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Over the last decade, investors seeking protection from inflation have been accumulating gold and silver mining shares. Gold and silver have appreciated by more than 300 percent from their lows, so it would be logical to assume that mining shares have performed even better given their inherent leverage in earnings potential. Ironically, some of these investments have already suffered from their own hyperinflation in the form of share dilution. Just as governments have mismanaged their budgets and printed too much money; some mining companies have done the same to the detriment of their shareholders.

Coeur d' Alene (NYSE:CDE), an American silver miner, is one such company. It has diluted its shares so much that on May 27, 2009 it had a reverse 10 for 1 stock split. This article will use post split adjusted figures. Governments often do the same thing with their failed fiat currencies. In the wake of Germany's Weimar Republic hyperinflation, a new Rentenmark was created that was equal to 1,000,000,000,000 of the old German Marks. While not as bad, CDE's shares outstanding have risen from 2.4 million in 1999 to over 80 million in 2009 - a factor of more than 33.

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The majority of miners do issue shares in order to raise capital that is invested in projects with double digit returns; however this hasn't proven to be the case for CDE. $1000 invested in CDE in 1999 would now be worth only $440, while an investment in silver would have grown to $3300, and PAAS would have grown to $4220. Clearly not all precious metals investments are the same, and not all mining companies track the price of gold or silver over the long run.

Despite the all time highs seen in gold and a large increase in the price of silver, CDE was unprofitable in 2009 and the share price continued its long term trend downwards. Management's compensation was able to hit a new high though.

2005 2006 2007 2008 2009
Key Executive Compensation 2,325,837 3,254,007 5,677,971 5,064,010 5,997,589
Dennis Wheeler, CEO of CDE 1,459,901 1,897,946 2,560,960 2,245,362 2,527,319

It is possible to be right about a major bull market, but still lose money if the wrong investments are chosen. Investors should be careful to only invest in mining companies that restrain themselves from over-dilution. Furthermore, if mining companies such as CDE lose half their value in a 10 year bull market due to share dilution, there is a significant risk that they won't survive a bear market in precious metals.

Disclosure: No Positions in CDE, Long PAAS