Record gold prices boost new Bellevue mine, with possibility of further gains ‘gravy on top’

Record gold prices boost new Bellevue mine, with possibility of further gains ‘gravy on top’
  • PublishedMarch 28, 2024

The gold shovels propped up next to the podium were a dead giveaway — never has there been a better time to be a gold miner.

Our fifth most-valuable export has been hitting new highs, surpassing $US2,200 an ounce this month.

That’s more than $3,300 in Australian currency.

When the team at Bellevue Gold gathered to officially open their new mine in Western Australia’s Goldfields region, chief executive Darren Stralow was beaming as brightly as the glittering shovel he presented to the WA mines minister to commemorate the event.

“Record high gold prices, I’d like to say we planned it that way, but we’ll certainly take it,” he told The Business.

A bright gold bar, with two hands in long red gloves, one holding a hammer
Newly mined Australian gold is selling for record prices.(Supplied: Bellevue Gold, Evan Collis)

Bellevue poured its first gold in October, when the spot price was near its recent low of about $US1,800 an ounce.

With the commodity now fetching about $US400 an ounce more than that, the miner expects to generate strong numbers on the 200,000 ounces it hopes to process each year.

“We’re just in the process now of opening up a few new mining areas, getting multiple production levels open, and that’s really going to drive the underground productivity,” said Mr Stralow.

“We think it’s going to happen between now and the end of this financial year, which sets us up for a really strong fiscal year 2025.”

Liquid gold is poured at Bellevue gold mine, as two people wearing protective silver suits watch over.
Liquid gold is poured into bars at mines like Bellevue Gold before it’s later refined into 99.99 per cent gold bars.(Supplied: Bellevue Gold, Evan Collis)

Why is the gold price setting new records?

As the gold price has continued to climb, analysts have been scrambling to update the forecasts they made at the start of this year.

“It’s been amazing, right? I mean, the gold price at $3,300 Australian certainly wouldn’t have been in the base case expectations when financing was arranged and this mine was approved,” said mining analyst and head of research at Argonaut, Hayden Bairstow, who was also at the Bellevue Gold mine opening.

He’s been closely watching the gold price moves and said there’s one clear reason why it’s jumped about 22 per cent since October.

“Gold thrives on uncertainty, so trying to understand the rate of the interest rate changes in the US versus inflation and whether the cutting in rates is going to outpace the hopefully pulling back in inflation or not, that was always going to be a real game changer for the gold price,” Mr Bairstow explained.

“That’s really how it played out and while we were quite constructive through the start of the year on the gold price outlook, that sort of uncertainty has really come to pass, and I think that’s what’s really helped the gold price.”

A line graph with a cyan line showing the volatile peaks and troughs of the price of gold.
The uncertainty around interest rates globally has been to the benefit of the gold price.(ABC News: Alistair Kroie)

The US Federal Reserve is broadly tipped to start cutting rates mid-year, but Mr Bairstow doesn’t expect that will do much to calm the big price moves.

“Once that starts to happen, it’ll then be the uncertainty as to how far they’re going to cut, how fast they’re going to cut, what the impact on inflation is and, unless you’re really sure of that outcome, then there’ll be continued volatility.”

Like many other analysts, he’s taken another look at his predictions from earlier in the year.

“What I thought would happen towards the second half of the year has already occurred, so it’s probably been a little bit higher than I had anticipated, or certainly quicker,” he explained.

“But I still think we’ll see that average of around sort of $US2,200 and hence a $3,000-plus Australian gold price, which is a very comfortable operating environment for most gold miners.”

A dark photos with three rectangles of glowing orange liquid.
The higher gold price means business is booming for Australian gold miners.(Supplied: Tim Robinson)

Tailwinds set to continue for a stronger gold price

It’s not just uncertainty about central bank interest rate moves driving the price.

Central banks themselves are increasing their stockpiles of gold — adding to the demand side of the equation.

The People’s Bank of China added 225 tonnes to its gold reserves in 2023 – with the World Gold Council reporting by the end of last year, the bank held 2,235 tonnes of the safe haven asset.

But the biggest holder is the US, with 8,133 tonnes of gold in its reserve, as at the end of 2023.

Collectively, global central banks bought 39 tonnes of gold in January, according to ANZ analysts.

ANZ predicts central banks could make gold purchases in the 750-800 tonne range this year.

Instability linked to conflicts in Ukraine and the Middle East are also fuelling uncertainty, a prime environment for gold buying.

ANZ senior commodity strategist Daniel Hynes and commodity strategist Soni Kumari recently noted, “technical buying has played a role to push the price into uncharted territory.”

“This rally goes beyond the uncertainties around geopolitics, lofty levels in stock markets and expected Federal Reserve rate cuts.”

ANZ has revised its price predictions for this year.

“The recent price rally lifted well above our forecast, so a retracement is likely in the short term.

“Having said that, we reiterate our long-term positive view and adjust our year-end price target to $US2,300 an ounce from $US2,200 an ounce.”

Higher prices boost our economy

Australia holds 21 per cent of all the known gold in the world yet to be mined — that’s the largest share of any one country.

A woman in hi-vis clothing standing in a cave with a torch undergound at Bellevue Gold mine
Bellevue Gold is ramping up to produce 200,000 ounces of gold a year.(Supplied: Bellevue Gold, Evan Collis)

Last year, Australian miners dug 304 tonnes of the yellow metal out of the ground. While that was slightly lower than 2022, higher prices valued it at about $32 billion.

ABC Bullion told The Business that refines about half of Australia’s gold into 99.99 per cent purity bars that are then sold on the world market.

The chief executive of Pallion, which owns ABC Bullion, Andrew Cochineas, spends much of his time travelling the globe securing customers.

“We sell throughout the world,” he told The Business.

“We are seeing increased demand in China, but we’re also seeing pretty steady demand throughout central Europe as well in North America. It’s a general worldwide phenomenon.”

Mr Cochineas said demand was strong from all kinds of customers.

“The reality of life is that it goes everywhere, from a retail level, we’ve got central banks, investment banks, right across the board. And of course, the jewellery and general precious metals industry too.”

Two large gold bars on a black tablecloth
Unrefined gold bars at Bellevue Mine in WA Goldfields.(ABC News: Rachel Pupazzoni)

He doesn’t expect that will dissipate this year.

“I think it’s a combination of the US Fed cutting rates, an uncertain political environment over in the US with the US election, coupled with pre-wars and wars throughout the rest of the world,” he said.

“I think the combination of all of those things means that there’s a good case for a much higher gold price.”

As Bellevue Gold continues to ramp up to full production, that’s something Mr Stralow is no doubt banking on.

“When you have a look at the macro environment with rates looking like they’re going to be cut, there’s strong central bank buying, the ETFs aren’t really even buying yet, you can see the tailwinds for some strong price movement in the year,” he said.

“I mean, if the gold price just stays where it is now, then we’re in a fantastic spot.

“If there’s upside from here, then it’s, you know, it’s just gravy on top.”

SOURCE: ABCNEWS

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