, such as “Occupy” and many of the rancidly left-wing organizations financed by Soros.

The anti-globalization movement has global ambitions far in excess of those entertained by the merchants and manufacturers who drive globalization. The latter want to acquire or produce their goods at the best possible costs and sell them for the best possible prices. Not only are these relatively modest ambitions, but they are also perfectly normal: merchants and manufacturers down the centuries have always traded on these assumptions.

A main platform of anti-globalizers against the despoliation allegedly caused by capitalist enterprise is environmentalism, and this vision is entirely holistic – i.e. global! They also embrace goals far in excess of what any economy can bear, especially a developing one: the grandest is the demand that carbon emissions are reduced by an improbable amount in an unachievable time…

The reason: “global warming”. However, this is an ideology and can have no bearing on what real people struggling in real economies must do to survive and prosper. Hence the refusal of India and China to sign up to carbon quotas; hence the puzzlement of Africans and South Americans that they should be sacrificed, denied the possibility to improve their lot because of the perceived “fate of the earth”.

Global warming is now a legislative fact, and it is so because the wrong science is used: the study of the “greenhouse effect” is based on the composition of gases, i.e. chemistry. However, what drives the climate is convection, i.e. physics. The Earth is 70% water, and the land mass that makes up the rest contains high mountain ranges: the effect is the creation of a planetary climate which helps regulate temperatures over time.

“Environmentalism” is merely another attempt by those who despise wealth creation, and all the benefits that flow from it, to reduce western economies and suppress emerging ones.

Yet are there not serious ecological problems such as the unclean and illegal gold mines discussed earlier? Of course there are, but refusing to be blinded by environmentalism means approaching such eco-crises more circumspectly. That is, each crisis must be seen on a case-by-case basis, and not dove-tailed into a wider and misleading perspective. Why should what needs to be done – and more to the point that can be done – to alleviate a local problem, be deferred until globalization and the environment are “fixed”? The attempt to co-opt the unclean gold mines into a productive framework, would demonstrate that such problems can be solved on their own terms – and give true value not only to the gold extracted but to the lives and work of the extractors.

By Mark Rogers

The other side of Gold mines in Peru

Friday, November 11th, 2011

Open mine in Madre de Dios

Mother Nature has been extremely generous with Peru, and has presented it with a valuable treasure such as its exuberant Amazon Forest and in the depths of its earth, the presence of the coveted golden mineral, which has given rise to the existence of numerous mines and gold washing places in the country.

Over the years, many national and international companies have heard of the treasures which may be extracted in Peru and have settled in its provinces. In this process methods have evolved and they have the Escuela de Minas, whose object is to train competent professionals, capable of offering a better organisation in order to guarantee the optimum achievement of the mining companies’ aims.

But there is another side to the story, beside the great mining companies and their expensive equipment and potential, sits the illegal extraction of this mineral in far away areas of the Amazon Forest, where control by the Government environmental and financial agencies has proven difficult. There are different reasons why this illicit activity has arisen such as shortage of employment in rural areas, increase in the gold price and tax avoidance which in turn results in an increase in profits. But all this is being done without control and the heads of these illegal extraction operations do not take into consideration environmental conservation issues provoking in turn further erosion (than that caused by any mineral extractions, even when using appropriate means) and an increase in the contamination of rivers as mercury and cyanide are being poured inappropriately into water sources.

In this scenario, problems are not only environmental but also social. According to studies undertaken by Peruvian authorities, the business of illegal extraction creates problems such as child prostitution (in the area known as Madre de Dios, it is thought that over 300 children work in prostitution in bars near the illegal mines) and that others are subject to child labour, having to work from a very early age without being paid for it. Other consequences of illegal extractions are smuggling and illegal trafficking of arms.

It is not just a matter of gold. In these crossroads, the wish of the few to quickly enrich themselves provokes serious problems, which may be more difficult to eradicate than illegal mining itself.

Article by : Lizette Paternina

Crisis, what crisis?

Wednesday, November 2nd, 2011

The G20 in Cannes is in crisis as its host President Sarkozy remains distracted by the Greek referendum announcement and the implications for his cunning Franco-German solution, hatched with best chum Chancellor Merkel to the European debt crisis.
The G20 group accounts for 80% of global wealth but also brings together huge differences in perception of where the world is at.

The Chinese have 3 Trillion dollars to help out the troubled western economies if it chooses. But then the Chinese are a nation of savers, hard earned cash they earn from long days of toil, often in self-enterprise ventures, is regularly put aside as investment for their future. On average the Chinese put aside 25% of monthly income for a rainy day. However their view of our crisis is somewhat different as one guy likened it to “ a bankrupt wealthy old man asking a poor man for money”. Some Chinese also remember the past experiences of decadent Western capitalism and imperialism. As Holly Williams from Sky News said “They don’t see why they should invest their hard-earned savings to help out economies and people to continue to have much more than they ever have had or ever will.

It is worth remembering that the average Chinese citizen lives below the poverty line and the new found wealth and middle class does not benefit the majority of China’s population – just like every other country you may care to analyse. The distribution of wealth always remains top heavy to keep our governing powers in the manner they’re accustomed and the bankers with enough profits to pay for it as well as their own hefty bonuses.

If you want to know to whom all the “money” has been paid that has resulted in this planet-sized debt then look no further than Goldman Sachs, their lawyers, all ex-heads of state and the personal fortunes of other prominent world politicians over the last 40 years, the Federal Reserve, the history of the Rothschild fortune and the IMF.

Will this debt ever be properly accounted for or ever paid back? No and No.

That’s why China does not want to lose value of its accrued wealth to the whims of US or European debt. Both lack a credible and coherent plan. Obama and Sarkozy have both got one eye firmly on domestic matters as they prepare for re-election next year.

Greek Tragedy?

The joke is they were all so smug thinking they’d sorted out a plan to buy time with Greece and then Papendréou goes and drops a bombshell with his referendum offer as a democratic gesture to the Greek people – oh yeah!
Trouble is he doesn’t actually care because he has nothing to lose and he knows what is coming as we wrote in “Greeks prepare a coup d’état ?”

He has taken this opportunity, his last on the European and G20 stage, covered by the world’s media, to play centre stage and enjoy his moment. He was called before the Headmaster and Headmistress of the Franco-German alliance, to explain his unilateral approach to life and to discuss the question that will be put on the referendum.
He indicated that sovereignty of Greek affairs remained the jurisdiction of the Greek parliament and its decisions are binding before all others and not open to outside interference. So not your average pro-European stance!! As I’ve said he’s got nothing to lose and knows what is coming.

US upgrades priority on plans for Iran airstrike

I also heard that the US and therefore by default the UK as well are bringing forward their plans to conduct air strikes on Iran. Seems they’re centrifuges are back in business as is the possibility of producing weapons grade nuclear material. Looks like they’ll hit their not-so-secret secret mountain production facilities. Intelligence reports backed up by International Atomic Energy Agency gives this story more than usual credibility. The word on the street is that Obama is nervous.
Israel says report proves “we told you so” for years that Iran posed a significant threat to its existence.

UK General strike will paralyse a nation

In the UK a massive general strike looks set to take place at the end of the month over public sector pension reform plans. The nation could be brought to a standstill with a 3 Million walkout planned. Negotiations between the Government and Trade Union leaders are not making any progress even if there is an improved offer on the table. The taste of austerity is always bitter.

Silvio doesn’t want to spoil a party

Finally Italy rushed out a message on the eve of the G20 to announce a package of austerity measures no doubt to comply with some previous handshake and just to make sure drinks with the others went well in Cannes! We’ll believe them when they’re implemented, successful and have brought about the desired effect.

Ever wondered why the announcements of “new improved measures and offerings to us all” from politicians always get great airtime but we rarely see a “results show” – then again fixing figures is a way of life for some so don’t settle for less than “seeing is believing” proof.

Crisis, what crisis?

So the world, its economies, all nations and globalization are working fine and there’s nothing to worry about – fine – and remember in this case do nothing, just enjoy every moment of a beautiful daily life.

If you thought for one minute this may be in jeopardy would you insure against it? Just like you would a car against an accident so you can afford to replace it if necessary, or against a fire so you could rebuild your home?

How do you insure yourself against a crisis?

Transform some of your wealth into an inflation-proof, crisis-proof physical asset to protect yourself against devalued or worthless currencies, loss of income and employment, contagion, bank collapse and debt default.
The problem with hindsight is that it’s too late to take preventative action. Only acting before the event gives insurance cover so find out about owning gold and gold coins as a real alternative for a safe place to store wealth.

The dawn over the Empire of the Setting Sun

Thursday, April 7th, 2011

An unfettered pack of lies

When we tell young people that in 1986 we were naive enough to believe the authorities who told us that the radioactive cloud had stopped at the French border, you attract, and rightly so, a few sniggers and mocking smiles.

When I tell these young students that it will perhaps be their turn in 20 years time to be the object of derision by their own children, surprise quickly gives way to incredulity and a certain amount of concern.

Let’s look again at the facts. Facts have this annoying tendency to be difficult to change although…

On 14 March 2011, a terrible earthquake ravaged Japan, following by a devastating Tsunami. Among the areas affected was the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant composed of 6 reactors which have since been experiencing difficulty. Chernobyl only had a problem with 1 reactor. We can therefore summarise the situation as Russia 1, Japan 6.

Since 14 March, the information provided by the Japanese authorities has been very limited, perfectly controlled and little short of the communication methods we used to see in the former USSR.

Let’s recall the accident at the Swedish nuclear power plant in 2006. The operators almost lost the nuclear reactor in less than 30 minutes owing to a fault in the cooling circuit allied to an electricity power failure (which really takes the biscuit for a nuclear power plant which is supposed to produce electricity), which was in turn linked to maintenance work. The safety systems (to keep things simple the back-up generators) were simply not turned on. A catastrophe was assured in 30 minutes this being the time needed for the start of fusion within the core of the reactor according to the articles and the experts who were at the time in agreement about the seriousness of this incident. For 15 days, the cores of the nuclear reactors in Japan have no longer been truly cooled…..but of course this does not cause any problem.

There is smoke escaping on virtually a daily basis from one or other of the damaged reactors, but of course this does not pose any problem.

The drinking water in Tokyo is from time to time unfit for consumption but the next day when the shops have run out of bottled mineral water and the entire population can no longer be supplied…the water becomes drinkable again. The sad alternative is to either let the population drink irradiated water or to die of thirst.

In brief, this accident which is jeopardising the “survival” of nuclear reactors potentially risks being more serious than the accident at Chernobyl. As stated by the Japanese prime minister: “the situation at Fukushima is unpredictable”.

But let’s get back to our little retrospective. Check it out for yourselves by calling on your memory (you will see that this works well) or by searching the internet for all the podcasts for this period which are to a large extent still online).

On Tuesday 15 March the European Commissioner for energy stated that it is “the apocalypse”.

Financial markets across the planet are in free fall. The mega crash is fast approaching and it risks making the subprime crisis in 2008 seem like a mere trifle.

The next day, on Thursday 17, there was a great change in how information was broadcast and managed. A helicopter took off with some buckets of water to pour onto the smoking reactors “trusting to luck” (look back over the videos to understand the accuracy used).
Thanks to these wonderful images, the Press unanimously spoke with effect from Thursday of “Glimmers of hope at Fukushima “. The markets are rebounding, the main thing is safe (our money).
The Japanese can calmly go on exposing people to radiation.
Using the following link you can see around ten good definition aerial photographs of the various buildings at the Fukushima power plant. They are not very reassuring.

On Friday 18, some tankers from the Tokyo fire service also arrived to hose down the smouldering ruins which, I remind you, officially did not explode. In fact there were huge explosions witnessed by the entire planet, but they were not serious. Obvious they were just controlled degassing activities (hydrogen) which exploded but nothing to be alarmed about, the reactors are fine, honestly!. Thanks to this, the Press were unanimously able to lead with headlines such as “Encouraging Progress at Fukushima”!
I advise you to read the report entitled, “the Battle for Chernobyl” which provides an exhaustive clarification on the risks and challenges faced by the ex-Soviet empire in order to limit the extent of this nuclear catastrophe. It is important to note that hundreds of helicopters, thousands of armoured vehicles and more than 500,000 men were used to construct the sarcophagus around the damaged reactor. At Fukushima the problem is multiplied by six. How are they going to deal with it?

It is therefore certain at the time that I am writing these lines. We are faced with an unfettered pack of lies which we are forced to watch powerless as it unfolds. Except for the fact that the internet exists today and we have more chance to keep ourselves informed. We are experiencing a real Chernobyl 2 !!

Multiple under-estimated economic consequences

Is there any hope left? Doubtlessly there is, and being an optimist by nature, I want to believe that solutions can be found. Nevertheless, the official radioactive pollution is now spread over more than 100 km. Tokyo, the capital, is situated less than 250 m from the Fukushima nuclear plant. The entire North of Japan has been substantially affected, not to mention all the areas which have been wiped off the map by the double whammy of the earthquake and the tsunami.

The French government has just set up a special unit in order to plan as best as possible for the shortage of components which will certainly affect France starting from April leading to certain production stoppages and probably measures of technical unemployment in certain industries.

Apart from the losses in human lives, the cost of this double catastrophe (natural and nuclear) is far from being known and is certainly currently be played down. The last assessment talks about more than 28,000 who are dead or missing. There is more than 350,000 left without shelter in the North-east of Japan, 70,000 people have been evacuated within a 20 km radius around the plant. Between 20 and 30 km, 136,000 other people are waiting to be evaluated after being confined to their homes for more than 15 days.

Japan as the second largest economy in the World (or the third according to how China is classified) is a vital link for globalisation. Japan is heavily affected and faces a number of major challenges:

– A nuclear catastrophe which is absolutely not being overcome and which may eventually lead to a drama in the event of any worsening of the situation in one of the affected reactors.

– debt of more than 200% of GDP (by means of comparison, France has a debt ratio of around 80% to GDP whereas that of “bankrupt” Greece is 120%). At the time of the Kobe earthquake, the debt ratio of the Japanese state was only 85% of GDP (this was in 1995). The reconstruction effort risks leading to an unsustainable increase in this country’s debt which will speed it towards unprecedented economic difficulties. On 15 May 2010, the alarm bell was also sounded by the IMF and the rating agencies on the non-sustainability of Japanese short-term debt.

– Industry virtually at a standstill. The Japanese are the inventors of the Just in time methods which, even if they have convinced the World, demonstrate their limitations in the event of catastrophes. The consequence of the total absence of any stock is the halting of numerous production activities leading to massive shortages on supermarket shelves which still remain empty at the present time. No more water, less and less food, major power cuts which no longer make it possible to manage stocks of fresh or deep-frozen products.
With regard to the major international companies the example of aircraft manufacturer Boeing is striking with Japanese companies building 35% of some models of aircraft.

– A currency value which is spiralling upwards. The massive purchases of the Japanese yen and companies who are liquidating their overseas assets in order to repatriate them to cope with the National reconstruction effort have propelled the Yen towards an historical high. Added to the “natural” appreciation of the currency is major market speculation on fund repatriation forecasts.
The consequence is that a currency which is too strong triggers a significant decrease in exports, given that a brutal increase in the value of the currency cannot be offset by an increase in productivity especially in a country ravaged by a natural catastrophe of this size. Nevertheless, in the medium term and bearing in mind a expansionist monetary policy, the Yen should find a more acceptance exchange rate.

– Japan is a country with a very heavy population density. Many people but not many habitable spaces. On average, the price of real estate is the most expensive in the World. Banks therefore there have particularly large outstanding real estate loans. In the region of Fukushima, more than 70,000 people have already been evacuated. In Ukraine, next to Chernobyl, the town of Pripiat is still a ghost town 25 years after the explosion of the reactor. There the banks did not have any loans. There were only 45,000 inhabitants. What will become of bank debts in this case? How will the losses (because they are large) be managed? Might we again face a major international banking crisis as the extent of the Fukushima nuclear catastrophe appears? Imagine the extent of the impact on real estate debts in the event of the evaluation of Tokyo which houses 35 million people…..a situation which it is quite simply unimaginable from a financial perspective. The economic system could not cope, or would cope with great difficulty. Perhaps this is why the situation in Fukushima is no longer alarming after 17 March 2011.

– Japan is an aging country, whose current population of 127 million has been decreasing since 2005 and is set to be halved between now and the end of the century to reach 60 million inhabitants.
But how can these debts be repaid without economic and demographic growth, Mechanically and mathematically, the less the number of inhabitants the bigger the total debt per head of population.

– The Fukushima nuclear accident has revived the fear about nuclear power. In the United States, no nuclear reactor has been built since the accident at Three Mile Island in 1979. After Chernobyl, there has been no further development of any nuclear power plant in USSR, the same will be true of Japan after Fukushima. In German 7 reactors have already been halted because they were deemed to be too dangerous.
The only rapid and credible replacements for energy in the short-term are Gas and obviously Petrol whose prices might be propelled to highs in the coming weeks. Economist are agreed, however, that a barrel of petrol whose price exceeds 120 dollars leads the World economy into a recession. As at 4 April the price of a barrel of petrol was still rising and seemed to have sustainably settled at over 110 dollars.

Towards an acceleration of changes which are already being felt

It is therefore to be feared that all of the cumulated factors discussed present a global systemic risk to the global economy which might be hard to redress in the aftermath of Fukushima and the slow agony of this nuclear cataclysm being witnessed in Japan. Perhaps we are witnessing the premature disappearance of a Nation, of the slow dawn on a Empire.

You wanted to save money in the short-term despite the life of mankind, you will lose mankind and you will lose money because there is no wealth without mankind.

Indeed, even oysters risk deserting our New Year’s dinner tables. Affected and decimated by a mysterious illness, our producers have ordered spats from Japan in Sendau. Japanese producers are also lacking our oysters.

It is still not time to make the tally. Having said this, the Fukushima accident may well be the signing of the death warrant for the nuclear industry which is a dangerous industry and about which we neither know how to manage the dismantling work nor how to manage waste and whose costs are not taken into account in the operating prices for this energy which is more expensive than people think when all this indirect costs are included. This is not to mention the price to be paid in terms of a catastrophe which are quite simply unbearable both in financial terms as well as in human suffering. The “‘homo economicus ” will have to learn another form of sobriety.
From Peak Oil to the depleting of raw materials, from the challenges faced by agriculture in feeding our planet to the sharing of water (threatened resource) the World is changing.

The Japanese cataclysm will undoubtedly hasten these changes.

Translated from an article by Charles SANNAT



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