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Which will be worth more at end 2015?

7/5/08

Argentina SoyaWars™: A welcome outbreak of democracy

The law on export taxes has just been approved by the lower house of deputies in Congress. Here's a Spanish language link to the story. It still has to get through the Senate, but today was the big hurdle). I'm happy to say that the law has been modified slightly, and now states that the very small soya producer (up to 300MT per annum) pays 30% tax. Up to 750MT pa says 35% tax, and only the larger producer (15% of all farmers) will pay the full whack (remember that 44.1% number?).

The scene in Congress a few minutes ago

Kirchnerists are celebrating the victory today, but I have to ask whether all this fuss for the last 116 days was necessary? The quasi-dictatorial attitude of the K gov't as it tried to foist this tax on the agro boyz was the root cause of all this. Now that it's passed through the democratic system of Congress the small producer has sorely needed protection and the big producer will have to face the fact that it will be paying more to the state. I mean, the core reason for my hatred of this law was the way it was imposed, and what it would mean to the small player (see the charts in this post).

I'm sometimes called out as a lefty due to the posts here. The fact I've supported the Agro boyz cause all this time is therefore pretty confusing for those who like putting people into convenient boxes. I'm on the side of truth, democracy and the rule of law. Period. That's what we've seen today, and imperfect though the country's system may be from now on I'll be the first to criticize the agro boyz if they decide to renege on the deal hammered out by the democratically elected officials of Argentina.

Finally, I hope Klishtina has learned a lesson here. A President is not a monarch, and people in the 21st century should not be treated as serfs. If these 116 days of pain help in any way to avoid future conflicts, they will not have been in vain. I hope this is my last post ever on the subject.

UPDATE: Here's Bloomberg's take in English

What's going on over at PdVSA?

The short answer is "they're making a lot of money".

guffaw courtesy of plooptionary.com (click to enlarge)

PdVSA's continued success must really stick in the craw of those who see nothing good in Chávezlandia. Ever since the self-serving governors of PdVSA were kicked out of the company for organizing the failed 2003 coup d'etat, stories of PdVSA's imminent demise have been non-stop. We hear how PdVSA produces less oil, doesn't invest in infrastructure, doesn't have the necessary technology, has been drained of vital brains, is rife with corruption. etc etc.

gotta love sepia (click to enlarge)

However, the numbers tell a different story. And when it comes to the hard numbers, we don't even have to rely on the Venezuelan government's word of honour as world class independent bodies do the talking for them. For example, I bet you didn't know that according to the undisputed industry bible 'Petroleum Intelligence Weekly', PdVSA is the world's number five oil company, and has scored in the top five all this decade (out of interest, first is Saudi Arabia's state oil company, second is Iran's state oil company, third is Exxon Mobil, fourth is BP. Industry darling Petrobras doesn't even make the top ten).

Also, PdVSA seems to have entered a growth phase. With JV agreements largely in place for the development of new fields and refineries, PdVSA has recently announced that country production will grow from the current 3.2m barrels per day (mbbl/d) to 3.45mbbl/d by the end of this year. Also, the perforation and tapping of the enormous Mariscal Sucre offshore gas field finally started last month after literally years of delays. This long term project will eventually provide natgas to Venezuela for internal use and surplus sold to JV partners.

But back to hard, verifiable, numbers. Last week PdVSA released its first quarter results (here's the link). According to its preliminary audit (for those looking for a chink in the armour, PdVSA is audited by world class KPMG) year over year production was slightly up and revenues were up a whole boatload. Check out the numbers for yourself, and you'll see revenues up 52% and costs of production up 38% in for the period.

However, it's the PdVSA state contribution that most catches the eye. Like any quarterly report, the 1q08 isn't as complete as the annual report for 2007 (available at this link) but by using the same percentages of royalty revenues paid to the state by PdVSA in 2007, it's possible to estimate a total like this:

Royalties, Extraction Taxes, Other Taxes: U$7.28Bn (est)
Social Development Fund Payments: U$2.676Bn
Income Tax: U$1.386Bn
Dividend to Shareholders: U$2.871Bn

Total: U$14.213Bn

Some notes on the above: The first line on royalties etc is the only estimate I have to make. I do it by calculating the total state payments made in the "costs" column for 2007 (a touch over 30%), and using the same percentage for 1q08. Social development fund payments are often thought of as "what PdVSA contributes to the people". However, we clearly see it is a minor part of the total. Income tax is income tax. Dividend to shareholders is included because the only shareholder is the state itself. Obvious if you think about it for over a second.

Therefore in the first quarter of 2008, PdVSA handed approximately U$14.2Bn (that's billion, with a "B") to the state. To give you a bit of context, as Venezuela has a 2008 estimated population of 26.41m people*, that works out at six US dollars per person per day. Still wondering why nobody goes hungry in Venezuela?

So much for the past; what happens for the rest of 2008? Well scarily, the first quarter just reported looks like being the worst of the year, as two things are about to kick in to results going forward. Firstly, the well publicized nationalization of the Orinoco Faja production area happened in the first part of 2007 (well, it wasn't really wholesale expropriation, either as PdVSA upped its share of production from 49% to 60% generally). This will mean comparatively more barrels are sold by PdVSA this quarter, no doubts. But most importantly, look at this chart....

(click to enlarge)

.... and you can see the big run up in oil prices started in April. With WTI only touching U$100/bbl at end 1q08, and currently selling at U$144/bbl now, have a wild guess about the profits that PdVSA will print this quarter. Just by a quick eye-to-the-chart I can see average barrel prices coming in around 30% higher this quarter..........

So to sum up; PdVSA is producing well, is investing in the future, has JV agreements signed and moving forward, is making a lot of money, is contributing enormous amounts to the state and will almost certainly make substantially more going forward. Any further questions?

*source: CIA world handbook, July 2008 estimate

7/4/08

snippety stuff (weekend wrap up edition)

John McCain hands the US Latino vote to Barack Obama on a silver platter by going to Mexico and telling locals he'll build that border fence. The whole point of foreign visits is to attract votes, no?

Argentina's Congress might actually get some work done tonight, as the lower house is now debating the export tax law.

Ecuador is in party mood tonight as LDU de Quito bring back the Libertadores Cup, the biggest club prize in Latin American football. The team won it on Wednesday and landed back in Quito this morning to a rapturous welcome.

The racist scaredycats running the so called half-moon states of East Bolivia tonight faced reality, and losing their jobs, by accepting the recall referendum votes in "their" (hahaha) territories on August 10th. This time the votes in their regions will actually be monitored by neutral outsiders (from Mercosur) and the pro-Morales voters won't boycott the vote, so something approaching democracy might actually be witnessed this time. If they lose, according to the rules Morales himself gets to choose the successors. Then the fun will really begin.

Alan Twobreakfasts Garcia is off to Colombia on the 20th July, to meet up with Uribe and Lula da Silva. The whole idea is to "deepen relationships", all on Colombia's independence day. Garcia will be accompanied by his daughter. His son is staying home.

Don Coxe Basic Points

A smiling man wearing glasses

Basic Points July is out. If you can get your hands on a copy, do so*. It's the only thing you need to read on the big global overview every month. It is subscription stuff and therefore I'm not printing it out here, but I will share just three moneyline snippets from this month's episode to whet appetites. Pay particular attention to the last one, and then think about what LatAm exposure can do for your soul in the months and years to come. !Vivaaaaaa! So beg, borrow or steal yourself Basic Points every month. Better still get a sub at BMO Nesbitt Burns.

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What Bernanke is doing would not just have shocked Congress in previous
eras, it would have led to the firing of the Fed Chairman. That the Fed is now
taking as security hundreds of billions of face value of the bottom-of-thebarrel
sludge from the most notorious asset class in the history of modern
banking is a measure of just how seriously Bernanke—and Congress and the
Administration—view this crisis.

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Free markets are all about risk and reward. Capitalism is ordinarily the best of systems because it rewards those who make the biggest contributions to profits and growth, and punishes those who make bad decisions, or abuse the system.

Not this time.


Among those who have been given the biggest paychecks and the biggest perks are men who made the biggest blunders in modern banking history. Compared to them, Congress looks smart and virtuous.

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For investors, we think the prudent course is to treat it as a recession until proved otherwise. Stay overinvested in commodity stocks whose earnings and performance are tied to stronger economies in the Third World, and stay underinvested in financial stocks until they start to demonstrate the kind of strong relative performance that means it’s time for the “All Clear” whistle to sound.

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*I will not forward you a copy if you write to otto.rock1 (AT) gmail (DOT) com

Julio Cobos deathwatch, part 2

Fernandez (left) and Cobos (right) enjoy an animated
chat about the weekend's football matches

Argentina's soon to be ex-Vice President, Julio Cobos, is now being used as a piñata by anyone who wants to keep in their leader's good books. Remembering, of course, that in today's Argentina the leader is the one married to the President.

The background was set in part one of this deathwatch (highly recommended reading...cos I wrote it), but since the agro export tax law went to Congress for debate, Cobos and his radical (UCR party) background has been a rallying point for the hardline Kirchneristas who want the bill passed as stands and without serious modification. But the game of kick-the-Veep went to a new level today, as Cabinet Chief and Klishtina RHM Alberto Fernandez joined in with a radio interview or two, in which he sung a merry tune of "Democracy has been harmed by the interventions of the Vice President", who according to Alberto is someone who "...has no legislative function, no vote, no opinion...can't do anything like that..." and "should have taken a much closer position to that of the President." All this because Cobos has tried such antidemocratic and dictatorial tactics as "dialogue", "understanding", and "compromise".

Other Kirchnerists, such as Patricia Fadel (the main K representative in parliament) have now caught up with Otto and started to compare Cobos to Chacho Alvarez. Can you hear clocks ticking?

More on the fading Peru miner's strike

Reuter's are running a note this morning (here's the link) about how support is crumbling for the mineworker's strike, especially at the large mineworks.

Basically the same info that was in my post yesterday, but from a source you can trust.

Rafael "Huairapamushka" Correa starts to feel the political squeeze-play

Gotta be said that "Revista Cosas" isn't normally part of my reading list. It's Ecuador's equivalent to "Vogue" (I suppose), and to give you an idea of the editorial philosophy check out how they sell their subscriptions on site (at a hefty U$56 a year, I should add):

Be part of our world, to be informed, entertained and find out about everything that happens in our country and in the rest of the world. Interviews, reports, the world of culture, the best of society life, and all about the international jet set...." etc etc.

But this week's edition runs an interview with indigenous leader Auki Tituaña, and it's pretty interesting stuff for two reasons. Firstly, Tituaña is no ordinary leader. This top dude has done a lot for his local community, and for the benefit of the Guayaquil glitterati the interview's prelude touches on the electrification, literacy and running water programs he has brought in to his area, the re-elections he has won and the worldwide recognition (not joking) this dude has picked up along the way. The indigenous crew is a very powerful body in Ecuador, and although it is split into its own factions and each faction protects its own interests (hey..much like mainstream politics anywhere), voices such as Auki Tituaña's hold a lot of weight.

Secondly, here we are about to begin a critical period in the Correa gov't which started with the Acosta resignation, will take in the end of the Constitutional Assembly, the publication of the new mining law, the finalizing of deals with the foreign oil companies and above all the referendum vote at the end of September. So the timing of this Cosas magazine interview cannot possibly be put in the "coincidence" column. All the elitists who want to screw Correa in September will this week read about a heavyweight and respected indigenous leader who will also vote "no" in the referendum for his own reasons (quite different ones than the establishment ideals, clearly). Innarestin', nope?

Here are the first two Q&As from the interview translated.

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Question: Have you already decided to vote "no" before knowing the contents of the draft constitution?

Auki Tituaña: From the start I have said no to "21st Century Socialism", which is an empty shell with a mix of social-democrat, Christian democrat and populist ideas. I do not see that is has any true content. What's more, those that lead it, such as Rafael Correa, do not have background in politics and a clear trajectory inside the social and popular struggle.

Q: Do you think that Rafael Correa is an arriviste?

AT: Yes. The term huairapamushka is what we use in the indigenous world. The son of the wind; he who comes from out of nowhere.

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You get the picture, yeah? The questions continue in the same way, such as "Do you think Correa is betraying the indigenous movement" and "Do you have doubts about the political consistency of Rafael Correa" and "If you were in the place of Rafael Correa, what would......." etc etc etc. I highly recommend reading the whole interview, by the way. If Spanish is not your strong point, run it through the google translator system available at this link right here.

Look, I'm not knocking Auki Tituaña, not in the slightest. If anyone has a view that needs to be heard, it is the most respected of indigenous leaders in Ecuador and the ones that have done the most in recent years to help their peoples. In other words, people like Auki Tituaña. But it does show what kind of pressure Señor Studmuffin is under and is going to be under from the left and from the right in the weeks and months to come. As mentioned previously, Correa has to pull off a fine balancing act in order to get what he wants here and the sudden interest that Cosas magazine's editors have with the other Ecuador is a taste of things to come.

It also reminds me what a disadvantage you're at in understanding what goes on down here if your only media channels are in English, and you rely on what other people think is important to know. But that's another story, eh Eric?

Copper going forward (don't worry, it's a short post)

Since last night's post on Zn and Pb, I've received two mails asking about how spot copper is shaping up. Three points here to answer them:

1) I wrote the following as part of a post on March 11th 2008. This opinion holds good today and hasn't changed a bit.

"....in a nutshell it'll (copper) bounce around the U$3.50 to U$4 range, breaking U$4 some time this year. It'll consolidate at or above U$4 in 2009 and then we may or may not see U$5 depending on what the dollar decides to do. No point trying to go too crystalball at this stage...."

2) Here's a chart. Note that $3.50 to $4 has indeed been the channel (well, $3.60 in fact, but you get the idea). No need to worry about the day-to-day vaguaries of Cu spot when the big picture is in place.

chart courtesy kitco.com (thanks guys)

3) More general advice. I'm an equities analyst, not a metals market analyst. Although I have to keep a close eye on what the metals are doing, it's not my core field of expertise. Also, most importantly don't base your investments on some joker you read somewhere for free on the internet in a blog. That advice applies to every web page, not just here. Be smart, DYODD, listen to a range of viewpoints and make your own decisions after becoming as informed as possible about any given subject. This is what i mean when I say "we are all big boys and girls, yeah?" from time to time.

7/3/08

And as for Zinc and Lead.........

........they got pummelled to the point of coughing up blood today. Here are the charts, courtesy of the dudes at kitco.

Both these base metals have had the accusing finger of "oversupply" pointing at them for quite some time, but all the same the drop in spot prices for Pb and Zn has been steep in recent weeks and today just added a rather thick layer of icing on the cake.

Hey, I've also been 100% caught on the hop by this move, especially in zinc (I follow Zn more than Pb for various boring reasons). There's a well-publicized* glut in the Zn supply/demand equation that's expected to reach its apogee in this quarter, but once the hump is over most anal yeasts like me (and even people good enough to be called analysts) see the market coming back to equilibrium. However I have thought out loud and in print that 0.89/lb was a Zn bottom, then thought the same at 0.83/lb. Here we are at 0.78/lb....just shows you how much I know. Remember that one, dudes.

So what's the story here? Well I'd guess that at some point we'll have a blow-off capitulation-type low, but I'd also expect that blow-off to come in LME ring times, not in Crimex ring times at low volumes. Right now I suspect there was a certain amount of opportunism in pummelling the whole base metals complex on a light and short trading day.

But Adam Smith says there is a bottom here soon, as high cost zinc mines will start closing down. Miners such as Peru's Volcan (VOLCABC1, Lima stock exchange) will feel the pinch but keep running, as the significant amount of silver it produces will keep things profitable, but already guys as highly paid as Merrill Lynch suits have forecast big Zn miners such as Perilya at Broken Hill, Australia will not stay open with spot Zn where it is. In the case of zinc supply can dry up surprisingly quickly, too, as the mines are relatively easy (note "relatively") to put into mothballs until prices pick up.

Those are the medium term fundamentals. Longer term does look brighter because China and other developing nations will need more Zn as their economies develop. Here's a rough'n'ready idea; for every unit of steel, the USA galvanizes about five times as much as China. This is because more value is added to steel products in richer countries. This (in a ballpark way) is why most commentators are calling this period as the bottom in Zn.

But that really doesn't explain a one day tank-a-thon like today (last several days, in fact). There's no rushing to judgement chez Otto, as these drops have a multitude of possible explanations away from basic supply issues (and often involve one financial entity kicking another one while it's down). But all the same, the big drop in the base metals complex today was across the board (including steel) and points to a bearish outlook for world economic growth. I'd venture to say it was too much like panic and a rebound is due next week. Sticking my neck out again. Vamos a ver..........

*At least it's well-publicized in the kind of deathly-boring literature I tend to read

And for those of you finally tuning in.......

...the Peru miner's strike is entering a second phase.

1000 miners organized a fun day trip to Lima today.

As kinda expected, those miners with the plum jobs at large mines are starting to back away from a long strike. This is because, as explained in this post, the big mines are very profitable places and jobs there are at a premium. The majority of an employee's salary is made up of profit sharing bonuses (which are currently capped at 18X monthly salaries, precisely one of the rules that the miners are protesting about). So with the basic-plus-bonus often coming in at quadruple the national average salary, these miners aren't too keen about putting their jobs at risk, getting fired and getting replaced by other miners who'd jump at the chance of a fat salary. And now that the national gov't has declared the strike officially "illegal" (I've often wondered how that works, by the way), losing one's big-paying number is a serious possibility. Hence the drop in support for the industrial action.

However many miners in Peru (the majority in fact), don't get anywhere near the kind of money earned at Antamina, Tintaya, Toquepala, Yanacocha etc. There are plenty of cases where mine owners pay no more than U$10 for a long day of labour, with no social security benefits and et ceteras. These are the people who will take the hard line in this strike, but without the backing of the big mines national production figures won't feel the slightest pinch.

So with some or all strikers at Volcan, Shougang, Southern Copper all ending their strike action today, and workers at Cerro Verde today deciding not to join the strike as of this Saturday, the main thrust of the strike is disappearing. On the other hand things are by no means over, and the strikers at small, less profitable mines who earn much less but have much less influence may begin to take the law into their own hands to attract attention, for example by illegally blocking roads and basically asking for trouble. And ask King Alan, and thou shalt receive.

Bottom line: The strike has not picked up on the ill-will and militantcy shown recently in Moquegua, and the miners have backed down from staging a longer-term strike. This is mainly due to the gov''t declaring the strike illegal and the grassroots fearing they'd lose their big monthly paycheques. So be it. The dispute may still roll over to the 9th July national general strike now organized and ready to roll, but it won't affect the national production figures for July to any great extent. The worst is over...for now.

Yeah ......well........Vena Resources moved alright

Right now it's 10% down at 0.58 with 85k traded.

Gotta laugh, no? A impressive press release with sexy drill returns, and it gets totally dumped on (errr....see post on MDR.v just underneath for thoughts on the state of the juniors market right now).

Is Vena about to turn into my own personal Minera Andes redux (i.e. good news tanks the stock every time)? A smart person said to me very recently, "never apply logic to markets" and that's very true for short-term situations, though I'd beg to differ for the timescale in which I make my investments (as in "investments", as opposed to "trades"). Investment-wise, I'm happy enough with VEM.to, but today really sucks...gotta be said.

Hey ho...another day, another tickle round the ribcage.

UPDATE: With a little bit of vinyl matt application at the end of the day, VEM.to ended at 0.63. Interestingly, well over 60% of all shares were bought by my new best friends at Canaccord today, and they didn't sell a bean. Go figure, dudes.

Mansfield Minerals (MDR.v) is an interesting case study right now

Ok, so I've taken a bath on the short term price, but that's not the point (and as mentioned many times previously, there is no farm betting going on with short term trades over here).

Let's have a look at the chart for the last few days...........

MDR.v 10 day chart (click to enlarge)

..........and we can see that the company has dropped like a stone, but volume has been very thin. To be more accurate and to give context to the situation, Mansfield has 44.1m shares out, which means on June 25th (price $2.80) its market cap was $123.5m, but at the $1.65 printed this morning the market cap was $72.8m. Or in other words, $50.7m has been wiped off the value* of the company by a total of just 141,000 traded shares (i.e.not even $400,000 worth) in the last 6 sessions.

OK, it's a weird situation at first sight but it's also the reality, so the question here is "why"? I think it's a combination of:

1) a junior mining company run by geologists and rock-type people that doesn't care two hoots about the short-term price fluctuations and general strange shit that goes on in the Canadian Wild West Venture exchange

2) mucho mucho nervous people in the world of trading right now. Under normal circumstances any large holder or broker would step up to the plate and defend the stock by buying up the ask price, but today it didn't happen. I mean, some guy wanted the stock down so he sold a measly 1,200 shares at $1.65, then another 300 went thru at the same price...then the ask stayed at $2.05 for the longest time and nobody came forward to defend MDR.v. So the ask drops to its current $1.86, the next trade goes thru at $1.76 and it's game over....mister shorty wins.

The moral to this case study: Nobody wants to risk even a couple of thousand on a junior miner right now. So my advice to you, dearest reader, is "be very careful....there be dragons."


*see that Warren Buffett quote underneath

Mercado Libre

Wow, look at that sucker drop!

My 2nd buy trigger point on Mercado Libre (MELI) (well documented on site) was U$32.50, but I'm not daft enough to buy exactly on that number when a stock is dropping the way MELI is right now. At worst I'll get U$32.50 on the way back up, and at best it drop a bit further before reversing and I get a bigger bargain than I thought I would.

I repeat: Pity the sheep who believe the hype, ignore the facts and hold a large bag on stocks like this (which means yes, Veronica, there will be stops on my position today). Where are all the sages of all expertise telling us that MELI is the next eBay now? IT ISN'T. It's a small internet auction site which has found its niche, keeps costs low, doesn't make that much money and has a more-or-less good top line revenues growth. Context is important. Talking of context, MELI bulls will blame it all on "market conditions" and oil at U$146...baa! So I'm buying MELI today. No doubts. And I'll leave the last word to Warren Buffett, as he explains the difference between "price" and "value":

"Price is what you pay. Value is what you get."

UPDATE: KA-CHING! Bot at exactly U$31 (to the penny, in fact)

UPDATE 2: OOPS!!! Too early...goddam trigger finger. Now under $30. For the record, my puke point is U$28.50 (and I hope I don't have to prove it)

7/2/08

Vena Resources and Uranium in Macusani, Peru

Well bless my soul! Today Vena Resources (VEM.to) came up on my radar as a lifeboat of green in a veritable ocean of red, I mention it quickly in the snippets post, (just a couple below here) and then what happens? The company publishes this press release after the bell today which contains some rather peachy numbers. Spooky timing, no? What with my track record on jumping in front of positive PRs by GLQ.to, IPR.v and now VEM.to, this is getting to be a habit........................

Anyway, more about the contents of the PR in a moment, but first a bit more about what's going on in the Macusani region. Regulars to the blog might remember two posts I wrote at the end of May about the situation between the uranium juniors exploring the Macusani region in South Peru and the locals who live there. Here's the link to post one, and here's post two, but basically I wrote that the locals had voted to stop exploration work as of June and thing didn't look good for the mining companies.

Since that time, the people at VEM have got in contact with me and explained a bit more about what's going on up there. Now this might be because I called VEM.to a "very likeable junior" in the second post (cos I'm all boot-lickin' and creepy like that), but all the same it's good karma for VEM.to to get in contact because it shows they're out there and concerned about what people think, and it also shows they are willing to have a straight conversation and not hide behind a wall of silence. So kudos to Vena, but what's the story here?

VEM.to 3 month chart (click to enlarge)

Well according to Vena, the drill program is good until the end of July, not the end of June. So right now the company is still working up at Macusani, which is cool. Then on August 1st the drills get packed away and moved to other projects in the VEM stable, but it certainly does not mean it's the end of the drilling at Macusani forever and ever amen. Vena says that the 2009 drilling season at their sites will go ahead as planned starting March. The company is also pretty smart about the way it's working its community relations (I think), and has every reason to believe that in the longer term the communities surrounding their site will understand more about what is going on and be more receptive to the idea of a mine development.

In a nutshell and missing out the finer details, that's the Vena position as interpreted by me (and I'm sure if I got anything badly wrong and a VEM dude gets to see this post I'll get corrected, so I'll keep you informed on that if it happens). All in all the locals may not be the most miner-friendly bunch in the world right now, but I'd say the situation is "workable" for Vena at Macusani in the longer term.

So that's a bit more on the background, especially as seen by the team at Vena Resources (if only every company had the same open attitude). So now let's move on to the good stuff, which is the press release (here's the link again, just in case). And it's a beauty, as the title....

"Vena Resources Intersects 5.8 Metres of 0.452% U3O8 Near Surface"

.....immediately suggests. If we zoom in and have a look at some maps of the area.....

Shamelessly stolen from Vena's website

Shamelessly stolen from a PDAC presentation
The yellow area contains both of the targets, Nueva Corani
to the North end, Tantamaco towards the South. Amariza lies half way between the two.
Check this map for extra details

.......with a bit of study you can see that the areas reported by Vena lie to the North end (Nueva Corani) and South end (Tantamaco) of their concessions, and both ends have returned very sexy grades of uranium in the PR. Even though Nueva Corani had the best intersection (up to 33lbs per short ton over 1.5 metres or so....yowzers), for me the best was the strong but uniform returns at Tantamaco that suggest "lucky holes" are not part of this press release. The next step will be to find out how the drill cores come back at the 'Amariza' site which lies kinda half way between the others. If Amariza comes back as strong as the others then there's every reason to suppose the yellow colour on that map above denoting a bigboy uranium orebody is the reality of the situation.

As for tomorrow's trading, as long as the Dow and the broader markets don't decide to swandive on us too dramatically I'd expect the rally in VEM.to to continue. If you have a look back to the period May 20th to May 21st, that's the last time Vena reported good uranium drill returns (namely, a lower 0.211% but on a wider 14.6m intersection in its PR on May 21st...here's the link). The stock started May 20th at $0.61 and finished May 21st at $0.77 (and spiked as high as $0.88), all on strong volumes. If (and let's note that word "if", yeah?) we see that kind of action tomorrow, Wednesday's nibblers and those in early Thursday morning should be rewarded nicely.

Now only one question remains: Will Vena see that I'm on the side of the good guys in this silly little blog of mine and decide to take out an advertising space? Don't you think I'm worth a penny or two after all this work, guys?*

*if they ever get to read this
DYODD everyone, we're all big boys and girls.

The gold:oil ratio

Gary relaxes after a long day's charting

My fave rave chart right now is the gold:oil ratio, and it's a permanent feature of my screen in these devilish times. So I fully recommend that you scoot over to biiwii.com and see Gary's view on it. Click on this link right here to go straight to the page.

I'd do a whole blog about it myself and peg up the chart and everything, but Gary is really much much better at TA than I am....so I'm not going to bore you with second best here. Go to biiwii, and go now.

Ingrid Betancourt freed with 14 other hostages

Hey...nice to report genuine good news here. Ingrid Betancourt and 14 other hostages held by the FARC in Colombia are reported rescued today. Details will emerge and you'll surely get better coverage by tuning in to Reuters, Bloomberg etc etc, so off you run and find out the nitty gritty.

Look...the politics don't matter much right now. Neither do the rights and wrongs. I'm sure a whole bunch of people will line up to claim credit for the breakthrough, too. No matter. 15 less hostages is very very good news. Period. Happy Otto.

UPDATE: AP is running this very short note now, and apparently the three US hostages have also been freed.

UPDATE 2: Colombia is saying that the hostages were rescued as part of a military operation named "operacion jaque", and as well as the rescued hostages they have captured two FARC leaders.

Some details

1) The three US citizens rescued, Thomas Howe, Marc Gonsalves and Keith Stannsen have been hostages since 13 Feb 2003

2) The operation took place 72km from San José de Guaviare, close to the area where Clara Rojas was recently released.

3) According to Colombian military, it was a two stage operation. Stage one was "intelligence and localization", stage two the rescue. There was a third contingency stage if the rescue had failed which was not needed.

4) The Ex-hostages (a nice use of "ex", no?) are now at the Tolemaida military base in the centre of Colombia

UPDATE 3: Bloomberg is now reporting on the story, so this will be my last update. The real journos take over from here. Great news, wherever you read it.

snippety stuff (miners in the red edition)

Geddit? Oh...never mind.....

Candente Resources (DNT.to) has been really slapped hard on low volumes recently. I have no idea why it's getting no love. The 43-101 resource update might have disappointed the market, but it's still worth far more this this.

Southern Copper (PCU) and Freeport (FCX) both getting hit by the Peru miners strike. I could have written this thing chapter-by-chapter so far.

Spot copper has really reacted to the Peru situation, spiking to $4.10. Don't say I didn't warn you that the North had underestimated it all. This is my post from 27th June. Hey...I'm beginning to understand why Canaccord keeps visiting this site (mind you, only 5 visits so far today, boyzzzz)

Colossus (CSI.to) down 8.5% on fiddly volume. I really don't know what to make of this thing in the short term, but as I'm bot at $2.80 there's plenty of comfort zone for me. Holding through.

Mansfield (MDR.v) off lows but still woeful today...no volume.

A sudden pop of interest in VEM.to today, it seems. A spark of green in my red-tinged screen. Worth keeping an eye on this stock, believe me. Watch this space.

Gold gold gold, we all love gold suddenly. I'm selling my trading block to hedge a bit and get some liquid in the a/c. Ooooh I love a bargain!

Bargain Hunter Alert: MDR.v (Mansfield Minerals)

MDR.v Year to date chart (click to enlarge)

I got lucky here. Was trying to take a position Monday but nothing doing. It's now trading at $2.08, which is down 17% today. It's trading time!

There's nothing wrong with this thing that a bit of general sector confidence wouldn't cure. Mansfield has some very promising gold and copper projects in Argentina, as well as nicely advancing JVs in Peru. As mentioned previously, this is an example of what I call a "serious junior" that doesn't try to fanfare the market with endless PRs and IR blasts, but gets on with the job of exploring, proving up and adding value to its properties.

The last time it traded lower, I got some at $2.45 and sure enough it popped nicely and just a few days later I sold at $3.00. Looking to do the same kind of ST trade again this time. Whatever; at this PPS it's a real bargain.

As always, DYODD, remember you read this blog for free and what that means etc etc. We're all big boys and girls, right? To help with your DD, here's the Mansfield Minerals website, and pay particular attention to its Lindero project...I likey.

The Peru miners strike is playing out as imagined

This morning police reported that Peru's central highway (carretera central) that links Lima/Callao/coast with the strategic mining areas of the central highlands has been blocked by striking miners. This is the same road that was blocked earlier this year by striking agro workers, and police efforts to clear the blocks resulted in four deaths. Have a look at these two photos.....
......and you'll get the idea of how easy it is to block this road.....

......and how a bit of pushing and shoving between warring parties can lead to people taking a final, vertical journey to the valley floor.

Also, as if by clockwork the gov't has issued a statement saying the strike is only partial and a lot of mining work is continuing.It's true in the short-term of course, as most large mines can keep going for a few days with a skeleton staff or sub-contracted workers, but once a stoppage goes into weeks and not days, the pinch will certainly be felt.

Also right on schedule, copper spot has hit U$4.00/lb "on supply worries", but zinc hasn't followed as yet. I still believe zinc is a smart play here, and BWR.to is my trade target (or FAN.to). Peru is the world's second or thrid biggest producer of Zn (depending on which source you believe).

Related posts:

The Peru mining strike starts June 30th
Ideas on how to play the Peru miners strike

The Peru miners strike may continue to 26th July minimum: here's why

Not a nice thought for most, I'd venture. The reason is that due to the political process in Peru it's likely that the political debate needed on the main point of protest amongst the miners isn't debated until then. At the moment Congress is in recess, and only the Permanent Parliamentary Commission is sitting. And according to this report, the 'Union Por el Peru' party is against this law being debated by the permanent committee and insists it is debated by the full Congress. As UPP holds a chunky 20 seats in a Congress of 120 (the biggest block is only 36 seats big...it's a pretty fractured place), this opinion may well be enough to halt all progress.

In he words of UPP spokesperson Oswaldo Luizar; "We propose that this very important ruling that could create (social) convulsions in our regions be debated by the full Congress and not in the Permanent Commission. The congress members of UPP are not going to act irresponsibly and compromise the social order in some regions."

So we have an impasse on our hands. If congress doesn't convene until the 26th and the miners insist on striking until that date, there are nearly four weeks to go before any progress is made on this industrial action. PCU, BVN and the other major Peru-exposed miners are suddenly looking very shortable, no? On the other hand, non-Peruvian exposed miners may get to benefit from any spike in metals prices, such as these two companies I wrote up a couple of days ago.


7/1/08

Colombia: maybe not the right time for McCain to turn up........

Shades by Ray-Ban, Hair by Vidal Sassoon,
suit by Pablo Escobar

President Alvaro Uribe of Colombia gets a photo-op or two with real live war hero John McCain tomorrow, giving him time out of the turmoil his own presidency is facing now. On the other hand, John McCain might be having second thoughts about meeting a guy who may well be illegally elected as president and is currently trying to ride roughshod over the nation's judiciary. Here's how it works:

Anyone here remember this post back on April 28th? Your diligent Otto reported on how a certain politico named Yidis Medina was under house arrest for admitting she'd been bribed by the Uribe gov't to vote for the constitutional changes that allowed Alvaro Uribe to run for (and win) a second term in office. Go have a read (cos it's good background to what's happening now), but notice at the end that I wrote:

"...This is the kind of string that gets pulled and pulled and then brings down whole governments in this neck of the woods. Watch this space, cos this story is going to get even hotter, methinks."

Hot damn, I'm good at this! Why? Cos this string is getting tugged hard and nerves in gov't houses are unravelling rather speedily. A few days ago, Yidis was found guilty by the nation's Supreme Court (no less) of the admitted bribery and sentenced to 47 months of house arrest (hey...could have been worse...wide screen TVs and all that). But Uribe kicked up a big bad fuss, calling the Supreme Court dudes all kinds of bad things and also convoking the referendum I talked about right here.

So in a nutshell, what we have is somebody who's admitted to being bribed, and Supreme Court who agreed with the admission and sentenced the guilty party, but a President with a seriously dubious past history and an awful lot to lose who says, "Nope! Never happened! No bribery went on round here! No no no no no!"

Cut to tonight. After deliberating 8 hours in closed session, the Supreme Court came out and defended itself against the President's words with all guns blazing. Here's a news story in English that gives the details and it's all hot stuff, but what you really need to take away from this is that the Supreme Court has now passed the whole issue on to Colombia's Constitutional Court, who will now decide if Uribe's 2006 re-election was valid or not. If not, Uribe would have been governing the country illegally for over two years and will be under enormous, bigtime, heavy-nasty, yucky pressure to step down. Of course Uribe doesn't want to go down that road, so he's basically ignoring the country's independent judiciary and ploughing on ahead with his planned referendum. This will surely go in his favour, as even if this whole sordid issue chips away at his 70+% approval rating he's nigh on certain to hold enough to stay over 50% +1 person.

So now a bizarre race is developing between the judges and the President, and whoever gets their play in first is likely to hold the argument going forward. Watch this space, and watch for the very embarrassed look on McCain's face as he lines up for the photographs with Uribe tomorrow. Obama must be lovin' this one.....

Chavez: "If I were a US citizen, I'd vote for John McCain"

Look, I don't care what you think about him, but jeesh that guy knows how to pull a quote out. Here's a Spanish link to the moneyline.

And here's a cartoon.

MELI: Close but no cigar

The target for doubling down on Mercado Libre (MELI) was U$32.50, and I thought I was going to snag some there today. But it reversed at U$32.55 and is over U$35 again as I write. Missed by five measly cents!
Never mind, as it's only a trade. I'm awarding myself 8/10 anyway for getting darned close and calling the stock movement as close as dammit is to swearing. My original buy is now in +ve territory, so there's the consolation prize.


Why is Alan Garcia unpopular in his own country (part two)?

It could be that he's everything I said in the previous post, but it could also be this.

Peru's inflation is now spinning out of control. Today's announcement that inflation was 0.77% in June, which means the country is running a YoY rate of 5.71% makes the words of Alan and (ex) minister Carranza back in February look like all the hogwash that they were. Carranza's policy of reeling in public spending to control inflation has been a total pushing-on-rope failure. Neoliberal economics do not work under a situation where a strengthening currency meets a rapid increase in imports. This is economics 101, and these idiots ignore the fact to suit their own dogma. Now Peru and its people will have to pay for their incompetence. Goodbye Carranza, you will not be missed.

Even worse is the PPI rate, which showed a 1.69% in June alone and is now running over 10% annual. Next they'll tell me that producer prices won't be passed on to the consumers in the months coming. These people are self-serving liars. Be clear.

Thus ends Otto's special "let's kick Peru" day.

Why is Alan Garcia unpopular in his own country?

It's pretty simple, really. The man is a liar, a cheat, a manipulator and has a superiority complex the size of his waistline. Case in point is this week's spat with Evo Morales over the Bolivian president saying that the USA (and I quote in direct translation from the Spanish), "...is taking its (military) bases to Peru."

Alan's reaction? Yet again he threw a tantrum and recalled his ambassador to Bolivia, which is getting to be a habit for Señor Twobreakfasts. Adding to his petulance, Alan replied today by saying (again, direct translations from Otto) that it was a gross lie to say that there is a supposed US military base, and continued with;

"I would have to say (to Morales), like (king) Juan Carlos of Spain (said to Hugo Chávez): "Why don't you shut up?" Occupy yourself with your own country and don't occupy yourself with mine, you're irritating us a bit too much*, so be careful with the consequences of what you're doing." Alan continued with, "Let Mr. Morales come over and tell me where this base is. The best he can do is not mess with Peruvian politics, nor dividing Peruvians or wanting to confront Peruvians with Peruvians. It looks like he has already done enough (of that) in Bolivia before coming to mess (with things) here."

The head waiter presents the bill for lunch

Any students of English grammar reading? Notice how Garcia (who has always been a smart orator) changes the tense of what Morales actually said to the tense that suits him. What Morales said was that the US is setting up base in Peru, and that is true. What Alan said was that the USA has no base in Peru, and of course that's correct right now, but let's gaze into the immediate future, shall we?

On May 21st, Peru's congress approved the entry of US soldiers to the so-called VRAE area (which stands for the 'Valley Rio Apurimac Ene', a significant coca leaf growing region near Cuzco). Precisely, 111 soldiers have been allowed in on a humanitarian mission which includes building latrines, but also strangely allows them to carry firearms. This is one of those carrot-and-stick-and-hearts-and-minds operations that the US favours, of course. Ostensibly out there doing good work (hey, nothing wrong with that), but also making its presence felt in a politically sensitive area (i mean, why aren't the soldiers stationed in the northern provinces or in tropical Loreto where the absolute poverty is highest? It just happens to be at VRAE...). The soldiers are already in Peru and have tour of duty until 10th September.

Now that may be pretty innocuous on its own and is unlikely to be classed as "a base" by most, but as a separate development the USA is also setting up an aerodrome in Peru. Try calling that "not a base", lardarse. Right now "somewhere in the jungle" (that's the official terminology) the US is building its command post, and amazingly, surprisingly, astounding, it's in the VRAE area. (c'mon, feign a bit of surprise with me). The idea is to set up a surveillance operation on the coca growing regions in the area, presumably with the same objective for success that the USA had in 1999 when it set up Plan Colombia. Nine years and one total failure later, it's time to do the same to Peru.

So from a statement that was nothing more than an interjection in an Evo Morales speech last Saturday, Alan Garcia has caused a diplomatic ruckus and once again misinformed his own people about what's going on in his own country. His delusions may go down well for a lapdog media service and send the right signals to his new best friends up North, but the people that matter can see straight through this crap.

Alan Garcia's approval rating in Peru: 30%

Evo Morales approval rating in Bolivia: 56%

Nuff said.

* The precise Spanish is "ya estas jalando demasiado la pita", which is a saying and difficult to directly translate....my contextual translation gives you the idea

Snippety stuff (political signals edition)

"You mess with the bull, you get the salchicha"
Molotov, 'Use it or lose it' 1997

Welcome, John McCain! While the greater part of regional leaders talk amongst themselves in Tucumán today, Alvaro Uribe stays in Colombia to receive his US Republican guest. Be clear here; this symbolism is not coincidental. And expect news reports to use the word "Chávez" at least three times as much as the word "Uribe"...natch.

Luis Carranza resigns his post the very same day that the whole of Peru is talking about the star appearance of convicted corrupto Vladimir Montesinos at the Fujimori trial yesterday. A finer case of slipping out the back door impossible, Luis.

Venezuela is punishing the TV station that played The Simpsons in a daytime slot by making it run 30 second public service announcements for a month. Expect a lot of the actors to wear red shirts.

Message to the most northerly readers: Happy Canada Day! A good way to make sure your markets don't slump is not to open them....clever thinking, guys........

CANADA DAY UPDATE: Otto's traffic stats are down 25% this morning, mainly due to the fact that Canaccord offices are currently closed in Toronto, Vancouver and Ontario.


PS: If you don't know who Molotov are, click here. Beats mariachi and Luismi, I'm tellin' ya

Pity the wannabee millionaires of Peru stuck in public office

Carranza wearing an expensive suit

Luis Carranza, Peru's Minister of the Economy, is now ex-Minister of the Economy. He presented his resignation last night, citing "family reasons". Alan's mini-me Del Castillo this morning said that (and I quote). "Economically (speaking) he was not very happy. He has young children to maintain and he must have used up what he could of his savings."

Is this some kind of joke? Firstly, we have an (ex) economy minister in charge of a whole country who can't even manage his own home economics? Second, I'm pretty sure Carranza's salary is a touch above the Peru national average and there are plenty plenty Peruvians who, on reading Del Castillo's comments this morning, will suddenly realize what kind of two-tier society they're living in.

What total bullshit. This is just another example of the lather-rinse-repeat cycle of economists who try and fail to be patriotic. Some private studio or public company has obviously offered him a juicy salary and half the hours and none of that press conference stuff. More money and less responsibility.... the Amerikan dream. This lilly-livered, self serving greed is then presented to us in a "family reasons" package. Public service? Dude, this is capitalism...don't get all soft on me.

So who's next? Jungle drums say it's a guy named Valdivieso, a fat, neolib economist with the personality of a kilo of rice who's been doing his thing at the IMF for a while, will be the next in line. Sadly, his greatest claim to fame in Peru is being the son of somebody famous, namely an ex-goalkeeper in local team Alianza Lima.

Pay peanuts, (you know the rest)

6/30/08

Petty gossip from Tucuman

Some guy called Perez in drag (or so I'm told)

The LatAm leaders' summit is underway, and with tomorrow's agenda packed with things that nobody outside the region will care about and me all snarky tonight, it's time to get E! Entertainment on your hides and come up with a few backroom stories.
  • The room being used for the main meeting tomorrow is in Tucumán's swankiest hotel, and up until yesterday it was called the "Imperial". But when Chávez found this out he had Bush-like flashbacks and had them change the salon's name to "General José de San Martín", after the 19th century liberator. Gotta laugh.....
Chavez points out the advantages of smaller sized
suitcases to an enthralled Klishtina
  • Tucumán has spent U$3m on sprucing itself up for the show, and there are now 3,300 police officers on duty in the city. Crime figures for Buenos Aires are therefore expected to spike in the next 48 hours.
  • Argentina's best female voice, folk singer and national living legend Mercedes Sosa, is singing at the gala dinner tonight. On the menu is beef filet stuffed with vegetables and served with a malbec sauce. 10% service charge not included.
  • Both Chávez and Preshident Klishtina have had exercise walking machines installed in their rooms to stomp a few clicks between meetings. Klishtina has also surrounded herself with salmon pink roses and scented candles. Very Feng Shui.
  • As soon as the summit meeting is over tomorrow, Evo "Axis of" Morales is dashing off to the local futbol stadium to play a friendly match with local stars.

Trading Post

Currently 10c underwater on MELI. Pity the permabulls who can't ever get themselves to sell this thing on an uptick. The plan is in place and steady, though. Add under $32.50, if not ride the beta to $45...yeehaw!

Colossus (CSI.to) is mustard.
I have no idea why it's so strong, but there's a feeling in my waters that says "good press release on the way".

I can't get any cheap Mansfield Minerals (MDR.v). The MM in this stock is a real maestro.

Here comes my list of "getting slightly better" stocks: FVI.v, CZZ, NETC,

Here comes my list of "still can't get no love" stocks: FAN.to, LA.v, IPR.v

And to round off, here come the "untouchable dogs with fleas": KRY, KRY, KRY

Message to Paul Reynolds (CEO of Canaccord Adams)

(careful how you iron those shirt collars next time, Paul)

Dear Mr. Reynolds,

I know you're not the numero uno specialist for all things South American, what with your more European flavoured CV background, and that's cool by me. But being the toppy top of Canaccord you gotta be the dude that counts on these matters, so here goes.

You, or your team, or whoever might have noticed that recently your LatAm desks have become a lot sharper in their analyses of companies and political goings-on in the South America region. This is very cool, of course, because in that way you get to provide a better service to your customers, but perhaps you were wondering how this sudden uptick in local understanding has come about.

Allow me to enlighten. Last weekend I changed my site stats manger to www.sitemeter.com (very good, by the way), and I've now noticed just how many hits this silly little blog of mine has been getting from (presumably) your employees (oops...I think they call them 'team members' these days). I'd never have thought that my random musings on a freely available blog would be so important to a bigboy brokerage like you guys. I mean...it seems like your dudes just keep coming back and back.

So here's the plan, Paul; It's pretty clear that you have a gap in your intel armoury here, so send me a mail and we can talk about how I can make your company more efficient. All we do is cut out those highly paid middle men and you pay me to provide the fresh juice to you. You know it makes sense. Either that or send a few of your guys for Spanish lessons, yeah?

Best wishes,

Otto

Tucuman photo opportunity

Tucuman: Hot'n'sticky in the summer, lots of political history (ask any Argentine)

Tucuman, in the North West of Argentina, is a very pretty regional city with a relaxed attitude to life. You'll hear about it in the next two days, because LatAm politicos are having a big pow-wow there called the "35th Block Summit".

These things tend to be more photo opportunities than anything else. However the presidents of Argentina, Paraguay (actual and elect), Uruguay, Chile, Venezuela (yeah, him), Bolivia and Brazil, along with high ranking reps for Mexico, Colombia, Peru and Ecuador will actually have something (relatively) important to do this time, namely to rip a new one on the European Union.

The EU's so called "return directive" that was planned as a way of standardizing the way EU countries treat immigrants (esp the illegal variety) has raised serious hackles in this continent, and wails of human rights abuse have come from every single nation state. On the one hand they have a point, because nobody in Latam complained when boatloads of Italians arrived in Buenos Aires (for example...there are a million others). On the other hand, LatAm states are well aware of the important role played by remittance earnings send back here by family members working in "those rich countries". Spain is high on the list of favourite destinations for illegal workers (basically cos the Spanish are suddenly too proud to lay bricks or serve food in restaurants, but that's another story, yeah?).

So let's see just how much fuss the local leaders kick up tomorrow when they sit down and chew the cud. It could be anything from "a nasty letter" (Argentina, perhaps?) to "all EU citizens now need visas to visit LatAm" (Bolivia's line of attack?) to "kick out their banks, stop sending them soya meal and watch them starve..hahahahahaaaaaaaaa!" (yeah, him again).

Ideas on how to play the Peru miners strike

Geddit? Oh...never mind....

In this linked post last Friday, I laid out the scene for the Peru miners strike that started at midnight local time today. Over the weekend I've chatted with a couple of people about the whole thing, and I also swapped a couple of mails on the subject with a regular reader of the blog. The idea of this post is to have a possible framework (note "possible") in place about how this strike might affect the markets. So here goes:

1) I think the market has underestimated the scale and possible impact of this strike. I went into the "why" of this in the previous post, but basically I think there's more in play than just the straight mining salary problem, and also the July 9th general strike is just around the corner. I note that the early Monday edition of the London Financial Times has zero mention of it in its 'Energy & Mining' and its 'Americas Business' sections. I've a feeling that will not be the case by the time Tuesday comes around.

2) The Peru gov't is likely to announce to the world at some point today that the strike is only partial (or variation thereof). I'm expecting most Peru exposed miners not to be overly affected in the first couple of days' trading (top slots go to PCY and BVN, but most world players have some sort of exposure here, and there are myriad small/medium companies too), but.......

3) If/when the strike starts to drag on...maybe from Wednesday onwards...Peru exposed miners will come under pressure. Shorting PCU is the most obvious play, and that may apply to BVN or your own favourite.

4) Base metals trading will be affected more quickly, especially the headline copper pit. However, I think zinc is the best play on any prolonged Peru industrial action. The current $0.85 or so is a beaten down price mainly due to a supply glut and China producing more of its own, but if the world's number three zinc producer goes offline the metal will get the stimulus it needs to rebound from these low levels and go above U$1/lb again. There's certainly plenty of room for Zn to play catchup to copper, iron ore, alu etc., and it wouldn't need much to set off a relief rally in these weak dollar times in which we live.

5) Another way of playing zinc is via miners of the metal. The one that comes to my mind is Breakwater (BWR.to), a company that mines Zn all over the Americas but has no real Peru exposure. As you can see from the chart, it's been totally dumped on these last few months....

....and it's also got itself tied up in a messy lawsuit with another Canadian Zn miner, Blue Note. That hasn't helped things very much. But all the same, BWR will enjoy any rally by zinc, and its stock is at firesale levels. Not my idea of a long term buy'n'hold by any means...if it happens this will be a short term trade, methinks.

An alternative would be my favourite zinc junior, Farallon (FAN.to). FAN is just a couple of months away from starting production at its very promising Mexico mine and will become a major zinc play in 2009 as it reaches full stage one production. Here's the FAN chart....

......and as you can see, it looks like it needs a catalyst to break away from this $0.80 level. Maybe the Peru strike can push it over the edge.

The Bottom Line: This Peru mining strike is definitely not a showtime only deal. It may get resolved quickly, or it may become a messy thing that drags into weeks rather than days. But whatever happens I do think it will throw up an opportunity or two for the nimble investor. Vamos a ver.........